Goal By James

Sixteen. Sixteen years its fans had been waiting for a moment like this. A sea of yellow shirts and a wave of chants hover in the stands. Waiting. As they see the tiny, twenty-two-centimeter ball fully cross the line, they explode. From Bogotá to the Río, Columbian fans forget. They forget all the years of losing. Of missing the last three World cups. Of even missing out on the bid to land the World Cup in 2014 themselves. In their absence, the country thinks collective thoughts. “How did he just do that?” “Is this real?” These thoughts flutter across the mind of every fan in between intense celebration and joy. However, deep in there subconscious, Columbian fans are still anxious. Anxious from the immense disappointment of the 1994 World Cup. Anxious from the histories of Andrés Escobar and Pablo Escobar. Columbia has known pain for so many years. This might finally be the end. Columbia, embodied by the rising superstar, James Rodríguez, have just taken the lead in the round of sixteen of the 2014 World Cup. If this result stands, they will enter the quarterfinals for the first time in its nation’s history. This result means more than a game. It is a christening. Columbia is no longer the little brother of its more successful South American relatives such as Uruguay, Brazil, or Argentina. It is their equal.

Twenty-two. Twenty-two years old, James Rodríguez has just hit the strike of the tournament. And he himself doesn’t know how this streak is continuing. Four goals in four games? He hasn’t experienced this kind of streak since his youth days. His team is on a roll.

Eighteen. Standing at the eighteen-yard box, James doesn’t know that the goal he is about to score will change his life. That the clubs he will be playing for will soon be Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, instead of AS Monaco and Porto. He is demanding the ball. Uruguay is playing him tight. With the base of their diamond midfield beautifully positioned in front of him, James jockeys for space, knowing full well that he also has Uruguay’s stout back four positioned between himself and the goal. The ball goes right, then left, and then right again. These small moves drastically change the space around him. Abdel Aguilar then chips a ball over the top that then gets headed out of the box by a frantic Uruguayan defender. His header loops innocently back to Aguilar. James still does not know that his life is about to change. Instead of bringing the ball down, Aguilar, seeing the space around James open up, quickly heads a clever ball to his number ten. James with his back turned to goal already has a mental snapshot of the entire field. He knows that two Uruguayan defenders will quickly close down his space. Therefore, if he is to pull of the shot, he needs to move. Now. He contorts his upper body, chests the ball deftly down to his left side, and twisting his body one hundred and eighty degrees, lashes out his left foot. His sparkling chestnut eyes never leave the ball. The laces of his left boot cut through the descending ball like butter. Indeed, it is the perfect volley. The ball soars through the air, twenty yards out, before dipping like a Roger Federer forehand. The twenty-two-centimeter ball grazes off the top post over the agonizingly close outstretched hand of the Uruguayan goal keeper and into the back of the net.

One. It is pandemonium within The Estadio Do Maracana as the scoreboard flashes one-zero. James knows he has just shocked the world. He runs to the corner flag to celebrate with the sea of yellow, his sea of yellow, his countrymen. He wags his finger knowingly and puts his hand ruefully to his ear. You never should have doubted us.