As the bus halted near what looked like an abandoned school gymnasium, somewhere inside the old town, the coach instructedthe boys to do some warm up drills inside the gym.
“I will go and talk with your opponents for today, who should be on the other side of the building.” The coach left before the boys could ask anything.
“Thank god, we are not here to clean or repair these worn out buildings.” Dawa sighed.
“Well boys, you heard the coach. Looks like we will be playing ball today. Let’s warm up.” Penjor, the team captain from the previous seemed like the right person for the job that year as well. He lead the warm up exercises and drills very efficiently.
Fifteen minutes into the warm up drills, the coach walked in. He didn’t look like he was there to coach the team, instead he looked like he was there to play against them. He was followed by a group of middle aged men, all wearing the same uniform. And at the end of the line Chophel and Dawa saw an undeniably familiar face.
“Phew! Looks like we’ll be screwed bro.” Dawa said as he nudged Chophel with his elbow.
“Learn to lose before you learn to win.” Chophel thought out loud.
The other boys looked confused.
“The man at the end of the line is Chophel’s father. He was our first basketball coach and in fact the one who got us into basketball in the first place,” Dawa explained, “And what Chophel said right now is what uncle told us after he thrashed us in our first ever basketball match.”
“How old were you guys?”
“Five.” Chophel and Dawa said in unison.
“Don’t worry boys, we are younger, quicker and even taller than most of them.” Penjor said as he observed the men warming up at the other end of the court.
“I just hope the others are not as good as uncle Sonam.”
“Hey Dawa, you saw my dad’s team photo at my house, right?”
“Well, take a closer look at our opponents.”
“No way!!!! They are still playing?
“Guys, guys,” Penjor interrupted, “don’t get worked up over some have beens. You two can sit out today if you are that sacred.”
“Happily!” in unison which made the other boys laugh.
“So that’s what ‘learn to lose before you learn to win’ means, huh?” Penjor half said and half asked as he and the rest of the team sat down after the game.
The boys were out scored 73 to 10 at the end of the match.
On the way back the coach told the boys that practice timings might change every day and that they should keep an eye on the notice board.