Kai crunched the midnight oil on the day before the match. Busy scribbling down a multitude of in-depth notes and analysis on the notepad he has placed right in front of him. Above his desk stood a window, which outside revealed the crescent of the moon, as well as the starry sky above. He was in a cramped room, small as the bedroom he is residing in was never built to be a place for people to sleep, but instead designed to be a small study space.
But that was to be expected, normal as he is nothing more but a temporary guest in the eyes of his hosts. After all, the man they were giving out residence would only situate and live under their roof for a year. Nothing to fret about.
If one was to look from the outside, just the sheer focus and dedication that Kai is putting in would send anyone to believe he was studying his hardest for University, or that he is busy doing some practice questions, or that he is performing some revision before an important test. Though if would look closer, and read exactly what the man is writing down, you would realise he was doing anything but.
Le Havre, situated in the north of France, is a major port that has been crucial for commercial trade. The bayside town holds a humble population of 180,000 residents living in the area.
Though it only had a small residence, the small town had a significant effect on history. Being a key area in the Battle of Normandy in World War II. And being of major military importance, much of the town was left devastated and in ruins after the conclusion of the war in 1945.
Despite suffering such a disastrous event, which will forever be ingrained into the memory of the older generation to the new. The small city managed to rebuild itself thanks to the passage of time.
One of the few artefacts that have survived the Battle of Normandy was Le Havre FC. The football club has a history going further back than the war, with the Le Havre FC being one of the worlds oldest football clubs.
It was in 1884 when a collection of English Residents that were then living in the area founded the club named Le Havre Athlétique, with them playing a hybrid form of football that has elements of both rugby and traditional football. But it wasn until 1894 that the club has properly devoted to playing football.
The sky blue football club has been ever-present in the professional scene of football since then. Yet despite its historical importance, the club has never won a top division title. With them always lingering in Ligue 2, the second-highest division of football in France, ever since its founding.
But a club that rivals its history should have some trophies, even if they have never reached the pinnacle of the sport. Le Havre has won merely 2 Coupe de France trophies. Which, in the eyes of its supporters, are just small achievements in terms of what other clubs have achieved.
But despite having few trophies to boast of, with their last Coupe de France being won in 1959. Every club always have a rivalry that runs deep in the clubs culture.
"Derby Normand". A phrase used to describe the heated football match that Le Havre have with their close rivals. The match between the sky- and navy-blue club with ** Caen and RC Lens are always major matches that all fans are highly anticipating of.
They have a saying: "Ciel et marine" in France, which translates as he sky and navy blues. These colours were chosen by the clubs English founders as they were those of their alma maters, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge: the anthem of the club is played to the melody of "God Save the Queen" to mark the English origins of the club.
Though not known for its achievements, Le Havre has a deep and rich history for the substantial development of its youth players. Despite not even being active in the top level of French Football, still historically provided one of the highest numbers of international Footballers for their respective countries. Though a lot of those players have been poached from Le Havre before making an impact on the first team.
The sky had a tint of a pleasant blue, and the sun was shining ever so brightly up in the sky. Which was opposite to the previous few days where rain and gloom was the only thing that anyone has noted.
Kai had to slightly squint his eyes as the rays of the sun hit him at full force. Along the streets of Havre, of which small suburban houses lay on both ends of the narrow boulevard, Kai found himself rather hurriedly rushing towards a nearby pitch.
On his journey, he cursed openly at his carelessness during last night, for he was agitated, so excited that he couldn quite restrain his excitement. He twisted and turn but just couldn seem to find a position to put him to sleep. Thus, instead of a much-required night where one got to sleep, Kai entertained himself by watching clips of the opposition team, as well as reading through the tactical plan that was devised by Lanier and Marley themselves.
Rushing in such a manner, Kai neared his destination: the pitch for Le Harves U-19 Team, the Stade Charles Argentin. Though it is only a pitch for the youth players, the stadium has an impressive 6000 seater capacity, plenty and ready for more for all the people passionate about the club to watch.
As he approached the entrance, he noticed the distinct navy blue dressed supporters gathered on one end of the stands, whilst the red and yellow pattern of the Lens supporters huddled at a far corner.
The Stade Charles Argentin is unique, in that the football pitch only has one stand, which is situated on one end of the pitch. Thus, though frustrating for the fans, they have the unpleasantness to share the viewing in close proximity to each other.
However, the stadium wasn loud, nor was it shadowed by the loud singing and chanting of the passionate Le Harve fans. Instead, there was a quiet atmosphere in the stadium, like this match was just another Sunday League football game.
The Asian coach rushed his way as he can see a small group of young players clothed in the iconic navy blue which he has long grown familiar with.
Kai noticed the respective head coach of the opposing team, Jean Cardot, dressed in a sleek black suit and white shirt with a yellow and red necktie, which he is certain is carefully chosen to reflect the team he is representing.
The pitch was minimalistic, without any privacy. Yet there is a simplicity in it that boils Kais excitement. Unlike the stadiums in which professional footballers play, Stade Charles Argentin didn have anything like that. Instead, the place that would be the "locker room" would be the technical area, which is just a fancy name for the benches that are provided on the side of the pitch.
Kai rushed there. And apologised profusely for his lateness.
Lanier, the bald coach that is dressed in a sweatshirt and sweat pants that are of the club colour, immediately shushed to the Hong Kong Native to no end.
It was only then that he realised the reason behind it. Not only had he shown up late, but he had also come in distracting everyone in their focused state. Kai checked the time. 8:57 am. Which only a few passing minutes before the official kickoff time.
He realised his mistake, but only nodded at his coaching superior. Before refocusing on the players and Manager Marley, which are slightly away from the rest of the coaching staff. Though he couldn exactly hear what Manager Marley is talking about with his players, it is probably for the better that they couldn .
In truth, the RC Lens team is only a few meters from them. Kai looked to his right, where Le Harve are stationed. He then looked left, where Cardot is also actively concluding his final words to the Lens players. Behind Kai is where the respectable stands in which the supporters will view the game.
The Le Harve youth manager also looked to his left, then to his right. Before gazing at his magnetic board, his pen resting on the small roller. On the board were various small metal magnets. All are positioned on a pre-drawn line of the football pitch.
The coaches must have traced out the playing area, making sure that there will be no hiding spaces where the players can go unnoticed. Extensive research and preparation are all done to ensure they have the tactical edge over their opposition. And it is here where the game will be won, or lost.
The fat-bellied manager stroked his short and curly goatee that is at the bottom of his chin. He stared at the players one more time before checking his watch.
"You know what to do. We have gone through the game plan many times that I bet I can even recite them backwards." Marley said to the players in French, which was their first language. There was a slight amusement in how he phrased his words, but nothing to spark a peal of laughter. Though it did ease the mood going into the match.
"Stay focused. This is an important match for the rest of the season. For your career. You know how much this means to us?" Paused in his sentence, Marley carefully accessed the mentality of each player before choosing one that looked most fired up.
"Tell me, Gérald. Why is this match important?"
The swift blond hair with a sharp chin replied, without any hesitance. "They are a strong opponent. Always competing for the top spot in the league. If we were to win this game, and if we..."
Marley stopped him before he could finish and pointed to another player. "Tell me, why is the match important?"
The child paused in his reply, as Géralds reply was the same answer he had. But he still bit his teeth, and replied with a different answer, tackling it from another angle.
"Rivalry. They are our historic rival."
That seemed to get the attention of all of the players.
"Wrong? Do you want to be wrong? Ive seen them play, Ive watched their games on video. They have talent. Talent in every position on the field. And our chances of winning are slim. In fact, they are completely based on luck."
Marley pointed to the RC Lens players on the football pitch. "Look at them. They have even been practising their dance moves. They are not even worried about this match. Theres no other explanation, we can even hope to compete with them."
Marley paused, but not to admire his own words. He pointed at Gérald. "But Gérald, have you ever tried to compete with them? And while you were at it, why have you never actually won? This may be the third season in a row that we have failed to beat them. Because of your attitude, because of everyones attitude, because of how you all approach these games."
The young French captain sighed before he turned to Marley. He bowed his head. Marley almost didn believe the sincerity in his tone.
Marley finally caught the young Frenchmans eye. "Gérald, you are our captain and you answered. All of you answered. But your answer is wrong. So I am going to tell you the true reason. Because you, like every other player on this roster, deserve nothing more than a chance on the first team. For why you are worthy to be a true professional footballer. You must overcome your enemies to be the best."
Marley spoke with passion, and desire, with a true intention of winning the match. He was on a feverish high, staring down the players eyes like a lion staring at his food. His eyes turned darker, and his voice dropped.
"Football isn a game where you can get to the top if you just fancy playing it because you have the talent. You must prove to everyone that you are worthy of the shirt. And you must do this in every game, every training session. Every opportunity. Not just because the game is bigger than your life, but because you are a member of Le Harve first and foremost. And if you are a true professional, then you must be ready to step on your enemies."
The battle had begun. The players minds were already broken, as they prepared themselves for their chance to prove that they were worth a place on the roster.
Their stern eyes emit an aura not of convivial, but of ominous seriousness. A look that is only matched by the most serious of professionals. A desire to win, to defeat, to trample on the enemy and strangle them till surrender.
"Get on the pitch and kill them!"