The game

For Rodrigo


The war of forty-four was the final straw. Why that one tipped the countries over the edge, your guess is as good as mine. It wasn’t the bloodiest nor did it claim the most lives. Consider this: the million homes destroyed in thirty-nine and all the children that disappeared in the lead-up to that time. No one keeps these numbers because they’re an indictment and everyone ends up looking bad. But forty-four, we hoped it heralded the beginning of a new age. The prevailing mood was of tiredness – haven’t we been here before – that you can only push that boulder so far up the hill before you concede enough’s enough. We knew this block. We had been on it that many times. Words such as fortitude, endurance, patience, they’re the country’s backbone … or crime, depending on who you ask.

The day the announcement came, you could say we were ripe for a change.

So many disagreements settled with fists, with guns, with bulldozing homes, we thought why not give a game a try? Those in power, those who make the world move and shake, suggested a game, let us fill the stadium Thursday night. Neutral territory, of course, neither our land nor theirs, so that no one cries it was an unfair fight. The stadium was at capacity and thousands more were smuggled in to see history being made but I accepted I could not be there and that I could witness the change in my country just as well in the street. I had never seen the streets filled as they were that night, not at the declaration of a war, nor the broadcast announcing its anti-climatic end. It was a festival and both sides believed that for once humanity the world over could be proud.

I will not bore you with the kicking of a ball back and forth, the screams, the sighs, the swearing at the screen, the way strangers sat shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, no one separated so that in the mass I could not distinguish a single face.

When the game ended, we talked about the game, we considered it justice done. For once, we had seen how our fate had been arranged and we believed that the game was the fairest fight.

There are many theories about who did it, who locked the doors and set the stadium alight. You have your theories and I have mine but I can tell you this: they did not like the war of a century being settled with a ball and a game. If they are so stupid as to believe a game is more important than a military and a country’s history, then they don’t deserve to be alive. Those were the President’s words, leaked but unverified, but no matter because we now understand that a conflict that has killed so many is important enough to keep the ball rolling over a million more lives.


Yumna Kassab

Yumna Kassab is a writer from Western Sydney. She studied medical science and neuroscience at university. Her first book of short stories, The House of Youssef, has been listed for prizes including the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, Queensland Literary Award and The Stella Prize. Her writing can be found online at Kill Your Darlings, Sydney Review of Books, Peril Magazine, Meanjin, The Sydney Morning Herald and Mascara Literary Review.

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