Springtime means rain in Emilio's town. The sun seems to be afraid to show its rays and hides under a constant parade of gray clouds. The bad weather doesn't stop Emilio from going outside, as it does everyone else. The streets are devoid of the town's residents, and Emilio loves it.
With his older brother's worn out soccer sneakers laced around his ankles for extra security, Emilio heads out into the misty day. When he arrives at the ball pit, he sees Fernando waiting, also wearing an orange jacket with their favorite team logo. Their black caps match, as they planned.
"Not too much rain today, huh?" Fernando says, tossing a soccer ball to Emilio.
Emilio shrugs his shoulders. "It's only a drizzle. I'm going to kick to the corners."
Without hesitation, Emilio runs to the middle of the concrete soccer field and places the soccer ball on the midfield line. He wipes his hands on his track pants and nods to Fernando across the court. When Fernando nods back, Emilio begins his dance.
At sixteen, after watching countless videos of Messi, Naymar, Ronaldo, and other champion soccer players, and practicing every day, rain or shine, with whoever will play with him, and sometimes by himself, Emilio has learned how to dribble the ball like an expert. He dips and dashes left and right, controlling the ball's direction and bounce, and kicks the ball to Fernando from a difficult angle and misses the goal. It hits the back fence of the ball pit, and a metallic echo resonates across the park.
Emilio jog back to the midfield line, staring at the ground, upset the ball didn't go exactly where he wanted.
"Good shot," Fernando shouts as he rolls the ball back to Emilio. "But you're off a bit."
"Your technique was perfect, but you need to lift your heel a bit more."
"Okay!" Emilio shouts with a hint of annoyance in his voice. "Ready?"
This time, lifting his heel slightly more, Emilio directs the ball closer to his target, missing the goal post by a few millimeters.
"Better, but a little more heel and a little less power."
"When I go pro," Emilio says, "I'm hiring you as my personal coach. No one has an eye like you."
"Personal coach? Please." Fernando wrinkles his forehead and smirks. "When I coach Barcelona or Real Madrid, or whatever professional team I choose, I'm not considering you if you're still kicking like this."
Emilio whips his hand over his head and chuckles as he turns around to walk back to the midfield line. He takes the shot, and the ball flies right into the upper left corner of the net. Both boys smile with a sense of satisfaction and setup for another round.