why my jersey says KEVII

11.05pm and i can’t sleep since my head hit the pillow at 10.30pm. most uncharacteristic – normally i am asleep within a minute of hitting the bed.

i deduce that it is because i have just come off a heartbreaking loss to EH in floorball. 6-5 loss after a goal scored with 7 seconds left. off a free hit which i made a defensive error and didn’t step up. yeah they say don’t blame yourself it’s a team game but the fact remains that i made a mistake… anyway. this is not the point. the mistake has been made and the game is over.

but i cannot sleep. i cannot get over this sense of… loss. it eats at me. it is a void. it is more than a missed opportunity. it is something that you fought hard for and did all you could but somehow it wasn’t enough. it’s not even regret, that you didn’t play your all out on the court. i sure did. i have no regrets on that. but i still cry and cry after the game because it just hurts to come to close but yet not get there.

that’s why i can’t sleep. i can’t get over it. this horribly familiar taste, this bitter tang of defeat, this sour acrid odour that permeates the air. it is terrible. it is an emptiness that consumes. it is why i didn’t say anything in the van on the trip back, bless the driver. it is why i am up now typing away, because i couldn’t escape into sleep.

is this it? every time i put on my red KEVII jersey i can’t help but be filled with mixed emotions. dread and fear and excitement and hope and resolve. when i hit the court, i play hard. i’m not the strongest, fastest, hardest, bounciest, or most skillful player, but i sure try my best. and i know my teammates are too.

but every time we set out to accomplish something we carry with us a hope that we are going somewhere… that we’re going to make the finals. whatever sport you play. it doesn’t matter. every year at the start of the IHG season we encourage each other and say hey, this year, it’s going to be different. and yes i’ve only played 2 years of IHG but i can feel it. that desire to win. to change history. to show that we’re not just doormats, stepping stones to the finals, easy matchups. out to prove something. each time i hear my friends say ‘this sport got chance this year’ i am filled with hope. anxious hope – because i am afraid that their hopes and dreams will end in ashes. dirty, grey, tepid ashes, wet with tears of disappointment, mixing into the ground, another smear in the footsteps of history.

is that what it is? each season we train, put in our effort, try our best, fight through holiday schedules and lack of venues and conflicting commitments to forge a squad that we believe can meet the mark, can go far. can get out of the group stage, and somehow go to the finals. and we fight. keep fighting. even though sometimes we know it is futile. we keep fighting. but now i am familiar with this nasty stink that is defeat. i hate it. more than that, i fear it. i fear the thought of putting in all those hours, all that sweat, that laundry to be done, tape to be removed, hours in the gym, on the court, money spent, blood spilt… and all coming to nought. say what you want about moral victories but the fact is that losing sucks. and we’ve become accustomed to losing, that victory is something that we aren’t used to. somehow. sounds harsh? because it is.

yet we still fight on. why? tonight i ask myself if all those trainings were worth it. my nights in hall are spent sweating. training this, training that. not that sports is the top priority in hall – i agree, hall should be holistic, everyone should take this chance to dabble in all sorts of different things. but in sports there is a purity of dedication, a team goal that is tested on the field of battle. it is a testing of mettle, a competition against others, and against self. i asked myself if i were willing to go through that whole process again. months of hope and struggle and that pre-game excitement and mental preparation, psyching yourself, then daring to dream. daring to hope. opening yourself to the possibility of not making it out of the group stage, opening yourself to the possibility of getting hurt all over again, yet allowing yourself to think how awesome it would be if miracles happen. if somehow, we get to the finals, and then you never know what might happen. just allowing yourself to think of getting there.

then when the miracle nearly happens. you see it happening right before your eyes. it’s paying off. we score first. then we’re up 3-1. we come back from 5-3 down. it’s 5-all. you can smell it. hang in there a bit more. play some D. coach subs you in. you go in all pumped up and ready to do anything to win. because you can smell it. if its a draw it goes to penalties we have a chance. we can get there. the finals… and all that it encompasses. it will be a validation of how far we’ve come, of the work we have put in. it will mean that we have proven ourselves. then comes a free hit and you step up to wall, because you’re the center and you told yourself ‘call the wall’. and you call the wall, check to make sure you’re covering the goal. then the hit comes and you’re late to step up, the ball flies by, the net moves.

everything comes crumbling down. a peek at the clock. 7 seconds. how? head floods with emotion. disappointment. overwhelmingly so. incredible. what did i just do? and the whole line feels the same, i’m willing to bet.

7 seconds and you’re on the bench hoping for a miracle. but there’s no miracle and when the buzzer sounds all you can do is bury your face in your hands, regardless of the sweat, and shutting yourself into a world where you can’t see anything, and all you can feel are hot tears bubbling out and people patting you on the back. everything goes black.

and there’s a lineup and handshakes and everything else is all mechanical and dazedly you sit and go through cooldown, etc. devastating. so close. after you believed so hard – after coming back from behind in the group stage, fighting hard the whole game, staying in there, exhorting your teammates… and suddenly. nada. it’s over.

it hurts. you can’t sleep because that moment keeps replaying in your head. and in every sport.

is this what it is? what it boils down to? because when i’m sitting outside the mpsh i’m seriously considering whether or not to stop playing sports for hall. do i really want to open myself up to this whole thing again? until i’m scared to hope?

in the end… i already know the answer. as all of you do. next year you’re going to play again. train again. hope again. fight again. again and again and again. because it’s always worth fighting for – something bigger than yourselves, something bigger, something worth doing because it is for other people. that’s why deep inside me i know i’m going to put on that KEVII jersey again next year. #15 – that’s me. because i owe it to all those other people out there fighting their own battles – because this is our war, together. i’m out there on the court because i see Eric sacrificing skin and tendon diving all over the volleyball court. because Jingjia and Cheryl are still playing despite destroyed ankles. Because i see Hungyi keep playing despite having training every day. Because all the first aiders are spending countless hours sitting there, as are the drivers. because all my sports commers have been doing stuff like jersey numbers and whatnot. because Patrick and Nelson have spent years playing this game and teaching it to us. because of my teammates, who got my back, who pick me up after the game. because Kevan and Teoh Guan are cheering like madmen from the sidelines. because the F4 girls are behind us – in body, in spirit, and in whatsapp. because Jaystine has done so much work behind the scenes that nobody knows about. because of Wai Kit and Alex and Liangxun and Wesley and Vernon and Yan Shi and even Adriel… my floorball batch boys. because of people who give their all and try their hardest even though they know, on some level, that it’s well nigh impossible to come up top, but they will fight on anyway – the entire swim team. because my KE Press writers need something good to write about. because all the supporters are there, and we owe it to them. because of all the sacrifice that has been made – how can you not?

and we continue fighting, fighting the good fight, striving onwards, even though we know we’re the underdogs, nobody expects us to perform. we fight for each other, ourselves, our hall, something bigger. something greater. because every time you pull on that red jersey… you pull it on with all the others who are also wearing it. it may be a different number on the back, but it all says the same name. and it’s not about the institution… it’s about the people who make it up.

that’s why next year i’ll still be playing. even though the sting of defeat is sharp in my memory – that drives me on too, because if just the dreams and hopes already smell of honey and ambrosia, i want to know what winning it all feels like. and even if we don’t win, i’ll go out fighting, because of all the people who are doing the same. that’s what it means to play sports for KE. i’m proud to wear this jersey (even if it is the same template as last year’s – sorry, my bad) with KEVII on my back: because you’re wearing it too.

thank you all for your kind words: they mean a lot. they truly do.

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