World Cup 2018—a Season of Let Down and a Tale of Grit

The roar of victory after France’s Paul Pogba scores in the second half of the World Cup Finals  (Photo: Martin Meissner, Associated Press)

BETWEEN this year’s World Cup and the one four years ago, give me the last one anytime. I’m sure I’m not the only who feels this way. Game after game, I came away feeling cheated. Take that Germany-versus-South Korea game, for instance, the Germans literally gave away a free goal to the Koreans just because the goalkeeper decided he was more cut out to be a striker than a guardian of his own goalpost.

What about all the hot soccer teams—the star teams you were sure would not just give you a winning performance, but also world-class soccer? Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, Uruguay, England—all of these teams lost not because the underdogs they were up against played well, but because they played badly. And not just badly, some of them displayed such appalling attitude.

I’m sure you know who I’m referring to. Brazil’s star player Neymar, and also soccer’s hottest dude, Ronaldo. Here are two players the entire world watches with great enthusiasm, but when playtime comes along, what do they do? They put up a horrible acting performance, faking injury and wasting time, rather than giving the world truly sublime soccer, the kind they are known for. D-list actor is how the New York Times has described Neymar. Imagine him stooping to that level, an A-list soccer star! That’s just so sad.

Perhaps the saddest thing of all is this: The great Lionel Messi did not manage to score a single goal, and for this to be his last World Cup outing is just too tragic. But then again, maybe it’s not. Messi wasn’t in his element just because he was playing with his national team, and not his home team, F.C. Barcelona. Without his pals, Messi can never be the real Messi.

Messi may have faded, Neymar may have disappointed, but some unknown and upcoming stars saved the day. Croatia’s surprise victory over England, giving them a spot at the finals for the first time ever, was a reminder of how anything is possible. Theirs was an extraordinary story of the unexpected. It was a grand celebration of the underdogs.

Sure, we were all hoping for a France-England showdown, but somehow, a France-Croatia finals was just as good. Any team who makes it to finals does so not by just sheer luck.

So when the finals finally rolled in, you wonder, “What if Croatia wins?” Of course, most of us weren’t rooting for an underdog victory. I was just thinking of Les Bleues. But as the game rolled on, when France notched a 4-1 lead, the Croatians were still giving their all. The energy, the go-for-it, the never-give-up—they were all too palpable. Then, that second goal came so late into the game. These Croatians were still at it, a roaring fierce game.

By this time, at the 69th minute, it was clear that France would be the champions, but I thought, “Croatia, you’re good!” And even as I cheered at the French team’s victory, I felt the Croatians emerged triumphant in their own way. They have come very far—certainly not by sheer luck, but amazing and admirable grit.

(536 words)

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Nicholas Tan, 9th Grade
July 2018

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November, the Month of Nerves and Luck

NOVEMBER is my lucky month. Lucky because it’s my birth month, and because the best thing ever happened to me in November last year. Actually, let me take that back—not the best thing, but the two best things. As all PSLE students know, November is the month of nerves. The days are jolly, sure, it’s the holidays, but they all march up to that big day, rotten and exhilarating all at once, when the results are released. My big day was November 24th.

Amid the crowd and chatter all around the school hall that morning, I heard my name. My form teacher’s voice boomed: “Li Yi Wei!” Over the short distance of less than ten steps I had to take to get to her, my mind was crowded with all kinds of thoughts: Will I get to the secondary school of my dreams? What if I scored below 250?

As I stretched out my hand to get the sheet of computerized paper, Miss Ang smiled, a big, broad smile. “Congratulations, Yi Wei!” she said. “Good job!” I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and held the paper right in front of my face. The moment I opened my eyes, the numbers greeted me: 260. And, my goodness, a parade of ‘A’s!

  • EL1: A*
  • Mother Tongue (Chinese): A*
  • Math: A*
  • Science: A

I screamed. Then my classmates crowded round and screamed too. We all screamed, and hopped about like silly, delirious bunnies—bear hugs, bunny hugs all rolled into one.

“Okay, all right!” Miss Ang cried, breaking up our mad exhilaration. “Yi Wei, could you go to Miss Poey’s office, please? And now everyone, let me continue with my result slips.”

Off I went, half-dazed, wondering why our principal wanted to see me. Was it my PSLE results or something else? Was I going to get a prize? The thought of going to the principal’s office made me nervous, but braced by that slip of paper in my hand, I managed to knock on Miss Poey’s door with a confident rap, three crisp knocks.

Miss Poey stood up the moment I opened the door, and gave me a big smile. “Yi Wei,” she said. “You’ve done the school proud. And I heard you got 260.”

“Yes,” I said, feeling elated. No one had given me such attention before in all my years in school. And for it to come now from not just anyone but Madame Principal made me feel all bunny again.

Without going through any preamble, Miss Poey delivered yet another piece of good news to me. “Remember that first prize you won at the inter-school talent competition in July?” she said. “The one where you sang Taylor Swift’s Never Grow Up? Guess what?”

“What?” I said, my eyes going wide.

“Well, the folks at Marina Bay Sands have invited us to participate in their New Year’s Eve party, and you, my dear, they want you to sing Taylor Swift’s New Year’s Day.”

Wow! First, 260, then four ‘A’s, then three stars, and now Taylor Swift. To call this a memorable morning would be an understatement. No, memorable is not the word. The word is lucky. Truly, November is my lucky month, and November 24th, my birthday.

(542 words)

***

Chia Xin Yu, Primary Six
June 2018

For more essays by Xin Yu, visit Xin Yu Writes.


This essay was written in response to the theme, memorable celebration,” and three pictures:

1. A birthday cake

2. The PSLE result slip of Li Yi Wei with the following grades: EL: A*, CL: A*, Math: A*, Science: A, and a total score of 260

3. A talent competition featuring a girl singing and a boy playing the guitar

Best Friends Are Made of These

Image: Pinterest

‘Her over-the-top kindness and her loud voice suddenly made all my self-pity disappear, but it only made the embarrassment hotter.’

BEST FRIENDS are supposed to be wonderful, but sometimes, they can drive you up the wall. Kennice is just like that. She has been my best friend for two years now, since Primary Five. We have been in the same class, first in 5 Loyalty 1, and now 6 Resilience 1—those are the fancy names for our classes.

She sits in the second row from the right, third desk from the front, and I sit to her left, right across the aisle. It’s a blessing to have your best friend so close. We didn’t plan for this to happen, we ended up seated side by side on account of our height. She’s 1.45m tall, I’m 1.43m. She wears a ponytail, so do I. She’s a loudmouth, so am I, though not as loud as her. She’s the giggly type, I’m the same, except I’m gigglier.

That’s how we became friends. One day, she came up to me and said, “Hey, I like the way you laugh.” I was thrilled because my mother is not particularly fond of my laughter. I immediately warmed up to Kennice, such a nice name!

The only trouble with this girl is she’s not very discreet. She would, for instance, let loose a secret the moment she hears one. One time, I whispered to her that I really wanted to slap Corrine’s face, and as soon as the words left my lips, Kennice shouted out, almost in glee, “Oh my goodness! Xin Yu can’t stand Corrine!”

The whole world heard her, including poor Corrine, who was within earshot. And the worst part of it all is that this silly girl usually has no idea how hurtful she is. Even though in this instance, she may have caught her own stupid indiscretion, she only made it worse by proclaiming, “Oh, no, no, it’s just a dare, I didn’t mean it!” So much for pretending to sound random.

Discretion may not be her strong suit, but she’s got a big heart.

Once, I slipped down the stairs in school and felt my bum bumping down three, four steps before I hit the ground floor. The pain in the bottom wasn’t killing me so much as the hot flush of embarrassment. Some school mates snickered, others just walked right past. Only Kennice came rushing to my rescue.

“Oh, Xin Yu!” she cried. “Are you OK?”

She pulled me up, and surveyed my face, then my arm, and gave a quick inspection of my bottom. I looked fine, but she seemed to wonder if I had suffered some internal bleeding: “You sure we don’t have to go to the general office?” Her over-the-top kindness and her loud voice suddenly made all my self-pity disappear, but it only made the embarrassment hotter.

But that’s just Kennice. Her readiness to please is so hyper, it smothers you to bits. And nowhere did I feel more smothered than when we were eating chocolate-chip cookies our classmate Lindsay had brought to school one day.

“Mmm, this is so good!” I said.

“Yes, it is,” she agreed. “But I can make it even better.”

And it’s true she could. It was everything I could have wished for in a cookie, much the same way that Kennice is everything I could have wished for in a friend.

(556 words)

***

Chia Xin Yu, Primary Six
May 2018

For more essays by Xin Yu, visit Xin Yu Writes.


This essay was written in response to the theme, “Best Friends” and a picture of two girls whispering to each other

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You may also enjoy Not Just Friends. Best Friends.

Cheat Not, Steal Not

ESSAYS are a pain. I hate writing them. Last year, we used to have essay assignments every week. Imagine that, every week! I could hardly keep up with them, and I was not alone. This year, thank goodness, we get an assignment whenever the teacher gives us one. But still, I can’t stand them, call it writing trauma if you will.

So when this teacher, Madam Hoon, gave us an assignment late last month, I was so upset. It didn’t help that the very assignment itself was, shall I be honest, quite quite stupid. Fine, I’m not supposed to use the “S” word, so let’s just say the assignment was rotten and odious.

Dumb topic, dumb pictures!

Using someone’s idea without permission. That’s the dumb topic. And the dumb pictures we were supposed to write to? Picture one: some kid copying from an exercise book, someone else’s, presumably. Picture two: someone receiving an award. And the last picture: a woman with arms akimbo and brows furrowed in anger.

I really didn’t feel like doing this. The rebel voice in me was so strong that I was taken aback. I was all the more surprised by this: I had plans not to do it, but I’d still submit it. How, pray tell, was I going to do that? Simple, I was going to use someone’s idea without permission. And that someone would be Kammy. It was my idea of a neat revenge. You give me this, I’ll give you the same thing back.

I was going to be a copycat, a ninja copycat—agile, nimble, and hard to catch. Kammy was going to be the victim because she’s the star writer in class, always scoring 31 or more for her essays. And she is one of those weirdos who would complete an assignment on the very day it’s given. She’d do it in one quick spurt and then stick it under her school desk. They never go home because she’s a very untidy girl, and she just can’t bear to have more crap going into her school bag.

All I had to do was to get on recess duty on the eve of our submission deadline, and then offer to sweep and sweep and dust and dust so that I could shoo the other two duty girls away. Over the 30-minute recess, I did some diligent cleaning while the other two flitted about, and after, plenty of ninja copying when they trickled away to the canteen.

By the time I was done, my plan was to destroy Kammy’s essay, destroy all evidence of my crime. And to make this whole deed look even more professional, I was going to shred it all at home instead of simply tossing it into the classroom bin.

I saw through my whole plan. Success!

Alas, when the next day came along, I couldn’t bring myself to submit the essay. As we stood in front of the classroom, Kammy and I, getting an earful from Madam Hoon for not having our assignments in on time, I felt I did the right thing. It’s the best thing I could do, and possibly the best thing I’ve ever done.

To right that wrong that Kammy had to suffer, I couldn’t have done any better.

(547 words)

***

Therese Lee, Primary Six
April 2018

For more essays by Therese, visit Therese Writes.


This essay was written in response to the theme, “Using someone’s idea without permission,” and two pictures: (1) a kid copying from an exercise book, (2) a woman with arms akimbo and brows furrowed in anger

When Luck Is On Your Side

image: vimeo

LIFE as a student here is not fun. Everyday is a homework day, including the holidays. Sometimes, we get stressed, sometimes, we can’t even catch up. And it gets worse if you are not an ‘A’ student like me. For Maths last year at the mid-year exams, I got 73; for science, 68; for English, 78.5; and for Chinese, thank goodness, I made myself proud. I scored 83, that’s an ‘A’. Still, overall, it was a lackluster performance. To the teachers, it was not lackluster, it was just bad.

Like the good student that I am and always strive to be, I worked hard, very hard, night and day, day and night, in the hope that lackluster and mediocre would turn into something shinier and brighter.

Would the toil pay off? Would it ever make a difference?

There was a mad kind of desperation for a month, then two, leading up to the final-year exams, but by the third month, I felt so tired I really didn’t care anymore. My motto, as the days approached the exam, was, “Ah, just go do it, and do your best!” I like to think this was all inspired by my mom and dad. Am I lucky or what?

A week after the exams, Mr. Goh, our science teacher, called upon four students to his desk. I was one of them.

“Well done!” he told us. “All of you, you’re going to get an award.”

“What are we getting?” Jeff asked.

“I’m not going to tell you.”

A week later, at the prize-giving ceremony, I still didn’t know what award I was up for until Mrs. Sachi, some Head of Department, announced my name: “Chia Xin Yu, second best student of the level.”

As it turned out, luck was truly on my side.

(303 words)

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Chia Xin Yu, Primary Six
April 2018

For more essays by Xin Yu, visit Xin Yu Writes.


This essay was written in response to the theme, “A Proud Moment,” and three pictures: (1) a pair of clapping hands, (2) a trophy, (3) a sheet of paper with the word “Well Done” written on it