Fly on the Wall: Samir tries to get Man City pumped

THE EMIRATES, 28 March 2014—The atmosphere in the locker room was tense. Players paced nervously, chewing a nail or trying to drown their thoughts in oversized headphones. Samir, like a divining rod, sensed that his teammates needed something. But what? Water? No. Many of them, it appeared, already had water bottles at their feet. Massages? No, there was not time enough for this, and Pellegrini had mentioned that some of the players felt uncomfortable. There was something in the air, but what? Samir scrunched up his face and thought. Of course! He snapped his fingers, yanked a chair to the center of the room, and stepped up on it. “My players! My team!”

 Yaya walked by and peered down at him. Others, apparently unimpressed, continued about their pre-game rituals.
     “C’mon, guys. We talked about this. No more silent treatment before matches. It really gets me upset. ‘Kay? Guys?” Samir’s plea was greeted by a muffled snickering here and there, but he couldn’t quite trace its source. He tried again, raising his voice a bit to be heard above the snickers. Apparently, someone had told a joke or something, but Samir had missed it. “Guys! Hey! This is important. I can tell that you guys are nervous to face Arsenal, but I still have some great secrets about how to beat them. Listen!”
     Again, nothing. Samir tried not to pout. He pursed his lips but could feel the lower one tremble a bit. He crossed his arms and shifted his weight to one foot, tucking what might have been his chin to his chest.
     “Sami? What is wrong? You look upset.”
     Trying to look bemused, Samir regarded Vincent before speaking. “Hm? Oh, nothing. I just wanted to make a big speech to impress—er, inspire everyone. I used to play for Arsenal, so I just thought…well…no one’s listening, though so…”
     Vincent slapped Samir on the back and laughed. “Sami, Sami, Sami. You are funny sometimes. I will get their attention for you. It’s simple.” With that, Vincent clapped once and made a “come here” motion with his hands. Instantly, everyone in the locker room gathered around to hear what he had to say. “Listen up, guys. We have an important match to play. We have to get geared up for this.”
     There were murmurs of assent and heads nodding all around.
     “Sami here has a few words to say.”
     Sami thought he heard a groan. Nonetheless, he stepped back up on the chair, the better to be seen and heard by the assembled multitude. I feel important, Samir thought. “Listen, guys, I know how we can beat these guys. I have a secret weapon!”
     “Um, Samir, no offense, but we already beat these guys quite handily. Why do we need a secret weapon when we can just waltz in and win again?”
     “Don’t interrupt, Joe. I said I have a secret weapon. Doesn’t that sound important?”
     “Well, sure, Sami, but I’m just saying I don’t know if we need a secret weapon. Maybe save it for Liverpool or something.”
     “Joe, I—you’re missing the point. Just—just listen for a minute.”
     “Okay, Sami. No need to get all pissy. I’m just saying, is all.”
     “Right. Thanks. Now, where was I? Oh. Secret weapons. As I was saying, I have a secret weapon. Me!” Samir spread his hands wide and looked to each of his teammates. There were more than a few gaping mouths and raised eyebrows, but it was hard to tell if they were awed or amused. Samir decided it must be awe. Had to be. “That’s right, guys. I know how to beat these guys. I used to play here, so I totally get their attitude and how they play. I’m like a walking playbook of the plays they run.”
     “Um, Samir? For one, doesn’t 6-3 mean anything to you? Two, I don’t think Arsenal ‘run plays’ so much as try to pass around and around and around. I say we just take the ball from them, run very fast, and score. It worked last time. I know I had fun.”
     “Yes, Yaya, I know. But listen. This is important.”
     “This is something you keep saying, but I’m not sure I agree. In fact, the more you talk, the less I agree.”
     “C’mon, guys! Can’t I just—oh, forget it.” Samir slumped down to sit in his chair, splaying his legs out and crossing his arms across his chest.
     “Okay, guys, let’s give Sami a break. Sami? Hey, Sami. Look at me.” David crouched down, put a hand gently on Samir’s shoulder, and looked him the eye. “Hey, buddy. Everyone wants to hear what you have to say, okay? You just get right back up there and share, and we’ll listen. I promise.”
     Samir looked at him dubiously.
     “I promise.” David offered Samir his hand. Slowly, Samir reached for it, and David helped him stand back up.
     “Listen, guys. These Gunners are fragile. They don’t have any fight in them. They just got crushed by Chelsea, and if we beat them, they can’t win the Prem. Heck, they might not even win the FA Cup! Did you know that they haven’t won a trophy for almost ten years?”
     “Excuse me, Sami, but these are reasons that make me feel bad for them. Maybe we could let them win?”
     “What?! After what they’ve said and written and chanted about me? Did you know, Pablo, that they sometimes use a dollar-sign in my name instead of an s when they talk about me? Huh? Did you?”
     “Please to understand, Sami, but how does this change the way it sounds? It is still using an s, is it not?”
     “Pablo, you—hmph. Listen. I’m trying to inspire you guys, but no one seems to want me to.”
     “Samir, look at me. It’s David. I tell you again: we are listening. Are we listening?” David turned to the others, nodding and gesturing to coax the correct response. There was a smattering of agreement. Mollified, Samir pressed on.
     “All we have to do is take it to ’em. You know, really pressure them and get them rattled. If we can score first, they’ll fall apart.”
     “I am sorry to interrupt this speech, Samir, but please explain. This all seems like same information. Is there more of something new?” Edin scratched his head as he spoke. There were more than a few nods of assent.
     “You know what? You guys are jerks!” With that, Samir took off his neckwarmer and threw it to the ground, jumped from the chair, and stormed off.
     “Wait, Samir. You will forget this, um, neck-thing. You may catch cold if you play without it.” Matija ran after him.
     “No, Mat. Someone told me it looks kind of, well…nevermind, actually. Thanks.” Samir shuffled up the stairs to prepare for the match. From somewhere, he heard the sounds of laughter and footsteps coming behind him.

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