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Is your child down with FIFA fever? We’ve got friends to keep them company

As the final match of the FIFA World Cup approaches, we’re getting more and more excited! To keep the excitement going, we’ve put together a list of our friends from the world of Puffin who are into football as well!
Here are excerpts from two books they feature in, that your child is bound to love. Let’s read football!
Chintamani Dev Gupta a.k.a Chintu from Lost in Time
As the twenty-two players faced each other and shook hands before the kick-off, I could have sworn the IPS team’s striker in front of me gave me a death stare. I looked away coolly, instead watching the referee, a tall man with unnaturally huge biceps, come forward for the toss. The coin was flipped and both teams were stationed by the captains in their positions. It was now or never. I had been anticipating this moment for such a long time.
I could feel the tension balled up in my stomach, coursing down my arms, in every muscle of my body. Then I heard the piercing whistle. We will win this fight, I told myself. And I was in action, powerfully flitting from side to side to guard my post.
The first half of the game was uneventful, neither team having been able to score. A substitute on the IPS team, who was called in after half-time, ended up playing way better than the key player and made us rather anxious. A few free kicks that went wide and some throw-ins later, the score still remained unchanged. The match had now come down to its last ten minutes. With neither team having a goal on the scoreboard, it was still anyone’s game. We just had to find a way to break the deadlock.
To top that, the IPS striker had come way too close to scoring a few goals in the second half, and I could almost feel the pressure weighing me down like a millstone. Five minutes on the clock and he was going for it yet again. The crowd erupted wildly over the striker as he slowly made his way across the field, skillfully dribbling past our agitated defenders almost halfway from the centre line. Uh-oh, my mates were struggling. I knew it was time to brace myself. Now it was up to me. Very slowly, I bent my knees and locked my hands close to each other, my shin guards digging into my skin. My ears were ringing with the roars of exhilaration and anticipation from the audience.
In an unhindered moment, almost at the edge of the penalty box, my opponent bent backward ever so slightly and, with a powerful instep kick, shot the ball to the left. I just couldn’t gauge where it was headed for half a second, as it burst from a jumble of stomping feet. Would it swing out and miss the bar? No! It might just make it! Simultaneously I dived to the side, my hands outstretched desperately.
The microseconds slowed down, the past, the present and the future all coming together as I soared towards the hurtling ball. I stretched every muscle of my body and steeled every nerve, until I was slicing through the air like a bird, a bee, a butterfly. Like a boy who had flown through the air before. I could feel someone, something, lifting me higher and higher until the tip of my middle finger kissed tough leather and I became one with the goal. I was the goal.
We won.
Amar Kishen a.k.a. Butterfingers from Goal, Butterfingers
A nervous Jayaram tried to instil confidence in his team. ‘We need not one but two goals. Get them!’ He replaced Kishore and Arun with Pratyush and Ujjal. The double substitution paid off as Ghana began to dominate the match. Argentina was content to sit back and try to hold on to its lead. As time ticked by, Ghana was still looking for that elusive goal, despite the best efforts of Jayaram who, in frustration at not finding an opening, began to attempt shots whenever he found himself with the ball. Tempers began to fray when Arjun received a pass from Ajay and shot it past Visudh to score what he thought was the equalizer; unfortunately it was called offside. Arjun began to argue fiercely with Mr Sunderlal and stopped only after Jayaram intervened.
As the game got rough, Dipankar of Argentina pulled Arjun’s hair hard and brought him down, then tripped and fell over him. Arjun landed on his injured hand and took full advantage of that by holding his hand and stomach in turn and writhing in pain. Mr Sunderlal looked a little suspicious, but Arjun continued to moan. Showing Dipankar a yellow card, Mr Sunderlal awarded Ghana a penalty that was neatly converted by Jayaram. After that, in spite of vigorous forays by the forwards of both teams, no goals were scored. Argentina came pretty close to going ahead but Amar brought off a spectacular save, jumping high and tipping the ball away.
When it was full time, the two teams were locked at 2–2, and it was time for the penalty shoot-out. With the ‘vuvuzelas’ providing plaintive and jarring background music, Ishaan took the first penalty for Argentina, kicking the ball high into the right corner while Amar, judging wrongly, went to the left. Next Jayaram, after taking his time, took the kick, missed and hit the crossbar. ‘Oh no!’ said Kiran, dismayed. ‘Wearing Gyan on his shirt and missing a penalty like him!’ A roar went up from Argentina’s supporters while Jayaram just sat down, face in hands until Abdul gently led him away. But the next shot from Milosh was beautifully saved by Amar who, smartly anticipating the direction this time, fell over the ball and saved it. Arjun was given the ball and in an audacious move that had everyone gasping in disbelief, turned quickly and did a backflick penalty kick that luckily for him found the net.
Arya took the next penalty and slipped as she was about to kick, causing the ball to roll to a stop before the goal line. Shoulders hunched, she forlornly joined her team and burst into tears. Ujjal’s kick was fast and furious and Visudh just couldn’t get to it. Hitesh who took the next penalty sent the ball high to a corner of the goal. Amar didn’t have a chance. It was Ghana’s turn next and Pratyush’s shot was in. Visudh himself came to take his team’s fifth penalty. His team huddled around him and there was a hush around the grounds. If he missed, Ghana would win. Jayaram went to talk to Amar. Visudh took careful aim and kicked it beautifully over Amar’s head but Amar bounced high as if he had anti-gravity paste on his shoes and got the tip of one finger to it. Though he hurt his finger badly, the ball’s trajectory got altered and it rolled out of harm’s way.  Ghana had won the World Cup!

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