Derbie Azar: Leading the Lost Desert to Victory
ALTADOR - The cheers, the jeers, and the sound of a wild Techo yodeling for his favorite team filled my ears as I stepped into the Altador Cup Stadium, an hour or so before the actual game, Lost Desert vs. Darigan began. My only weapons were: pen, paper, and my intellectual brilliance as a star reporter-wanna-be. Only these [not to mention my VIP pass], could protect me from the crazed Neopets in the stands.
As I gazed around, awestruck, I saw a disco Ixi and a red Grarrl discussing the game fluently. The Ixi was continually rolling her eyes, looking as if she was babbling, but I knew from experience that these two were deep in an Altador Cup discussion, not ordering lunch.
“Are you looking for something?” a kind, soft voice asked me.
I turned on my heel, barely suppressing a yelp in my surprise.
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” said a short desert Scorchio, gracefully removing her turban to reveal her kindly emerald eyes.
My heart stopped as I realized who was addressing me.
“Derbi Azar,” I whispered.
She was the star Lost Desert right forward, known for her craftiness, scoring, and flawless passing skills; and she was talking to me.
Then I remembered what I was here for. “I am so sorry,” I said, trying to regain my cool composure. I showed her my pass while saying, “I’m here to interview you. Is there someplace we can talk that’s not...”
“A madhouse? Come to my quarters. I have a special room in the lockers where we can converse in relative peace,” she interrupted.
“Great!” I replied enthusiastically. As she turned, beckoning for me to follow her, I realized I was making a complete goof of myself. It was time to buckle down and be a real reporter.
We passed through the locker room with no trouble in the least. She opened the door for me to enter into her “quarters”.
It was, in reality, a beautifully decorated, jewel studded, Lost Desert-themed, trophy penthouse, just on ground level.
She lead me over to a comfortable chair, which I was sure she would use for herself, but instead motioned for me to sit into it. I did. She then settled herself, cross-legged, onto the floor.
“Do we begin now?” she asked, gazing up at me casually.
I took a deep breath, and then replied, “Yes... of course. Derbi Azar, star right forward; is that overly complimenting you? Or, do you believe you deserve it?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Why, of course I do not think I deserve it. I am a rookie-yooyu player. I have much to learn about the game itself, just like I have much to learn about those who play it. I just express a love for the game, for everything about the game. Losses do not depress me, for...”
“Hold on,” I retorted, bemused. “You like to lose?!”
“No,” she replied calmly, closing her eyes. “I see losses as a chance to strengthen our trust in each other.”
I closed my notebook that I had so readily opened in complete and utter confusion. “Say that again now?” I asked wearily.
“If we lose, that means we did not work together as a team,” she explained, opening her incredible emerald eyes to stare confidently at me. “If we lose, that does not mean that one person failed; it means we failed as one, together. As one team we should be able to pick someone up when they are down. It gives us strength when we realize we are all at fault, and that if we work together, we can prosper every time. If we believe in each other,” she continued as she sat up on her knees, “then we shall win every game. And winning is a great rush that gives us even more appreciation for each other.”
These were large words coming from such a small-sized player. I was touched by her pride in her teammates, but I was here to dig deep into Derbi Azar, to find who she really was. I wasn’t so confident as to think she was as good willed as she made herself seem.
“Do you consider yourself a dirty player?” I inquired, readying my pen.
“Of course I try to play as clean as possible,” she admitted. “But when push comes to shove, the game is tied and there are only thirty seconds left, my elbows become the most frightening force in the coliseum. I won’t say I’ll do anything to win, but I’ll do everything that’s legal to win.”
I wrote this all down for a few seconds. The only sound was our breathing and the scratch of pen on paper. Finally I asked, “When did you start playing the sport of yooyuball?”
I saw Derbi lean her head back against the wall as she recalled her childhood memories.
“My father taught me how to play with a rubber yooyuball,” Azar recalled blissfully. “We would spend hours outside of our two-story Neohome, him teaching me the moves and the rules, me always screaming I wanted to do it my way.”
“Did you ever think you’d be competing in the Altador Cup, thousands of miles away from your home, with a top-notch team?” I said to her, expecting a “Yes, I always dreamed of doing so,” from her.
She actually paused a moment, looking uncomfortable. The star forward toyed with her uniform until I made a little cough to get her attention.
“Oh? Yes. I mean no, I never thought myself of a Cup player-to-be. I actually detested the game when I was little, because to me, it demanded far too much of my time and energy. I would rather dress my Usuki dolls in my room instead of rolling about in the intense heat and sand, chasing after a fake ball, with my father shouting orders at me.
“But then, I heard my mother talking to Father outside, in the yard. She was saying, ‘Dear, I know it’s frustrating; but she’s just a girl.’
“‘She has so much talent, I can see it already!’ he protested. ‘And she’s so smart; it would just make me so happy to see my little Derbi performing at the Altador Cup...’
I had never felt the same about the game ever again. My father wanted me to do it. He said he knew I could do it. The next day that really opened my eyes to how much fun and how much of a challenge yooyuball was; and my father was so proud, as he is now,” Derbi Azar concluded.
I whistled. This was turning out to be a fantastic article. But it was time for the nasty questions now.
“Do you think your goalie, Leera Heggle, is too headstrong?”
“Of course I do. Heggle takes the game far too seriously. But he absolutely refuses to work on his speed, only working on his hands and his smile. He is a fantastic goalie, he is fearless, but if the other team scores, he goes wild on our defense. Heggle needs to learn we need to work together as a team,” Derbi seethed.
Oh, touchy, I thought to myself. “And what about your new teammate, journeyman Luvea Trivon?”
“Trivon is inexperienced,” Azar said thoughtfully, “but he has a lot of heart, which is very important in the game. I have never seen a better tackler, and his consistency is very admirable. The desert Draik is very likable, and the whole team enjoys his company.”
I looked to my watch. Almost game time, I realized with a start.
“Thank you for your time,” I said politely, getting up from my chair to shake Derbi Azar’s scaly paw. She shook it very gladly. Wow, she had a grip!
“You are very welcome. I suggest your next move is to interview Trivon,” she replied.
“I’ll do so,” I shot back coolly, bowing respectfully. “My best wishes and good luck today, Derbi Azar.”
That concludes my interview. I write this as I watch Lost Desert battle head to head with the Darigan Citadel. Derbi is showing her effortless skill, and her undeniable will to triumph this year. I look interestedly at Luvea Trivon as he cleanly steals the ball from team captain Layton Vickles, and passes it up to left forward Vonde Cayle.
Derbi Azar is moving to the ball, even with the last defender. Cayle passes the ball, almost the goalie, but Azar swoops in and angles it the lower right hand corner. Success. That is what Derbi Azar is, as you can see as she celebrates down the field with her teammates. Success, a successive, humble, golden right forward who just may lead her team, the Lost Desert, all the way to the Championship, then spiraling into victory.