School: The Soccer Ball Incident

The Universal Post
5 min readDec 3, 2023
Photo by Alliance Football Club on Unsplash

An incident that occurred when I was a student at the IEMS in late 1980’s has had an indelible mark on my life, character and value system.

I can’t remember properly in which class I was when this incident happened. Perhaps, I was in Class 8 or Class 9. Like any other school and any other class, I was part of a close-knit group of friends, all of them boys. One day, one of our friends told us that he had recovered a soccer ball from across the road in front of the school. He wasn’t sure if the ball belonged to the school or if it was just lying there. Boys being boys, we were very happy. A free soccer ball and no one claiming ownership. The friend who had found it, took it home and became the de facto owner of the ball. From that day, for three days we played soccer using his ball. Word soon spread and many other boys joined us to play soccer. Slowly, every boy from our class and many of our seniors also used the ball. We were all very happy — a free ball and a great time. What else could we expect. This was one of the best times of our young lives.

However, our happiness was short lived. As they say, “there is no free lunch”, we too found out that the ball wasn’t for free and there were consequences. Somone (and I don’t know to this day who?) ratted us out. I am very hazy of the details as to what happened next, but I think all of us (the immediate group of friends who had used the ball) were hauled in by our schoolteachers. We were interviewed and like canaries we all sang against each other and soon it was found who had initially found the ball. We were asked, why we didn’t return the ball and why did we at least not ask our sports teacher if the ball belonged to the school. It was logical that the ball belonged to the school as it was across the road from the school. I can’t remember if the interrogation was like what we see from ED, CBI, CIA etc. nowadays in movies but I am sure it wasn’t very complicated by standards of those times.

Ultimately, our friend who had found the ball was suspended for 3 days, while the rest of us (5–6) were suspended for a day. Our parents were asked to meet the headmaster and we had the unceremonious job of breaking the news to our parents (and parents meant “Father😊”). I don’t know how each one of us broke it to our parents, but I am sure it would have been quite difficult. I can’t remember how I did it, but it was far easier than I had imagined.

Irrespective of the details and accuracy of this incident, there are many key takeaways for all of us. And this will be relevant for my whole life and perhaps an important lesson in personal value system for all times to come.

Firstly, could I or other friends (in the group) not have coaxed the friend who had found the ball to check with the school. Better still, could we not have gone and checked with the sports teacher if they were short of 1 ball in their sports kit. Even better, could we not have taken the ball to the teacher and handed it over to him. It didn’t matter whether the ball belonged to the school or not. So, the lesson here is (and I know it is hard to judge 14-year-olds in that day and that age): Could we not have been plain honest? Probably, yes! Remember, honesty is the best policy. Could we not have been less selfish and given away the ball? Selfishness is a human trait which stands against the very value that binds the world together and that is — sacrifice. Could we have sacrificed our temporary happiness at the altar of honesty and sacrifice? Answer is a resounding YES!!

Secondly, all of us felt that everyone who had played with the ball and didn’t inform the school was to blame, and it was wrong for the school to pick on just the 6–7 of us. It wasn’t justice. Dear friends, I can tell you the world is not a just place. So, it is best to follow rules, polices and regulations. If you do so, you may not have a super successful life money wise ($$, Pound, Euro or Rs) but you will have a satisfactory and peaceful life.

Also, our group had only boys. If we had a girl or a number of girls in the group, wouldn’t that have been better? Could it have added to the diversity of thought in our group think. Girls who are far more sensitive and careful in general, could have showed us the way. So, in hindsight it would have been good if we had girls in our close-knit group. Again, it is too hard to judge and expect these structures at an early stage of life but dear all, remember that we should all endeavor for diversity of thought and thoughts should be debated and the best thought should be respected.

On another aspect, who was the person(s) who had informed the school about us and the ball? Does it matter? There will always be people like that. One cannot do anything about it. So, what could we have done? Maybe it doesn’t sound right but it’s important to understand that we need to be careful with whom we share our happiness and sorrows. Even if we do so, we should always think, how much to share.

Also, when the teachers broke our group one by one, why didn’t we stand up for each other? How frail was our group that we quickly turned on each other. Could we not have stood by each other? Could we not have owned up greater responsibility or collective responsibility? I will leave this to your own judgment but either way, this would have had other repercussions.

Finally, we can’t let the school off the hook. Was the school right in punishing us? Was justice done? Could the judgement have been better? To these, I have no answer. I can only say that the law is the law. We all need to respect the law and in this case the judgement of our teachers. Did they have ulterior motives? Were they being partial? I don’t know and the fact is, it is none of my business. My business is me, my thoughts and my behavior.

As young minds develop, it is important that a school teaches its students the values of honesty, diversity, self-reflection, happiness, probity, ethics and most importantly, the value of Karma. As lifelong students, it is important for all of us to focus on our self and our karma. And for those who question — positive or negative karma; let me tell you that karma is always positive.

PS: This is a true story, and all involved in the close-knit group barring a couple are in close and regular contact. The friend who found the ball is not even part of the class group. I hope we can coax him. Perhaps, it will happen. Life is too short. Friends do drift away, but it is the job of a friend to keep in touch. It is a responsibility we must take seriously.



The Universal Post

Arunesh is the author of 2 books — The Migrant, A Biography and The Astrologer’s Curse. He works in the energy industry and loves writing and travelling.