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will we burn inside the fire?

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When they came no one was prepared.

Not that, Franz admits for himself a month later sitting in a room with lights that are too bright, anything could have prepared them for something like this. Humanity talked about aliens, about life in other planets, of the possibility of reaching them, but they are only that: Talks. The dream and even hope of a planet filled with brilliant ambitious minds that wanted always more. But they are not ready for it when it came.

Franz had nightmares about it for weeks.

Not so much about the things themselves, spaceships that could fit well in any of those high budget Hollywood movies, so big they seemed to obscure the sun itself, that came slowly and silently like shadows. No, the vision of them coming wasn’t as haunting as the panic Franz saw in the faces of everyone, the scream of the children that he swears he can still hears every time his eyes close, the cold feeling that settled on his own body as the things got closer and closer until they almost touched the top of tallest buildings.

There are certain things that the human mind is not ready to understand.

The alien invasion was one of them.

Everything after that was a blur in his mind. It was on the TV, on the magazines, on the newspaper, on the internet, the panic spreading while the government refused to give them informations only orders to stay indoors and make sure they had enough food in case of a emergency. Schools are cancelled, no one left for work. Panic spread like a disease.

People didn’t have anywhere to run because those things showed up everywhere.

And then, two weeks after the spaceships showed up, a man in a dark suit and dark circles under his eyes to match knocked on his door with the most ridiculous proposal Franz ever heard in his life.

The aliens want to put the faith of earth on a football game.

It sounded so ridiculous, so out of this world, the script to a Hollywood movie rather than their reality, that Franz was forced to laugh, to hide his face into his hands and laugh and laugh until it he sound hysterical rather than amused. The agent waited until he got his composure back and for a moment Franz wanted to deny, to say he wanted no part on this mess, that he is a retired old man with no business trying to save the planet but the agent looked at him and he looked so young , young and desperate and almost to the point of begging, that Franz could only nod in heavy agreement.

“I will help ”  He remarks when the agent prepares to leave “Nothing more, i can’t do this alone, no one can.”

And that is why Franz Beckenbauer, icon of the football world, a legend to both club and country, finds himself in a underground room in a secret locality surrounded by other icons of the game and agents from several organizations from around the world.

It looks as ridiculous surreal as it sounds.

“They… They send us a date yesterday.” A man in his late fifties breaks the heavy silence “We have less than two months to put together a team capable of taking their’s down, they will use our rules and a pitch that is exactly like ours. Only, you know, in space.”

“Will we have a bench? Or only the starting 11?” Shevchenko asks and it’s clear that he, as any good manager, is already planning

“They said we can pick as many players as we want.” The agent answer with a bitter smile

Franz knows why.

He had been thinking about this whole situation, about why aliens who are clearly set on taking over their world and maybe destroying it all would bother with playing a game of football against them, why they would give them a chance of saving themselves. And that was when Franz realized.

They aren’t giving them a chance, they are toying with them.

The aliens picked a thing that is important for them, that is loved by people of all ages and genders, that is special to so many, that inspires them and brings passion to their hearts, that is a symbol of humanity in a sense and they plan to use it destroy them, to humiliate them in a game that is so dear.

They want to give hope just to snatch it from their hands in the cruelest way. To crush the dreams of the children who play in the streets dreaming of a future as players, of the youngsters  who train everyday dreaming with their debut, of the players themselves who will have to carry this weight. To use something they pride themselves into to justify their destruction. They will be conquered and maybe destroyed because they aren't good enough, strong enough.

It’s simple cruelty.

Franz looks at his hands and then at the players who surround him and he can't avoid but wonder: What if it had happened in their time? Is it a blessing that they aren’t the ones who will have to responsibility of saving the earth? Or is it a curse because they can’t help even if they want? Franz is one of the greatest of the game, he played a football so beautiful his name is going down in history but now? Now he can only pray and help, he can help pick players and help they train, maybe put together some strategies, but that doesn’t seen enough in their current situation.

(Nothing seen enough)

“How will we choose them?” Platini asks “We need a team that is not only made of great players but who can play as a actual team, they need to be clinically picked”

“We are thinking about picking players from around the world.” One of the ONU agents informs putting a file in the desk that that Franz is quick to take “To show the people we are united against the aliens, that we are one.”

“This is ridiculous” Franz shakes his head throwing the file in the desk as soon as he finishes it “This is not a team, those are 11 of the most random players i ever saw, some of them are not even in their best forms!”

“It’s not time to make propaganda, it’s not time to paint a nice image” Platini hisses looking at the names “It’s time to try to save our world for destruction in the hands of the aliens.”

“And how do you suggest we do this? What would be the best way to select them?” The man asks with angry hand motions

“Like a world cup”

It’s Pelé who says it, a english laced with a strong accent but the words clear and easy enough for them to understand. Like a World Cup. Franz knows how to do that, Shevchenko even with less experience knows as well, it’s hard work, to look into so many players in order to pick the ones who will fit into what you want from a team, many times amazing players stay out even when they deserved that spot, sometimes you realize you made the wrong choice and is too late to change, sometimes injuries ruin his plans, sometimes…. There is a lot of things that can happen. But it makes sense.

“It will be a lot of work” He says with a heavy sigh “But i think it’s the best chance we have at picking a functional team.”

“Who will do it?” Maldini asks, his eyes so light they seen to be burying in his soul “Whoever chooses them will need to train them as well.”

“It’s not a one person job” Schmeichel remarks tossing the ONU list away like its trash “There are too many players to choose from, also we will need someone to train the goalkeepers as well, if we are going to do this like a world cup we have to do it right

“We could help, couldn’t we?” Shevchenko asks looking at him, Franz remember a promise made to a tired agent and nods meeting his eyes “Who else?”

“Coaches whose national teams are better ranked, the ones who are doing good jobs.” Franz says already making a list “It will be good for morale, to pick people that everyone know is doing a successful job and that have experience with it.”

“We can’t play, but” Figo starts and only when everyone is looking at him he finishes with the faintest smile “We can help in other ways. We have to win it, we need to.”

“But what if….” Baggio starts but stops himself and it takes him an awful long time to finish, whispering like the words are not meant to be said aloud “What if they attack even if we win?”

No one answer him.

No one knows.