Arts

Friendly War

SECOND HALF

The game goes on. For kicks my friend four seats away decided to switch on his black transistor radio set. Good heavens! Has that commentator lapsed on his medication or what? I can’t believe its the same match he is talking about. Chai! Talk about exaggeration!

The ball is passed to our Afro-Disney player and before he could make contact with the ball the radio-man shocked us all. “He beats one man, he beats two man, it is unbelievable. He beats three man ! He’s in a dangerous position o! He will score o!” Yet all the player did was merely indulge in a spot of ye-ye rolling.

The poor fellows glued to their radio sets at home would be having palpitations by now. Serves them right for being too stingy to come to Liberty stadium to support the national team. The player in question who had now made his way into the box looked up at goal before unleashing a shot so off the mark the Ghanaian keeper didn’t so much as move a single muscle. The ball however knocked out a nearby photographer.

The radio commentator was still on another planet. “He looks up. Will he? Yes he shoots! It’s a goalllll! If football is art then we behold, Picasso! What a strike. Oh the panache of this player! What athleticism. Im mama born am well! Oh, sorry people at home that wasn’t a goal. The Ghanaians have a goal kick”.

If it wasn’t for politeness, I would have smashed that black transistor to pieces. The radio set’s owner had in fact had enough and switched it off. Peace at last.

The game soon began to induce boredom.

We passed Mexican Waves for amusement. Even the men of ‘timber and calibre’ in the presidential box stooped to our level and joined in. After all it was only a friendly and we led by a goal. The guy to my left who had tried so hard to be a Zeal Onyia on his trumpet since kick stopped playing and told me he thought the Ghanaians had fielded an extra two men for there appeared more “yellows” than “greens”. We all counted and recounted, it was a false alarm. I grabbed his flask and unscrewed it like Sherlock Holmes. In his thermos was the answer to the two ‘extra men’; Ogogoro Diploplia. The chap behind me now said he could see ghosts flying above both goalposts. ‘Mirage my brother.It is just an illusion’, said an off duty physicist.

‘Na lie. Mirage my foot. How are we sure people didn’t fall to their deaths during the stadium’s construction and have returned as Stadium ghosts?’ said another. While we were all arguing the Ghanaians scored. The place went silent. I felt for my pulse to convince myself that my heart hadn’t stopped.

It was Ghanaba, the true born centre forward that did the damage. We couldn’t talk. Our trumpets were flooded with tears. Shekere stood motionless and the talking drums (gan gan) had picked up sign language. Osibisa’s sunshine day was blasted from the public address speakers as Ghanaba was lifted shoulder high by his teammates.

A new story spread through the stadium as to why Ghanaba was called the true born centre forward. A most unlikely story it was but here it goes.

On the day of his birth his mother was said to have delivered him on a bed which stood on the Greenwich Meridian line in a maternity hospital in Tema, Ghana. When the head appeared down the line the midwife was said to have commented that if Ghanaba grew up to be a footballer he would play centre forward. See my trouble eh! Now those words have come to hunt us for it was the head of Ghanaba on a cross from the right wing that has lead to this equalizer. Anyway, life goes on.

We didn’t stay quiet for too long. The music resumed in full force as our team kicked off. We were inquisitive as to how the guy on the radio will take Ghanaian goal and were obliged by the radio set’s owner. The commentator no longer spoke in English but wailed in his native tongue as if in much distress. An Ibibio man stepped up to interpret. We all stopped playing our instruments for the interpreter was conveying not just words but actions with emotions. ‘My uncle told me not to gamble. Who told me to play Kalokalo with my house and car? I did not even tell my wife that I added her jewelry to my gamble. Nigerian strikers please score O! I beg O! Ghanaba don kill me O!’ We all fell on each other laughing.

‘How can that man bet on a friendly game eh?’ I said aloud between fits of laughter. ‘Possessed with the Las Vegas spirit’ said brother Jimoh. Na wa!

Things soon settled and the game continued.

My thoughts returned to my bladder and from there to the two corpses in the lavatory. Would they have been cleared off? ‘Life is cheap O!’ I thought aloud.

One of my fellow supporters passed his groundnuts in my direction. Just before I could grab a handful that silly Otango let loose a flying spittle which landed on the nuts. Perhaps the others were by now too hungry to care. They all eat while I politely declined. And yes I didn’t tell them of what I saw emanating from Otango’s mouth. Them no get eye?

“How can you say life is cheap?” came a hoarse voice behind me, which I at once recognised and decided to ignore. The question was repeated once more but this time with a strong push to the back of my head. If not for his bulging biceps I would have gifted his ugly face with a dirty slap. How dare the motor park taut of a riff raff touch my head? I turned round sharply and smiled.

“Area father, for the Baba ke. Na you will dey look o. So is life not cheap?” I asked. “Not at all. The fakest player on that pitch is worth millions,” said Area father.”A million Kobo?” I teased. He slapped me hard behind the head and asked “you dey craze?” .”Only joking Area father” I managed to say as a serious headache began to dance Atillogwu in my brain.

An off duty historian took the heat off me to my great relief. “I don’t see why we should be bought and sold by capitalist football clubs. They may not brand the skin but they make human beings wear numbers just like slaves” He spoke so loudly that every one stopped singing just to watch his Adam’s apple bop up and down.

Area father slapped him behind the neck with so much force he flew onto the heads of those sitting in front of him.”Sharup, you poor man! If you no like the buying and selling of human beings, you for stay your house” Area father said. The people in front of us in turn threw the lightweight on and on. He continued to float on a sea of heads till he ended on the pitch in need of medical care.

While the historian was in flight I saw one hand slip into his pocket to steal. The game continued and so did our singing. Soon I formed a small local disorganising committee (L.D.C) with those around me with only one aim. Stage a pitch invasion when we get the winner. (Ah ah, they didn’t call me N.F.A (no future ambition) at school for nothing o. I am a born disorganizer.)

It ended a draw however.

As we trooped out of the stadium the selector played Osayemore Joseph’s “Oba no dey go transfer”. As we traveled back to Lagos, I thought deeply about that song. Indeed the king doesn’t go on transfer but the football players do. They change kingdom at the drop of a hat making a lot of money in the process. In fact I reckoned that the players are the new royalties, for which Oba can ever boast of filling the Liberty stadium? The players are the new Obas’.

Area father slapped my head again. “Why do you look so morose? Is a draw not good enough for you?” I smiled through the pain and joined the singing as we drove to Lagos for although we didn’t win, it was only a friendly.

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