Arts

Friendly War

The crowd went mental. The goal scorer who had looked lethargic since kick-off was rejuvenated. All smiles, he ran with outstretched hands, like a light air craft about to take off from the run way of enjoyment, to the left corner flag which he encircled in a weird “honey bee” kind of dance.

His team mates rushed to him in merriment, pretended to study his leg work with quizzical expressions on their faces before hunching their shoulders in a “wetin concern me” gesture and joining in the celebratory jig.

When the goal scorer had had his fill he darted off suddenly along the touchline before breaking into an extravagant cart wheel followed by a somersault. I must confess that at this point I forgot all my problems for e bi like say my brain was squeezing rations of honey into my blood stream making every nerve cell in my body tingle. True to God, any mosquito wey bite me now will die of happiness.

The stadium was in a state of Milliki as the unhappy Ghanaians kicked off. They all looked sluggish and despondent as if their stomachs had been forcibly pumped full of Kenkey and hot gas.

Talking of food is making me hungry. All my comrades stopped to eat at Akobo-Ojuirin but I didn’t partake. I was still vexing with my wife. The name of the eating joint sef was funny. Ghana-Nigeria. My comrades tanked up with Tombo, turkey pepper soup, bushmeat and various other edibles but anger no gree man chop. My one consolation is that even though I was hungry, I was happy.

From out of thin air a dog materialized on the pitch running wildly towards the ball. The crowd cheered. One man claimed to recognize the dog. It was Junior Bingo from Bodija area. Another said “see the legs. I bet it will taste good in Okra soup” We hushed the silly “hot dog eater” down. “Your head is not correct .How can you eat man’s best friend eh ? You cannibal!” I screamed. The man just laughed and picked his teeth with a piece of folded paper he had torn off his match programme.

I tell you, no one could catch the dog. It out maneuvered everyone much to our enjoyment. Our foreign coach was forced to make a substitution and on came a winger as short and as fast as a Lamborghini. It proved an inspired substitution for he was soon making grounds on the dog. Just as he was about to catch the dog there came a booming foreign sounding voice on the public address system. “Beware of Rabies!” Oh the silly football agent.

You know the problem with these people? They treat the players like investments. Does he not know that the player concerned has been pursuing and capturing dogs with his bare hands since the day of his birth? Anyway the game goes on. Suddenly our mouths drop as a one on one situation develops between our goalie and the striker they call Ghanaba (son of Ghana), the true born centre forward .We breathe a sigh of relief as he blasts the ball high into the stands. The usual happens.

The Ghanaian supporters either hold their heads in their hands or bite their index fingers in frustration. As for Ghanaba the trueborn centre forward, he turns round and spits. (How revolting). Then he begins to scratch his groin in the full view of the television cameras. I tell you, he scratched so hard I began to suspect a five billion Cedis scratch card lay hidden in his shorts. The referee ran across and showed him a yellow card for dangerous scratching much to the delight of the home fans. Ah-ah, has Ghanaba got no shame? How could he miss that golden opportunity by such a large margin? All he has to do is practice shooting the ball all week ke.

As for me, I make no such mistakes at work o. Touch the wrong wires and electrocution is the reward. You won’t even get a chance to spit in disgust let alone scratch.

As the game progressed I began to question the sanity of my fellow Super Eagles supporters. One wore a bowler hat on which he stuck a battery-operated fan. Na wa! The fan showed no sign of slowing down despite being on for two hours so far. Around the fan he stuck six tiny black and white leather balls. But you should have seen Otango. He shaved his head completely and was stripped to the waist, his entire body covered in green and white green paint. I tell you, we might visit Aro psychiatric hospital on our way home, who knows?

My attention is back on the field of play as our favorite midfielder is experiencing a sudden rush of blood. He begins to perform gravity defying jiggery, pokery with the ball. The Ghanaians looked on as if hypnotized. This was Afro-Disney, the pinnacle of visual entertainment.

Leg movements came in flashes and the ball responded. It looked like Ajasco cum disco cum Ikwokirikwo dance without the music. But I tell you, we could all see the music. Then he trapped the ball with his foot on it’s North Pole and thus began to perform what we call ye-ye rolling. Why you look me so? Don’t you know ye-ye rolling? You simply roll the ball along leisurely with a bit of attitude then feign a change in direction to confuse the opponents (who by now might have been reduced to the status of a mere spectator) and make them look ye-ye or foolish as some might say.

It worked. Three Ghanaians tackled simultaneously, kicking each other in the process. From our midfielder, a pass that was as precise as an e-mail reached the feet of one of our strikers. From where I’m sitting that striker looked the tallest man in the stadium! He was in the penalty box and set to pull the trigger when I saw my right leg reflexly shoot out in a wild kick into the back of the seat in front. Oh the pain! Why did I do such a stupid thing? Surely by now I should have realised I was a spectator not a player.

Anyway, with only the keeper to beat he collapses in a heap, clutching his calf muscle. The crowd sighed. Many said it was ‘muscle pull’ but the referee ran across angrily and awarded a penalty. The stadium was in shock. The honest striker tried to convince the referee that he hadn’t been fouled only to earn himself a yellow card. Our players refused to take the penalty kick.

The referee beckoned to the bench and they refused to respond. He then ran to the microphone and announced over the public address system that any Nigeriancould take the kick so long as he had his International Passport on him as proof of identity.

The bench and coaching staff of both teams shook their head in disgust. Everyone booed. After all it was only a friendly ke. Suddenly a loud cry could be heard from the presidential box. The voice of a well-seasoned sycophant and boot licker. “I will score for Nigeria o!”

An over weight official in white flowing robes ran down the steps that led to the pitch. He had strange footprints on his back. Whisper, whisper, the grapevine says it’s the effect of a thousand kickbacks! Na wa. The ministry of “chop” man keen on impressing his president over did it. He panted as he brought out his green well-travelled passport for the referee’s inspection. Satisfied with what he saw the referee blew his whistle.

The ‘big man’ removed his cap, took seven steps back and began his run-up to the ball. The crowd jeered. A strange gust of wind blew across Ibadan. Next minute the ‘big man’ fell. The medical crew promptly ferried him away and soon afterwards in the eye of a Mexican wave I heard he had sprained his potbelly. The referee insisted the penalty kick still be taken. The tricky situation was solved by our goalkeeper who raced across the pitch to send the ball into orbit. He eyed the referee with contempt before acknowledging the Ghanaian hands held out in appreciation of the most supreme gesture of sportsmanship ever seen in Africa.

The whole stadium applauded our goalkeeper. By now the referee, who had had enough blew for half time.

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