This is quite different from what I would normally write,not being a poem or a short story but its still art and I hope this little painting of mine appeals to you.
What and if are two words as non- threatening as words can be,but put them together side by side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life. WHAT IF?WHAT IF?
What if we hadn’t gotten to the finals?
What if Ifexy and Sifer had scored their penalty kicks? What if Kastrow hadn’t saved any spot kick?What if all our penalty takers had lost their kicks?WHAT IF?Ours,would have been a tale of what if’s;a tale of what would have been.
God indeed works in mysterious ways,we only scored 1 goal and conceded one too. Rewind back to last year,we exited the competition at the group stage after losing our first match to the then Year 4 team(present Year 5,Class of 14) and being held to a 2-2 draw by the then Diploma team.We were heart-broken and downcast,some of my teammates lost their fones,it was a bad day…ojo buruku esu gbomi mu(pardon my Yoruba).
Fast-forward 365 days,we were drawn in the same group with our eventual opponents in the final,it ended in a stalemate. We balled them in the first half(so I heard) but we were given a taste of our medicine in the second. It ended goal-less. We had several friendly matches before and after but those shouldn’t tickle your fancy,they were just friendly’s,experiments,grounds for perfecting our trade…as our coach ‘Tofola’ emphasized till it became crystal clear in our minds. Our next game was against the young Year 1team,it ended in a 1-1 draw courtesy of an Uduak header;our only goal of the competition(this writer played 4minutes as a sub). We advanced to the next stage,the semi-finals courtesy of a superior goal difference as the Year 1 team got hammered 3- 0 by the Year 5 team.
Our semi-final match was against defending champions;Year 3. It was always going to be a tough match against the gallant Year 3 team,it ended goal-less also and it was straight to penalties,we converted all of ours but the defending champions lost one of theirs and the gallant year 3 team bowed out with their heads held-up high. Off to the final we went,screaming at the top of our voices,singing and thanking God for the victory.
Prayer is the key,prayer is the key,prayer is the master key. Prayer works. We prayed at least 3ce,before,during and after every match. King Nife always sees to it. Some of the members of my team even ‘developed a problem’ with it owing to the fact that we didn’t play well at one time or the other and it sometimes gets in the way of our half-time team talks(only an itsy-bitsy bit though).
Then came the final,another match between our Year 4 team;the underdogs and the favourites,the Class of 14 team. We wanted to win badly and we were ready to give it our all,but the bad thing is(or was as it now is past) the Year 5 team were equally motivated,you could say even more motivated than we were. It was going to be their last shot at the Dean’s cup,they were to play in consecutive finals and we ourselves were to play in what was not our first final…we had lost one,a 4-0 humiliation in the hands of the then Year 4 team;class of 13,two years ago and we didn’t want it to end in similar fashion. We prepared hard, prayed harder and fought hardest,we even had several little scuffles amongst ourselves before the match,we knew it was the work of the devil and with prayer,he fled our midst.
It was time for the match,we filed out wearing our traditional red and white,MEI oil company sponsored jerseys and they did too in their blue and white,it was ‘the game of our lives’ (but this writer played from the bench…again!! Its one sad case of hardluck). It was a tense finale,by far the best match of the tournament. Apart from the fierce rivalry on the pitch,both fans clashed in a cacophony of thunderous applause and screams,the Year 4 team expertly orchestrated by the wonderful Tunmise(God bless this beauty).Go Year 4,go year 4, go,win year 4,win year 4,win,were chants of our supporters and the Year 5 team by a beauty of theirs. Barring the fact that no goals were scored,it was a good game,we had fun, our friends and colleagues rallied around and about us,and for the first time in a ‘humongously’ long time they believed in us(the team).
It was a barren draw and it was straight to penalties again,it was anyone’s game for the taking. Epiphany our best penalty taker stepped up and dispatched his expertly,the same for the player of the opposing team,Uduak lost our second penalty and it was pressure galore for us,from that point on it was back and forth,Steven,Faisal,Sogo(with his beautiful celebratory dance) Skenks and Tobi all converted theirs . We thought we had won when our assistant class-rep Francis stepped up to take what ought to be the winning penalty,unfortunately it wasn’t to be…just yet!! Kastrow saved 2penalties,Ifexy’s penalty which I told Kc that he was gonna miss and Sifer’s which he ‘skyed’,I happened to also tell Kc and one other person that he too would miss, and the mantle fell on Nife to convert it and win us the cup,which dexterously he did(for the first time all his life as he confessed to us) and from that point on it was(Joy nothing but joy,every other day its nothing but joy*in Wizkid’s voice*). We prayed once again,took tons of pictures,bear-hugging,shaking,touching and savouring the moment with friends and colleagues caring less or little of the Ebola virus(just kidding) we got our medals,chanting ole ole ole and the rest is history. ( I returned home clutching my medal like a 24-carat gold necklace)…it has indeed been a wonderful day,Its been the best day of our lives…its the day we were crowned Deans cup champions!!! CAMPIONE,CAMPIONE OLE OLE OLE!!