With laughter and smiles across my face, I recall the time of old and bring back memories of the past- my time in the University of Benin.
I call this one,
‘The Christian Football’
It was in the second half of 2011 and the Christian Community on Campus, CCC UNIBEN chapter, organized a football competition among the different fellowships on campus.
While some fellowships, like mine, couldn’t take part in the competition, most campus fellowships participated and they were classified into Groups and the schedule of matches were drawn.
A strong and holy Pastor was chosen as the referee and publicity was done throughout the campus as everyone anticipated the kick off.
As I sat among the spectators and saw the referee walk into the field with a ball in his hands, I laughed and asked those around,
‘No be Christians dey play ball? Why dem come need referee?’
Other spectators laughed and I added, ‘Abi dem dey fear say some fake Christians dey among the players? Pharisees versus Saducees’
The opening first match was between PGCF and ASSF.
The young man beside me shouted in joy and support when the ASSF players marched out.
‘Na ASSF you dey attend abi?’ I asked the guy and he quickly nodded in agreement.
‘Yes oooo! ASSF for life! Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!’ he replied happily.
As all the players organized themselves into their different positions and formations, the captain of ASSF came forward and shook hands with the captain of PGCF in a show of sportsmanship.
‘Abi Na una Pastor be the captain sef?’ I laughed and asked the guy beside me. ‘See as una Pastor grab! See him leg muscle like yam.’
When I spoke, I thought the guy would laugh, but he did not.
I started to think he has was offended I ‘yabbed’ his Pastor.
The guy was busy looking intently through the faces of the players of ASSF and he couldn’t hide his surprise.
‘Bros, these people no be ASSF members ooo!’ He said, still looking through the players faces. ‘Na only keeper I know- he is the music director and choir master.’
I tried to muffle my laughter, but I failed.
The loudness of the laughter that eventually escaped from my mouth drew the attention of people around and I had to quickly calm myself.
‘Shuuuu…! So una church people go hire Mercenary to come help una play football.’ I told the guy. ‘Dem do go import players from Eyinmba Football Club. No wonder their faces strong anyhow.’
He laughed and I added, ‘These players faces no born again o. Dem go fit tear referee slap sef.’
The ASSF member guy shook his head slightly and we watched as the whistle of the referee signalled for kickoff.
Both teams played the ball among themselves in short passes and the match was in earnest.
The play was calm and match was slow. The two teams were still sizing each other and there was not much attacking football going on.
The match continued that same way until the tenth minute when a voice broke out into a popular chorus among the spectators.
‘All we are saying, give us one goal…!’ The man who led the song had a strong and old face that made me doubt if he was even a student at all.
‘Maybe he is a PhD student sha’ I thought.
The old guy stood up suddenly and shouted the song again,
‘All we are saying, give us one goal’
It was a popular song among football watchers in the country and it quickly went viral among the spectators.
It seemed the song had an effect on the players as one of the PGCF players took the ball on his left leg from the halfway line and dribbled two people.
Hails and praises rang out from the lips of the spectators as visions of Lionel Messi clouded our minds.
The Messi-esque player dribbled another player as he inched nearer to the goalpost.
He pulled back the same left leg to shoot and some of us stood up in awe and great expectations.
However, just as ‘Messi’ prepared to hit the ball for a shot, the strong legs of the ASSF captain came from nowhere and slid through the pitch, crushing the left leg of PGCF ‘Messi’ and bring him down.
As soon as Messi landed on the ground, he held his ankle and shouted in pain- but his shout was drowned by protest and shouts of anger that rang out everywhere among the spectators.
‘You wan kill am?!’
‘Referee, give am red card!’
‘Jesus is Lord!’
Different shouts echoed around the field.
People stood from their seats and shouted in anger and I was one of them.
‘I think say na Christians dey play ball for here! Why all this sinful iniquity and wickedness amongst brethren?!’ I shouted with my Preacher voice.
Some laughter met my words and I spoke more,
‘Mr Referee, is the whistle sweet, why you dey lick am?’
As we still awaited the referee’s whistle and didn’t hear any, our protest grew louder and I heard someone shout,
‘Referee, you be big Fool!’
I couldn’t hold my laughter as the verse of scripture and the words of the Lord Jesus echoed in my mind,
‘Whosoever calls his brother a ”Fool” is on danger of hell’.
But I was sure the guy who shouted didn’t care too much about the scriptures at that time of anger.
As I was still considering all these, I saw a man who had been gesticulating along the pitch as the coach of PGCF shouting and running into the field of play.
He was running towards the Ref and I could see anger even at the back of his head.
‘Is this man not the President of the fellowship?’ I wondered.
‘You no be Christian?’ I asked.
No one answered.
Before I could say anything else, some few other spectators had jumped down into the field and they were all headed for the referee.
(The rest of story is in my upcoming book, you can read this and many other funny memories when it comes out.)