The Beginning here
After school today, there is going to be an inter-class football match. A match between my class and another class. Today's match is going to be special. I am on my class team list. And that's because 3 of the original team members won't be available. Bola's birthday is today and she has invited everyone in the class to the evening party at her house. Half of the team wanted to skip the match for the party. But Jide, the team captain, tried to make them all stay for the match. Only after he reminded them that they will end up getting home very late, did he convince most to stay back. Only three remained obstinate: Tunde, the teams best striker; John, the team's best defender; and Tolu, the team's only goalkeeper. I will most likely fill in for John. I have the reputation of kicking more legs than ball. Even Jide says I'll make a good defender if only I keep my eye on the ball and not the striker's dancing feet. But Tunde says the only football I should be allowed to play is American Football, that my bones are too strong for this football and that whether I kicked or was kicked, it's always the other fellow who gets injured.
It's 4:00pm. End of school for today. I can't wait to get my jersey. There are no boots, you have to come with yours or play barefoot or with your school footwear. Since I hope to be a defender, I have to play with my school footwear. It will help in kicking the ball hard.
Finally, Jide walks over to me and hands me a jersey. But it's not like the other jerseys. It's different from the ones he gave the other guys and the one he is wearing. Am I no longer in the team? He notices my confusion.
"Akin, you are the goalkeeper for this match". He pats me on the back and walks away.
I have never been one before. Well, better to be a goalkeeper in the team than catching stray balls as a spectator.
The match is about to start. The teams are on the field. The referee is tossing a coin. My heart is pounding. I move back and forth between the side bars of the goalpost. I jump up and stretch like I see other goalkeepers do. I am somewhat calm. No one is going to blame me for the outcome of the match.
The match begins.
It's now 24 minutes into the match. Suddenly, I see a striker running, with the ball, towards me. he dribbles all the defenders. He is now very close to me. I can feel the energy oozing from him. He looks at me, smiles and eyes the corner of the post farther from me. I freeze. Then he kicks the ball high up and aimed at the corner he eyed. I see Jide placing his hands on his head. Then something strange happens. I can feel myself flying. My hands hit something hard. My head hits the goalpost. I fall to the ground. There is an uproar. I look up and see Jide running towards me. I look around and realize that I have just saved a goal and did it in a spectacular way. Jide is trying to lift me up, others join him. There is wild jubilation. All my classmates are on the field. The referee is blowing the whistle with all his might, and gesturing furiously. No one pays him attention.
It's a cornerkick.
After a minute or two, the noise subsides. The referee is back in charge. Order is restored. The cornerkick is taken, or more apppropraitely, wasted.
It's now the 60th minute. We had a half-time break at the 30th minute. The referee is now blowing the final whistle. There is another uproar. The scoreline is 0 - 0. The match has ended! I see people running towards me.
Today I have become a hero. I will be the talk of the entire class tomorrow. In fact, I will be the talk of the entire school. Everyone present during the match is going to become a journalist tomorrow, making sure that everyone knows that he saw it happen.
For once, I am the happiest person in the world. And not even the scolding I am sure to get for coming home late will change that.
Throughout the night, I dream of me saving goals for my class team, then for my school team, and finally for Nigeria in a world cup final. I wake up smiling.