I was just a little boy, artless and still unaware of a big big big world until I met you. It was on a soccer pitch close to our house. My dad had just bought me one of those small kpako balls. And so he wanted me to witness a real soccer game. I remember the cheers from the stands, “ole ole ole ole”; the excitement in my father’s voice, in all their voices.
But it was that moment when there was a stop in play and you rolled over to where I was. It was that instant when I kicked you up so high and the world seemed to make sense. Right then, I felt something sweet rising up in my lungs and bubbling inside of my throat. It was like nothing I had ever felt before.
Suddenly! I was the centre of the world – feet stomping towards me, hands already on me, people cheering from afar. “Ah! How can this small boy kick a ball so high?” I heard someone say. “That power from someone so small is unheard of,” one of the other players said. He walked up to me, holding you in his arms. “My God you’re a miracle” he said before giving me his autograph.
Later that Friday, when I would spend all night playing with you; I would remember the way he said the words “miracle” and I would feel so special. My father and I would spend hours with you, his face so serious, as he tried hard to teach me the snake bite. Later he would buy me my first boots; the yellow sprandi ones that I would wear till the soles would fall apart.
Sometimes after school, my friends and I would use bags and school sandals as a goal post, just so we could spend more time with you. We would play centre ball and sometimes a real soccer game. Finally, at the end of the year we would have our Inter – sports competition, and when I would score that winning goal, I would run round the field and lie on the grass; feeling something like love bursting through my lungs. I would turn to see my father standing up from his chair, wearing that checkered shirt that he wore every other day and screaming “yes that’s my son”.
After the game, he would hold my hands, his face ablaze with something like hope and say “Charlie boy, you’ve got the brightest future ever.” And I would smile, finally aware of a big world, of what I could do, of what I could rule, with you.
But the world felt a little too big, too wide and so on cold nights when I couldn’t sleep. I would dream of a time when it would be just me and you, wrapped up in our small space, making love, making miracles.
But years would come and go and the complexities of life would break through our walls and tear down the dreams in our small space. And so I would lose you; climbing on the get a job train, I would lose parts of you.
I thought I could live, for seven months I did. A teaching job in a small school down the street was enough to get by. But something was missing; something that the happy voices of students that I taught could not fill. Something that was distant, buried in my deep. A part of my being was choked and I needed to breathe, I needed you. I know your favorite color was blue because anytime I wore my hazard jersey we would always score a goal.
But I was the one who stopped calling, I was the one who missed out on all our dates and made it look like you were just a fling. And yet when I lost my dad on that rainy day, you were still there. I remember crying in the rain, holding my father’s checkered shirt, kicking you and feeling something like safety around me.
And I’ll always remember the good times, joining the football academy, making captain, that final penalty in Samuel Ogemudia stadium; cheers from the stands, excitement in the voices, kicking you and feeling that sweet sensation all over again. I remember clinging on to the trophy and watching the pride glisten in my father’s eyes. Big smiles plastered all over his face and hearing him scream “that’s my boy!” up in the stands.
I am standing on that same football pitch where we first met. The crowd is screaming, the world is watching. Take my hand, take my heart, Say the word, and let’s make miracles all over again.