The cool wind carries the noise of students and other spectators to all parts of the large football field. The sun is mild, and everyone is in good-spirit. Hundreds of supporters which feature students of the two schools, and other schools, and others who had only come to witness the event surround the field. Sellers of ice-cream, groundnuts, water, biscuits and sweets, parade the place. It is a good time to make really good sales.
It is vacation day, and it is traditional in The African Child College to end every academic session with a football match. The African Child College are known to have the best soccer team amongst twenty other schools in the community. Their soccer team, The African Tigers, is greatly revered. This day, they battle against their neighboring school, Miretonia College, whose team, The Magicians, have good records too, but are no match to the African Tigers’.
The green field is beautifully coloured with the black on white jersey of the African Tigers, and the red on white jersey of The Magicians, and the referees are wearing their yellow on black jerseys too. After a few formalities, the referee’s whistle gives a loud blast, and the game begins.
The ball rolls into the net after the first five minutes. It is Idris’ beautiful header from Chinedu’s superb cross. African Child College and their supporters cry with joy as the boys in the pitch hug each other in congratulations. They settle down, and the game continues.
“Obinna! Obinna!” the fans cheer. It’s a counter-attack, Obinna rolls the ball along in speed, he beats the first opponent on his way, and knocks the ball to Musa on the left wing. Musa dribbles past the next opponent, and tosses the ball back to Obinna in the eighteen arc. Obinna’s speed is great, he skilfully dribbles past the last defender, mesmerizes the goalkeeper, and passes the ball into the net. Goal number two for African Tigers. The Magicians are crest-fallen, their heads bowed in shame as their game master barks at them. Obinna and his team mates dance the Nigerian ‘Shoki’ dance in celebration at the left end of their opponents’ half. The first half comes to a close after Ejiro’s banana free-kick rolls into the net, giving the African Tigers a three-nil first half win.
A few gulps of water, a few scoldings, a few corrections, a few motivating words, it is fifteen minutes. The referee’s whistle calls the boys back into the pitch. The second half begins.
The ball is deflected into the net from Jonathan’s strike, giving the Magicians their first goal of the game. Stops in tracks, tackles, interception of passes, and misses follow. The boys struggle to find the back of the net but all efforts prove futile.
Eighty-two minutes, two substitutes come in for the Magicians. A long is lobbed into the midfield. Azeez controls the ball with ease. He paces with the ball, dribbling past the three opponents at the midfield. He advances to the defence, and dusts all four defenders as he he runs the ball through them in a flash, planting on their heads, huge question marks. He slams a blinding shot at the goal post. The net laughs, and the goalie is lying flat on the ground with a red face. “Goooaaall!”, supporters of the Magicians scream, while those of the Tigers haul curses on their players.
A counter attack. It is the last action of the game, and it is Kazeem, one of the Magicians. He dribbles one, and two, and three, and chips a through ball to Chibueze who is left with the goal keeper to beat. He surges on, determined to frustrate this goalie with his beautiful footwork. But then, the goalie dives at his leg, it is clear he doesn’t want to get disgraced. Chibueze trips, and falls, and the referee blows his whistle instantly, pointing to the spot- Penalty. Shettima comes in for the kick. The whistle is blown, Shettima sends the goalie the wrong way, and “Goooaaall!!”, the supporters scream, but then, the ball is saved by the crossbar, no goal. The defenders kick out the ball, and the final whistle goes almost immediately, bringing the game to a closure.
The players shake one another, the game masters praise their players, it is a great game, and the two teams have displayed their quality. And although the African Tigers have come out once again in triumph, they seem scared of smiling. They are perhaps not sure they actually won the game, as the Magicians have stunned them with a really tough fight.