By Nduka Orjinmo
…and the clock stood still, its silent chimes drowned in the trumpets and tambourines of the Dolphins supporters.
For eternity the game went on, aided by the unmoving time, the whistle hanging loose from the lips of the centre referee, the breadth trapped in his lungs, not even a look at his watch.
This game must go on, this game must go on.
Still, stood the time stood still.
Hanging for eternity like Kennedy Chinwo’s merciless clearances into the sky. A loose ball fell for Jaleel Ajagun on the right and in he floated.
Done away with pointless fruitless attempts at showmanship, it was time to be direct.
His floated ball too hung in the air. Like the unmoving wings of the clock, like the breadth trapped in the referee’s lungs.
Emem Eduok rose above others in the box, and he too defied gravity, for there he hung, trapped in the atmosphere just below the Port Harcourt sky.
Hanging Emem, hanging ball, both up there in the air, and the inevitable happened…
The breadth left the referee’s lungs, ejaculated like the uncaged content of champagne; the clock resumed its journey; its chimes roaring above the roars of the Dolphins supporters, the ball nestled at the back of the net; Emem Uduok came unplucked from the sky.
Everything returned to normal, Dolphins had scored in the 102 minute, everything will be fine now.
The birds swiveled in the sky, their wings flapping like the sweaty braids of Victor Babayaro.
I grudgingly left me seat at the basketball complex of the Alfred Diette-Spiff sports complex in Port Harcourt, where I had been seeing a match between Royal Hoopers and Dodan Warriors.
Frustrated by the perpetual insipid displays that has characterized Dolphins play in recent times, and tired of seeing adults hang their pants when Sharks play, I decided to see some basketball in place of the Dolphins Kano Pillars match.
And I was not disappointed. Though the Royal Hoopers team which is also owned by the Rivers state government has not been paid for the past eight months, they still put in everything into the game, contesting for every ball and playing at such high intensity.
At half time though and with the Hoopers trailing, the urge for football heightened like nicotine calling out to the addict.
I joined the Dolphins game early in the second half, and the first sight that greeted me was goalkeeper Austin Brown spread out Eagle-like on the artificial turf.
That incident would perhaps, be the saving grace for his team, as the medics spent some four minutes getting him off the pitch.
He couldn’t continue the game.
A further two minutes was spent, as reserve goalie Ochiogu stood on the sideline, waiting for the gloves of Brown.
His perpetual presence on the bench had either made him forget his gloves at home, or he didn’t have any.
Brown off, gloves exchanged, in came Ochiogu with the scores still goalless.
There was no place for Isiaka Olawale in the side, so Seidu Abu played behind Chidi Osuchukwu in the middle, while Jaleel Ajagun and the enterprising Emem Uduok, making his comeback after a spell with the surgeon occupied the flanks in a 4-4-2 formation.
The annoying sight of the ludicrous Omoh Ojabu upfront with Victor Michael was only lessened when I saw the sweaty body of Owusu Addae on the bench.
I suspected he had been replaced by Omoh-not the detergent now-and I thanked heaven for escaping the tortuous play of Owusu.
The bench is where he belongs. Thanks too must go to heaven, for the speedy replacement of Victor Michael after I came in.
By my count, he only managed three touches during the short time I watched him.
Victor Michael is one player I have not watched in Dolphins, and someone who has been with the club as long as he had said I have missed a lot, a lot of rubbish he said.
Thank God. When a player is described as the fake replica of Kenneth Ziegbo then the rest is left for your imagination.
For the Kano Pillars side, it was a sea of green in their half. They lined up in layers of four when Dolphins had the ball and fanned out quickly when they were in attack, making the most of the Dolphins flanks.
Two games now, and Dolphins have been found out on the wings, and it is not difficult to see why.
In the last two home games, coach Stanley Eguma has abandoned the 4-3-3 formation he employed in the home game against Gombe United and subsequent matches after that.
I felt the formation availed him the strength of Olawale Isiaka, who is a good marker of the ball and is also a workaholic.
With Dolphins frail on the wings, you need the protection of two defensive midfielders that a 4-3-3 formation offers.
Seidu Abu who is now favoured ahead of Isiaka in the sole defensive midfield role, is a better continuity midfielder no doubt, but does not have the strength of the former Kwara United man.
Give it to Abu, he has good awareness and anticipation, good close control of the ball, links up play very well, is good aerially and has a good short passing ability, but he is not the box to box kind of midfielder you would need, when chasing a game or in need of a ‘presence in midfield’.
While Olawale Isiaka can be likened to Michael Essien in his prime, Seidu Abu is a replica of Mikel Arteta.
Both fake versions ofcourse.
The game labored to produce anything both in terms of co-ordination and goal scoring chances but for the pink boots of Ifeanyi Egwim on for Victor Michael it could have been described as also lacking in colour.
The attempts of showmanship from Jaleel Ajagun, as pale and misplaced as the lemon lipstick of this girl next to me, was met with a cold response from the spectators Needless to say the lady by my side received the same cold response.
On any other day it could have been different but not April 1.
The game was in need of some spice, and it did come, but off the pitch.
The sight of four Kano Pillars fans making their way into the stadium six minutes from time, did get everyone on the edge of their seats- on the edge supporting Dolphins-
Six minutes from time I said to myself, and the one that looked like their leader wearing black!
Perhaps I should have remained at my Basketball game and the warm ladies there.
I said to myself, perhaps I should have made the short trip with Sharks to Calabar.
The Kano Pillars fans are the bravest I have ever seen.
Just four of them, shouting UP Fillars! UP Fillars, going round the stadium, daring anyone who could to shout louder than them.
I have never seen the ultras of Dolphins look so subdued in their own ground before, and I did say it was an eye opener for me.
Though they rally themselves into a band of about 35, the four from Pillars held their ground, marched up into the terraces to look the Dolphins Ultras in the eye, and continued their screams of UP FILLARS UP FILLARS.
In time, the home ultras recoiled like sea snails and backed off into the crowd.
Just four fans, four fans. Notoriety is such a good thing, it precedes you.
Anyway, on the pitch Omoh was working hard to win a penalty as the game entered into the last two minutes, his pitiable histrionics waved aside by the referee as I did attempts at conversation by the lady close to me.
Who brought this one to the stadium, can’t she feel the tension?
Then out came the fourth official, his board aloft like Gaddafi statues in Tripoli, its neon lights flashing bright against the late evening sky.
Eight minutes the time added on. Revealed in red, the signal couldn’t have been any more apt for Dolphins that they needed to get the job done.
Eight minutes? The Pillars bench protested, their four fans screamed harder, their vocal chords stretched unimaginably was at par with the trumpets of the Dolphins supporters club.
But the added time can be justified for those who care to- Austin Brown’s injury had taken not less than four minutes, three substitutions by both sides would probably add four minutes, making it eight. You can’t fault the officials.
I have never been good at math, but I know that 90+8=98. So the game should have been off in that time.
However, Pillars have themselves to blame, they went down at will like Mango leaves in autumn, and their goalkeeper also sprawled Eagle- like a al Austin Brown.
All in added time, all noted by the officials. Then time went on, and on, and on until it too could go no more, and everything stood still…
As the Pillars goalkeeper picked himself up and retrieved the ball from his net, I heard a Dolphins official exclaim “we don die for Kano”.
YOU AINT FOOLING ME
While watching the Dolphins match, news filtered in that Sharks were a goal up against Heartland in Calabar. Sharks, one up? Away, Heartland?
I quickly dismissed it. Sharks are very peaceful when they play away, they lose and come back, generous to dash you goals if you so desire. So what was this news?
I quickly dismissed it again as yet another failed attempt and a poor one at that, to fool me on April 1.
I had been on my guard all day and chastised the Sharks media officer for such a poor attempt at a joke.
His protestations and swears did not sway me a bit.
Sharks, win at Heartland, I dismissed it again, it would be easier for Westerhof to return to the Super Eagles.
But alas it was true, Sharks did pick all three points in Calabar.
Reports say Gomo Nduku waltzed past the entire Heartland team before blasting past the keeper.
I swallowed that wholeheartedly, if Sharks could win away, he might as well have done that.
You can follow Nduka Orjinmo on Twitter, @orjinmonduka