Aside
from the Nigeria v Seychelles game for Friday, there would be another
important game on Saturday morning.
As
had become a tradition since 2017 when a Kano SWAN team played against
visiting SWAN (SWAN meaning Sports Writers Association of Nigeria)
something had been brewing. That event held during the Super VI
invitational tournament.
Kudos
to the likes of Andrew Randa, Tobi Adepoju, Sanipe Damiete and a lot
of others involved, games like these held in Uyo before the Super
Eagles played against Libya and again in Asaba when the Eagles played
against Uganda. The planning was always top notch, sports journalists
applied to be part of a WhatsApp group where discussions held and
subscriptions were paid to produce jerseys, t-shirts and other
memorabilia. The group also had a coach, Yema who was doing a good
job on the part-timers.
For
the novelty game in Asaba, we would be training at 8am on Friday
morning for the game and at 7 am we were all up and headed to
Masterclass School where the hosts said we had been given permission
to train but were locked out of the premises and could not do any
work out.
Locked out of training as Delta State All-Stars apply underhand tactics
This
definitely reminded me of the Nigerian League back in the day when
the away team would be denied access to the stadium for their
mandatory training on the eve of the game.
We
hurried back to our hotel to use a small patch of grass behind the
building for light work out. That was the worst pitch I had ever
played in. Not even in my jeun jeun days
did I see it that bad.
Breakfast
for ten was in my apartment (this had become a tradition of some
sorts from Calabar to Uyo and even Abuja whenever the Super Eagles
played and after that, it was time to prep for the Stadium. The main
thing that brought us to Asaba was to watch the Super Eagles, wasn’t
it?
Crowd control around the
venue
Road cordoned off from a distance to the stadium
I
wanted to drive to the stadium and then I thought better. I did not
have a pass for my car and did not even ask for one. They would
probably have the road cordoned off from a distance to the stadium.
Randa
wanted us to go in the car anyway, but we convinced him to agree with
us. True to it, the road was cordoned off and we had to walk in.
Well, we had prepared for it. The Federal Road Safety Corporation
officials were there with the police and other barrel-chested
security personnel in plain clothes and I thought it was smooth… at
least at the time I passed, it was. The mess in Uyo and Abuja on days
the Eagles play games may have been worse than this.
We
got into the stadium seamlessly and made our way to the Media Tribune
where I saw the first wonder of Asaba.
Asaba is a wonderful
place
Remember
I had never been to Asaba for a Super Eagles game and had never been
inside the Stephen Keshi International Stadium until this weekend. I
needed to see what was built to remember Nigeria’s greatest ever
footballer.
It
was not a bad stadium (by Nigerian Standards) but as is with many
stadia in Nigeria, the original building plan clearly showed it was
not meant to host international matches. How did I know this? I
looked at the size, the terraces, the television stands, the scoreboard amongst others. The pitch was green and looked smooth from
where I was, but the media tribune made me exclaim out loud, “What
is this?”
Aaron Akerejola struggles with his adjustable table top
Who
built the media tribune? Who approved and fixed the seats in the
tribune? First, they were low and when you sat, it would seem as
though you were sinking into oblivion. Then the moveable table top
was a complete mess. When moved in front of you, it stuck so tight
that you would think you were in a straitjacket. That was horrible, to say the least, but here we were and about to watch an
international game. Nothing was going to steal our shine.
Aaron Akerejola soon walked in with his very flat
tummy. He sank into oblivion and when he tried to place the
adjustable tabletop in front of him to maybe rest his hands but it
rested on his stomach. I watched him try to force it to its normal
position, but each time he tried to push it downwards, I was sure he
felt pain in his stomach. He soon moved it away completely, got up
and walked away from the media tribune. I do not remember him coming
back to sit anytime during the game.
The
second wonder of Asaba I saw was the scoreboard. At first it quite
get it, but looking at it, I thought something was not right. From
about thirty minutes before kick off, I kept looking up at it, but
couldn’t quite place my finger on what was bothering me about it
until Diegwu Nwankwo who was sitting behind me gave me a nudge and
pointed upwards.
Laughing
uncontrollably he said, and I can never forget these words, “Bros
(Sir), it seemed they just bought a plasma TV, used sticks to hold it
up there and it is their scoreboard.”
i
looked up and then it hit me. That was why the scoreboard looked
funny, but it was okay. I am sure it was a work in progress.
Post Match press conference
Then
again, towards the end of the match, I heard Ayo Olu Ibidapo on the
Public Address System announce the Post Match meeting at the Media
Center (As it should be) after the game. Then a few minutes later i
heard him say it would be done pitch side.
I was
like, how? In 2019? an international game? I gathered it was an
impromptu arrangement that came from TV partners, Supersport. I knew
immediately that it would be a mess and did not bother to go down for
the interview sessions. I hadn’t been part of an Eagles’ post-match
presser in about two years and it was for things like this.
I
later heard there was a fight down there that was captured on live
television. Sad.
But Asaba is really a
wonderful place, you have to believe this
While
watching the game I suddenly realised I was hungry. The only meal I
had all day was breakfast. A few slices of bread, fried eggs and two
cups of coffee.
I
turned to Sanipe who was sat next to me and said, “If I no eat
Banga Soup and starch today, I fit die o,” meaning that I could die
if I didn’t get a meal of Starch and Banga soup.
He
immediately put a call to someone he knew in Asaba requesting a place
we could get banga soup and starch.
As
soon as we were through with the game and its formalities, it was off
to the address given to us. It took a while but we finally found it
and I asked for catfish head and what was given to me was the biggest
catfish head I had ever seen in front of me as a meal.
Let
this just sink in
 
Tomorrow
morning we play against the Delta All-Stars. We needed to rest.
Besides the meal completely knocked me out.
At 11
pm Andrew Randa wanted us to go to the club at Shoprite and spend,
maybe until 1 am before we retire for the night. I told him I would
pass, and I did. Sanipe also turned down his offer.
I had
a game in the morning. I am not an undisciplined player. I had to be
in high spirits and stay focused on the task ahead.
 
Entrance to the Stephen Keshi Stadium with ninety minutes to kick off

 

There was an Ex- professionals game just before kick-off

 

Frustrated, Miyen Akiri gets up and leaves

 

Another view

 

After the deed was done
 

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