Dateline: June 22nd 2019. 11:29pm Nigerian time, 12:29am June 23rd in Egypt
I finally arrived in Cairo late on Friday evening. It is my first visit to the land of the Pharaohs, the famed cradle of global civilization! Read about this land since I was a baby. The earliest Bible stories ‘featured’ Egypt!
But I initially missed my flight
I had missed my flight after arriving late at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, MMIA in Lagos on Thursday and had spent a harrowing 24 hours where we did everything possible – and were lucky – to reschedule the flight and get on the next available flight to Cairo from Lagos.
I had been at Lead City University, Ibadan as a facilitator for the FCAAN D Course Coaching run by Dr Terry Eguaoje when my flight details were confirmed late on Tuesday night. It meant I had to dash back to Akure at the earliest possible time on Wednesday, pack and prepare, then return to Lagos to meet the 12noon schedule on Thursday at the airport.
That, unfortunately, was not to be. Despite my best attempts, I finally arrived at the airport about 15 minutes before the plane was to take off, long after the counters had closed. It was a harrowing experience for me – as missing it would have meant a whole lot of implications in terms of cost and opportunity.
Rehab? Volunteer? Or here to just enjoy football?
I was only recovering from a surgery on my knee, after I had sustained a bad injury on the medial meniscus and Anterior Cruciate Ligament a number of weeks ago. I had arthroscopic surgery and was undergoing intensive rehabilitation and physiotherapy in Akure under the auspices of the very experienced Mrs Ibironke Ogunleye – formerly of LASUTH but now of the University of Medical Sciences in Ondo. Despite the best efforts of Mrs Ogunleye, I knew that we didn’t have the very best facilities to get optimal rehabilitation available to us, even though she was very experienced at what she was doing and I was recovering in leaps and bounds but was still dealing with some constant as well as some recurrent pain in the convalescing knee. It was therefore important that I take the opportunity of the AFCON have the knee evaluated by the best Sports Medicine specialists in Africa as well as Rehab Managers who were converging in Egypt for the fiesta. As a Sports Medical Physician in training myself, I had made arrangements from Nigeria.
Luckily, my agent had been able to secure a seat on the next flight from Lagos on Friday. I’ll never forget the experience. It was the first time I ever missed a flight – and an international one at that! The airline ‘no-show’ fines and rescheduling penalties were however handled by Olufemi, my lawyer brother as I was already out of naira by that time, and I remain grateful to him for coming in at that time of need from one telephone call.
That written I was at the airport very early the next day, Friday, having passed the night at the closest hotel I could find in the airport milieu for the least possible price available. Needless to say, I barely slept. I was on the queue by 10 am on Friday and had been checked in before 11 am. By the time the flight took off by 2:20 pm, I knew the storm was over and would recover from the pain of the unexpected penalties when I return. First, I needed to be completely whole again.
Mrs Ogunleye had told me during my penultimate physiotherapy session in Akure that I should be able to resume for work in 5-6 weeks if we continue to progress at the rate we were while Dr Salami who operated me simply said I should return for a review in 5 weeks. It thus meant that these next 4 weeks may be the most important ones in my life for my left lower limb! I would also be volunteering during the period.
Finally, Egypt! But no fried rice?
After 6 hours in flight, I was received at the Cairo Terminal by two Egyptian gentlemen who were expecting me. They had been expecting me since the previous day! They assisted with immigration and customs as well as baggage and clearing but it took quite a while to get Claire’s bags from the carousel.
I would write about Claire and my other friends here subsequently. I and Claire had arrived on the same flight and only got to know each other when our host received us. When we finally got all the luggage, the driver was nowhere to be found! We had to get an Uber – and I had to cough out 80 pounds, Egyptian pounds though. Whatever, I told myself, the issues we have now is certainly less than what I experienced 30 hours earlier at MMIA. Luckily, the hotel concierge was gracious enough to help with currency exchange by 12:05 am arrival time, and the driver was paid.
Blindingly hungry, I called the kitchen to ask for whatever was available. ‘Please make your orders,’ the voice on the telephone told me. When I replied ‘Fried Rice and Chicken,’ the response indicated that such regular Nigerian meals were certainly quite unavailable on the menu. Well, I settled for whatever they had that looked like what fried rice should look like. By the time the food arrived, it was only a little better than something meant for some herbivore, but heck, there was a little bowl of white rice contained therein – and I was too happy to gulp it down. We would look for fried rice later, or so I reasoned at that instant. Another nearly 200 pounds for the meal. E go better…
I reached out to the kind facilitators of this international experience and told them of my arrival. By the time one of them, Moa, responded, he told me how busy the day had been (the opening match of the AFCON had just ended and Egypt had narrowly defeated Zimbabwe) but that he could say hello if I could come down to the lobby. In between ‘herbivore meal’ and unpacking, I went to see Moa and he was such a pleasant guy.
The difference between sleep and death
I tried to sleep but woke up only a few hours later. Arranged to have Physio and rehab started as soon as possible. When I got to the centre, I knew the difference between Akure, Nigeria and Cairo, Egypt – with regards to Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation of players after injuries. It is like, as the Yorubas say, comparing sleep with death. My heart went to my mouth. The gulf in mental quality of personnel is all but negligible, but the gulf in EQUIPMENT is like comparing dark grey or brown with snow white. It becomes clearer why our players and citizens emigrate to countries to live or ply their trades. Sometimes, it isn’t about money or financial emoluments but the availability of resources – human and material – in an area of great societal organization.
In all, today was eventful. I made several new friends from Chad, Tunisia, Morocco and Burkina Faso. I also had the opportunity to visit the City Mall later in the day to get a telephone SIM in order to be able to relate with friends and family in Nigeria while I am here. It is a long stretch, this Mall, with so many people ‘relaxing’ male and female, up till midnight here. It is the biggest mall I have ever been, possibly more than 20kilometers. A lot larger than the biggest Nigerian Mall I have ever been to.
I missed the Super Falcons game as I was in the city while it was played and only saw the second, and more important, half of the Super Eagles game against Burundi. The Super Falcons weren’t expected – at least by me – to defeat Germany. Only an absolute miracle, the types seen at Damman in 1989 as well as Atlanta in 1996, could see that marginally occurring. I do not believe in expecting miracles without coordinated efforts working in that direction – and I simply knew that despite the best efforts of the leadership of the NFF, the Sports organization in Nigeria isn’t ready or organized with sincerity of purpose to see Nigeria rub shoulders with the better Sporting nations of the world.
It is now 1:34 am local time – and 12:34 in Nigeria. I have to stop writing now. Tomorrow, I shall continue the rehab sessions very early before volunteering with the Medical Department of the competition at the stadium closest to my residence here – the Salem Stadium, a 55,000 capacity stadium built in 2009 and renovated for this competition. I saw about 100 volunteers at the stadium today, perfecting strategies for the matches involving Namibia, Uganda and some other countries which would take place later today. They were working so hard, and so impressively.
In my next diary entry, I shall write about the gulf in social organization that I experienced here in Egypt, as compared to Nigeria. Their town planning and housing arrangements, though requiring improvements too, appears to be light years ahead of Nigeria. The quality of transport system is also fabulous – road network, airport etc.
Looking forward to a great day when I wake up.
Babatunde ‘Dr Tee’ AKINBINU