NEVER SAY NEVER
I am not a football fan. I have nothing particularly against the game; but I’m just not able to sit through a 90 minute clash without scolding myself for idling away, watching and clapping while some ‘boys’ my age were busy swelling their bank accounts. So for me, no difference between Chelsea, Manchester United, Eyimba FC, shooting Stars, Arsenal FC or Liverpool.
Okay, I confess. My life revolves around Asa, Lagbaja, Cool FM, MTV, 2face, Q, and everything else that has to do with music. But guess what? Last Tuesday, Football taught me a new dimension to a lesson I’ve been learning since kindergarten (actually I went to what we call ‘Jele simi’ in the west. I hope that passes for Kindergarten. My apologies if it doesn’t).
I had gone o my landlord’s flat for a brief visit when I met im watching a match between Liverpool and Chelsea. My landlord, a very curious and enlightened gentleman in his late 40s, has two passions: politics and soccer. So I met him almost halfway into the second half of the match. Liverpool: 1, Chelsea: 0. I wanted to gist, as we are wont to do, anytime I manage to show up in his flat. But he was so engrossed in the match I ended up watching with him, out of courtesy. His team Chelsea was losing.
And the aggressive guys at Liverpool, instead of being satisfied with their lone goal and withdrawing backwards to eef up their defence, were busy plotting more attack.
At almost ninety minutes, ball possession was in Liverpool’s favour; with fe opportunities that could have ended in a second or third goal. Chelsea was losing. When the camera took a close-up of Drogba, and showed us the mood of the Chelsea coach on the sideline, the message was one: sadness. The gods of soccer had refused to accept Chelsea’s offering; turning their black on the team and leaving them to suffer in the hands of Liverpool.
My landlord was speechless. Shirt off, even though the living room was well ventilated, he was already consoling himself about the loss. In the children’s parlour few metres away, his son Wale was apotting a Chelsea T-Shirt. Needless to say he was the butt of jokes from his uncle and sibling who didn’t particularly fancy Chelsea. I asked him if he was a Chelsea fan. He denied.
By now, it was ninety minutes. The clean-shaven referee, looking serious and very business-like, gave a four minute extra time. Within the first two minutes, Liverpool made a very determined attempt to net another goal. I wept for Chelsea. Both teams were already killing time, waiting for the final whistle when the unexpected happened. A Chelsea player pulled out a corner shot towards Liverpool’s goal post. A Liverpool defender, determined to prevent the Chelsea man lurking behind him form netting the goal, attempted to nod the ball away. But the ball went straight into the net. He had scored against his own team.
It was four minutes on the dot. The referee blew the final whistle
I didn’t leave my landlord’s flat a converted soccermaniac. But I had learnt two very important lessons: (1) in life, never say ‘never’ because really, nothing is impossible. (2) You may have the best of intentions, yet end up wreaking havoc on yourself, your team, family or friends. (3) A one-second event can determine if you’ll be hero or zero. Take the Liverpool guy. If he had calculated better and nodded the ball over the bar, he would have been the hero of the night. But he did not and I won’t be surprised if he’s still receiving strokes of the Cain right now…
Talking of the power of possibilities, and the invincible line between hero and zero, please permit me to share a very recent experience with you. Two weeks ago, I was at the BBC studios in London. I was thrilled when the call came a few days earlier, saying I had been recommended to talk about the music scene in Nigeria, vis-à-vis the new wave of music videos, and the increasing number of awards. As I walked from Holborn tube station towards Bush House, I unconsciously pinched myself, to be sure all this was not a dream after all. me, a little, hopeless kid, born in Ayetoro-Gbede, raised in Okokomaiko?
That moment, I wished mother was alive to see her errant-rebel son walking proudly into the BBC… they say some dead people have the ability to see what’s happening on earth. I wish mother was ne of them.
I was still lost in dreamland when my host Bobby Seiler offered a hand.
‘Hi, I’m Bobby’
‘Ayeni’, I managed to mutter.
Two minutes later I’m with Mark Coles. And that’s when I realise that, the power of possibilities may take you to the top, or give you a life-changing opportunity, but it there are factors that’ll determine if, after the experience, you’ll be a hero, or total zero.
Mark fired me questions! From Fela to Asa, 2face, DJ Jimmy Jatt, SMVA to Psquare and JJC, the presenter showed he had done his homework. In less than 30 minutes, the presenter and his producer displayed enormous knowledge about the music scene in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. Neither of them had been to Nigeria. But they not only did their homework for the purpose of the assignment, they showed a genuine interest in Nigerian music. (truth be told, this sort of reassured me that my belief in Nigerian music was not misplaced. If a couple of white guys at the BBC would dedicate so much time and energy studying our growing industry, building a documentary and following our development with such scientific attention; then it tells me we’re headed the rigt way…)
And It is at that point I realise I could have completely made a fool of myself, if I hadn’t made deliberate efforts to prepare for the interview. An opportunity to sell myself, my work, and the Nigerian music scene through a powerful medium like the BBC (which could make me feel- even if momentarily- like a hero), would thus have reduced me to below zero level; ruining any reputation I had with my hosts, and of course, ruining any other future opportunities.
We finish the interview, shake hands and exchange cards. ‘Bobby (the producer) is happy’, Mark tells me, after signing out.
‘He’d better be’, I said beneath my breath. Then I turned to him and said ‘I’m happy too. I hope you guys send me the recording. I’d like to send it to my village head…’
By the way, when is Chelsea playing Liverpool again?!