It was on a Sunday, the 18th day of September 2016 to be precise, and I went in the company of two incredible friends, Vivian the Great and Vingabby. Kickoff time was 4pm (GMT+1), and the battle line was drawn between Rangers International Football Club of Enugu and Sunshine Stars of Akure at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu. The long and short of the game is that after toughing it out for 90+3mins, the game ended in favour of Rangers; 2:0 to be precise.
It was my very first live match, and I made sure nothing stood in my way of attendance that evening, not even the threatening rain. I actually thought I was too old not to have witnessed a live match off-screen, just as I had to storm Lagos earlier this year because I’d always thought it was such a shame that an above twenty-year-old Nigerian who claims to love Nigeria was yet to step his feet on the Main- and Island of Lagos.
I came to break that jinx, I came to have fun, but I ended up in a classroom. The bowl of the stadium had turned into a classroom, other spectators became my classmates, the pitch metamorphosed into the ‘smartboard,’ and the players and the reality of football, being the teacher, graciously dished out the following lessons.
Life is a game
Biblical parables often compared the kingdom of God to this or to that – merchant, king, sower, virgins, feasts, etc. On this occasion, observing the players and the field of play, I came to the realization that life can indeed be likened to a football game. Or, put differently, and better, football aptly showcases the dynamics of life: the goal, the timing, the fouling, the cards, the linesmen, the spectators, the applauding and boos, the fun, the referee, the etc. To merely say that the leather ball game mimics real life is to say it lightly.
The two kinds of people
It has always been about Actors Vs Spectators. That day, I inevitably found myself – and everyone else off pitch – occupying the spectator position. While the players did the sweating, the rest of us had fun watching them. While their hearts raged within them, while their muscles cramped and their legs ached, the rest of us made jokes of their pains, cheered them on when they impressed us, and jeered at them when they seemed not to get it right. From the spectators’ end everything was so easy; talk is cheap! That day, I got the gracious reminder that living truly can only happen at the ‘acting end’ and never at the ‘spectating end.’
Unstoppability is a choice
And then the long awaiting rain started pouring down! It was hell. I got totally drenched in it. Guess what? While we the spectators were running helter-skelter in search of canopy, the actors (players) chose to be unstoppable. They played on under the rain as well as they were playing under the sun minutes earlier. Not even one of them stepped out of the pitch. And not even the referee.
Leverage on what you’ve got
Rangers is Enugu State football club. The match held in Nnamdi Azikiwe Statium, Enugu. 99% of spectators were 042 people. Rangers had all the additional advantages, and they did leverage on it. It was their pitch, their town, and their people. They weren’t lacking one bit in fan base, since next to everyone was their fan. The applause was for them and boos was for their opponent. They were in high spirits, and they capitalized on it.
Fight to the death!
This golden lesson came from the Sunshine Stars. Though they were at the disadvantaged end, they kept faith till the very final whistle. They pressed on, they persisted, they kept at it, and they fought on – to the death! Being down by 2 goals by injury time, they even pushed harder until the referee blew the final whistle on one of their men motioning towards Rangers’ goalpost with the ball.
PS: Special thanks to Vingabby for being a constant reminder and a great company. Thanks, too, to Vivian the Great for giving the evening a touch of fun; she pushed us to dancing under the rain with Rangers fan club.