Monday, 25 June 2012

The Flaming Flamingoes 5

Stories are all works of fiction. Names, characters, place and events are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events and places is totally coincidental

Six weeks after being introduced to the young footballer, Etemeke and with the plaster finally off my arm, the pain and suffering I had endured seemed to be fading from my memory, I started to play informal soccer sets in my local area. I also had a few kickabout moments with Etemeke and some of his friends. There was certainly something off kilter with my game but I put it down to lack of practice and maybe a little loss of form, no big deal.

One cool evening as I was walking along the marina, a voice called out my name. I looked back and it was Jakande, we all called him Jackie. Always a loyal  fan of my footballing skills from the time I was in school, "did you know they are starting a junior version of the competition you currently play in with the big boys?" he asked, of course I didn't know because since I had been injured, I hadn't been in contact with my regular team mates. I was also not under any illusion that I was indispensable and knew deep down that I had already been replaced. No I didn't know and I didn't really care, the injury I sustained seemed to have affected me psychologically, the skills that I had previously taken for granted now seemed to have left me high and dry and I found it very embarrassing that I played like a novice.

How about having your own team? Jackie persisted, I wasn't too keen on the idea, "I'm not too sure about that" I replied. He made a face that didn't hide his disappointment, "it costs money to run a team and I'm broke, otherwise it's not a bad idea", I told him knowing the registration fee to enter the competition wouldn't come cheap and that would just be the start. Like he was reading my mind, he suddenly offers to put up the registration money and I was quite touched by his gesture. I pointed out to him that he was too young to officially be the sponsor of the team but Jackie had a solution, he would ask one of his wealthy uncles to officially sponsor the team. So I asked him to give me a few days to see if I can put together a side.

I went to see my friend Solly the very next day, he was enthusiastic at the suggestion. With my pal Sol, we set about working out how to get players to join this junior side. We decided to make a list of who we would like in our team. Two hours later, we had a list, the next objective now was to approach these guys and offer them a place in our team. The following day I went looking for the boys on our list, they were obviously the best players around and I was confident they would be happy to join the team I had now named The flamingos.  

Our first three choices to join the team turned me down flat. They had already committed themselves to Zeke's team. True, some of the best young footballers in the junior category hung out with Zeke and his mates, the problem with this was Zeke and I didn't really get on. He was a poser who showed off all the time, but his parents were rich so everyone seemed to gravitate toward him, except for myself. I didn't like him and he knew it. He was usually my biggest critic whenever I was playing with the senior team, him and his friends would look for any opportunity to criticise my playing whenever they could. Of course they did it out of jealousy because I happened to be the only sixteen year old that consistently featured in the senior league and they all would have loved to be in my shoes. Whenever I played very well, I would get hostile looks from Zeke and some of his allies who considered any brilliant play on my part as a fluke, but when I play badly, they would be overjoyed and would make some of the most flippant and uncalled for remarks, just to piss me off.

 I remember once getting into a fight with Sule, a fight instigated by Zeke who thought I was going to get a hiding from his crony. Sule was big and strong for is age, I was scared but accepted the challenge. Arrangements were made for Sule and myself to meet at the arena (where we could usually fight undisturbed). Zeke and company were supporting their friend until I started to use speed and self defence tactics to make Sule look bad with judo throws and karate chops. When their friend was really looking bad and began hurting, Zeke and company stopped the fight and promptly gave me the nickname Chigro which was a shortened version of the term Chinese negro. I asked them why, and they said it was because my moves reminded them of the martial arts films everyone loved to watch. Nevertheless none of them ever had the guts after that to challenge me to a physical fight thankfully, but the jibes continued.

Now, trying to raise a team called the flamingos was the constant in my mind and I walked around totally preoccupied by that thought, the players I would need were now committed to the opposition and apart from Sol, Etemeke and myself there was no one I could think to make the team. I was seriously thinking of going to see Jackie to ask him to drop the whole idea. In a distracted frame of mind, I went around a corner and practically bumped into Zeke, Sule and friends....

(To be continued)



"Cheegro"! exclaims Zeke, "just now talking about you" I kept quiet, feeling a little bit intimidated but trying not to show it. Sule and the two other guys were smiling and for some strange reason their good natured composure seemed quite genuine and plausible. At the best of times, I will usually get what I can best describe as a disdainful look from Zeke, but today that look was gone from his face and his demeanour seemed quite friendly. I was confused, almost totally disarmed by this charm offensive so I asked, "what's happening?"

His arm over my right shoulder, he steers me toward the shady side of mama Kano's beer parlour and orders orange juice for everyone. The drink was cold and refreshing, it tasted better than usual probably because Zeke paid for it and I gulped it down with relish. I was so enjoying this cool drink on such a hot day that I didn't really hear what he was saying, I heard the word Zeke's Monarchs, dropped the empty glass I was holding on his foot when he said "I want you to be the captain of my team". I uttered a jaw dropping "what?I didn't hear that, please say again".

With Zeke doing most of the talking, Sule and the other two interjecting now and again, they put me in the picture. They had gone to see the organisers of the soccer contest to ask if someone who is a regular in the senior team can also play for a junior team. The answer was yes, as long as you are age qualified. This meant that I could play for both the senior and junior sides if I so wished and these guys were basically seeking to recruit me. This was my opportunity to drop the whole flamingo project, join forces with these guys and go captain Zeke's monarchs. It was quite a tempting offer, I wouldn't be shackled with any responsibility and will only concentrate on being captain and just playing the soccer.

The problem was that my playing skill had deteriorated and would remain so for as long as I had this fear of injury in the back of my mind. My form had nose dived further and recently, whenever I felt the presence of someone behind me while on the ball, I hopped away from the ball and easily let the opposition take it off me. Zeke and his friends obviously didn't know about this lack of psychological fitness and the paranoia that was adversely affecting the way I played soccer. The only part of the soccer field I didn't have this fear was whenever I playfully decided to be in goal. The only thing at my back as a goalie was the goal posts and net, everyone else will usually be in the field of play.

I wasn't going to let them know about my lack of confidence as a player, but I could also imagine the abuse I would suffer if I joined their team and played badly, Zeke would automatically jump to the conclusion that I was deliberately sabotaging the monarchs, the consequences if that happened did not bear thinking about. "Come on then, we want you to captain an all star team, say yes" urged Zeke. "Who is going to be goalie in your team then" I asked and they all pointed to Sule. I casually sauntered a few feet away from them before I gave my answer, I wanted to make sure I had a good chance of making a run for it if they didn't like my answer and tried to jump me.

Zeke, I said, "if yours was the last team in the whole universe and you had Pele in it, I still wouldn't join, as a matter of fact", I continued, "I have my own team and we are called The Flamingos" I paused to allow them to digest this information before I continued, "I have such good players in the Flamingos" I lied, "that I have decided to be the goalkeeper and you guys better watch out because if we meet at any stage of the competition, I guarantee we will demolish your monarchs". They obviously found my statement amusing because they all burst out laughing. As I walked away from them, I glanced back in time to see the familiar disdainful look return to Zeke's arrogant face. If looks could kill, that look I got from Zeke would be it, however, I wasn't worried as I should have been, considering that I didn't really have a team yet and my attitude was all just bluff. I had the comforting thought that once again, I had rubbed these guys up the wrong way. Before turning into the next street, I glanced backward and they were all just staring at me with their mouths open.

(To be continued)



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