Match day and myself and the big boys were off to the Stadium to watch World stars. The el-phenomenon (Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima), Ivan Zamorano, Ivan Cordoba and some others I can’t remember were expected. There were some Super Eagles players on the bill alongside Taribo West with Kanu Nwankwo and Sam Okoye just to mention a few making the cut. I was dressed in my favourite tee shirt (a grey round collared Reebok tee), black jeans and my clarks sandals. I was feeling fly and all I had in mind was what I was going to gist my peers when we resumed. It looked like rain before we left the house and I was hoping the rain wouldn’t spoil the party not that I cared if the rain beat me, I was going to see the then best player in the world, Ronaldo de Lima. We got to the stadium just in time to be able to buy souvenirs on parade.
We settled into our seats and as we were sitting, it drizzled a bit but I didn’t care. Nothing was getting me out of my sit. As we were waiting for the players to come on to the pitch there were fights from different angles of the stadium. Just 2 rows in front of where we were seated an area boy punched a man in the face with blood gushing out like it was a fountain. It was a horrible site and I got really scared. I was close to telling my bro and cousins I wanted to go home. No form of security around us or maybe because it was the popular side though. The game was even delayed for a while but it wasn’t obvious as there were activities all over. If you were not fighting, you would be arguing or buying or cursing. Something kept the fans occupied one way or the other. The funny thing was that my brother and cousins were just gisting away while all these happened. They had always gone to watch 3SC in Ibadan so they were probably used to seeing violence in the stadium.
It was announced that the players would be coming on to the pitch and there were roars in the crowd. As the players stepped out I was seriously looking out for Ronaldo and the yellow man that came out got me fooled for a bit, making me think he was Ronaldo. It dawned on me that the whole Nigeria had been scammed, if you like say thank GOD I didn’t go, na all of us fall mugu one way or the other. No Ronaldo, no Zamorano or Cordoba. The biggest star on parade was one time World, European and African footballer of the year (1995) George Weah. Other big names included African born French international Ibrahim Ba and our own Nwankwo Kanu. What could we have done? We had to sit and watch the game. After the stress I went through to get a ticket I will now be vexing? GOD bless that area boy.
As the game got on, the fans began to show their anger at the scam by peeing in pure water sachets or plastic bottles and throwing it on the pitch, it was so irritating and all I could think about was to get out of the stadium. I was now regretting not listening to my aunt. What did I get myself into? My family and close friends knew how football crazy I was but this was one football game I didn’t pay attention to. I wasn’t really watching because all I wanted to do was to go home. Alas my big bro suggested we left the stadium before the game was over to avoid congestion and our pockets being picked. I gave a sigh of relief and we left.
When we got home, my aunt asked how the experience was and all I could say was I am sorry Mummy Joe for not listening to you. It was a terrible experience and I will never go there again. She hugged me and gave me a peck telling me it’s not that she didn’t want me to go but she just wasn’t comfy with me going to a rowdy place like that. I still had the story to tell my peers though but surely not the one I wanted to tell.
I found out later that some of my other cousins went for the game and one of my other senior brother’s too. As a matter of fact my brother walked on the greens of the National stadium, I wondered how he pulled that off. I should have been jealous of him but my trauma at the stadium removed all sort of jealousy that could have come up. What was the score of the game? Taribo West’s side beat Team Pepsi 1-0 with George Opong Weah getting the goal. Little wonder why Abuja stadium is now home for the Super Eagles, the crowd trouble in Lagos got too much coupled with the lacklustre performances of the team game after game. I will never forget this experience. It’s obviously not one I would love to have again.
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Twitter handles: @dipoogun/@theswizzmemoirs