Friday, 30 September 2016


The argument over who has been the greatest exponent of the beautiful game of association/federation football also known as soccer has been an enduring one. Over time each man, woman or child – for that matter – has each managed to have their individual choices in the far-flung pitch.  
     Before now it has been a straight battle between the supporters of Edson Arantes do Nascimento better known by his nickname Pele of Brazil and Diego Amando Maradona of Argentina. Both retired, these two masters who played at different intervals for their clubs and country were to take the game to a rarefied height that saw artistry rather brawn taking its pride of place in the practice of the sport.
     Lately, two names Cristiano Ronaldo dos Sar Aveiro of Real Madrid and Portugal and Lionel Andres Messi of FC Barcelona and Argentina have joined the spree. This time, though, perhaps because they are contemporaries the argument has oftentimes been focussed more on whom between them is better than the other. So much has the tension risen that presently a Nigerian of south-eastern origin is awaiting trial for snuffing the life off a compatriot of his as a result of another incident of the argument in faraway India.
     According to Messi who is not unaware of the trend, the media has been the guiltiest in stoking the embers of this fire which is not near abatement in the nearest future. Whether in the pages of the newspapers and magazines or on the airwaves, each player has been touted to possess this or that quality over the other with a view to winning the argument. 
     The truth remains though that juxtaposed anyhow both players are undoubted masters of the game. Undoubtedly, they had the qualities to walk into any world eleven the selector notwithstanding. Given the number of years they have been on top of their game, none can yet successfully guess the ceiling that will cap their career achievements. While Messi had led the way ab initio, Ronaldo did do some catching up when among other things injury caught up with the diminutive Argentine.
     Both have for club and country scored goals that have beggared belief with the rapidity of clockwork week in week out. All the more fascinating because they do this in spite of the close attentions always lavished on them by the best defenders and goalkeepers in the world against whom they always end up playing in league, cup and friendly ties. So much so that now what is often newsworthy is their far more infrequent failure to perform at full tilt.
     Yes, for more often than not they end up scoring in solo efforts, orchestrated team work and from dead ball situations at random. Were this to have been the sports page, I could easily have gotten you flummoxed with the abiding statistics. Suffice it to note that indices apart, these guys can play. Their individual play, I bet you, is worth more than the teamwork of the celebrated teams that have played together to applause. Be it the memorable Brazilian team that clinched the 1970 World Cup in Mexico or their Italian counterparts to the trophy at the 1982 Mundial in Spain.
     Just to imagine the pure thrill of Ronaldo taking off with a controlled ball after some intricate footwork. Head towards the corner flank he would awhile before detouring on goal on the wing of a sold dummy. The thunderbolt of a goal-bound shot that was bound to follow would no doubt leave the keeper rooted to a spot or sprawling on the turf as the ball made its way into the net.
     Or would you rather you caught him at his pre-free kick routine with the breathing lesson in tow? All of which would fade to an infinitesimal speck of sand compared to the mountainous peak of his goal celebration.
     If Ronaldo at work is comparable the celebration of perpetual motion and athleticism, Messi on his part comes through as the king of audacious play. If Ronaldo can take on one man like the proverbial hot knife on butter, Messi can run on an entire opposing team with gusto. Perhaps on account of his proclivity to the earth’s gravitational pull, he seldom hits the ground passing through. And though he be pulled or bullied, he sure finds a way to bury the ball where it mattered.
     Just as it is believed that when two elephants fight the grass suffer, when these two elephants of the beautiful game play, the grass revel.    
sing trouble in faraway Brazil if they didn’t let her be. Being scions off same stock they retorted that they were waiting for her with their own ailment – a fever, in fact – that they had excess stock of here.


Without garnering any of its correlates the phrase If You Tarka Me I Dabo You had stuck at the roots of my membranes since I learnt to read. I can still recollect seeing the unique headline in the front page of that newspaper the vendor used to supply my uncle. Of course by then he had read and dispensed with it, only tendering the inconsequential sheaf of newsprint to us for its other unsavoury uses in the household.  
     I must, though, confess with hindsight to having taken whatever it was about the idiosyncrasies of the now-late duo of Middle Belt nationalists as a play thing. Now this was long before the music duo of the sixteenth English alphabet squared released their hit You Do Me I Do You. So this meant I had to wait to grow up some more to equate it with such bizarre symbiotic relations that became more fashionable ever since turning the other cheek lost its deposit at the reservoir of the human judicial system.
     I was consequently also able to grasp that it was about then that eneke the bird learnt its ropes and flew without perching following its poachers’ gun-sight dexterities. On account, this couldn’t have been too long after the Europeans came to Africa – with a book also in tow. Like the overheard story goes, too frightened by the sheer volume of the tome, our forefathers had clutched tight to their land as snugly as they had clenched their eyes at the visitors’ strange prayer summons. Yet at the end of the session the possessions – book and land – had inexplicably changed hands.
     Fantastic hosts that they were, our forebears never minded much. They let their guests dig in knowing that in no time they would claim back what was truly theirs. True to the oracles, the visitors were no sooner sent back to whence they came from following independence declarations that rang left, right and centre in the continent. In one fell swoop all that had been stolen from us not yet carted to their land became ours once again to a tumultuous reverberation of joy the land over.
     However, an ugly snag was to arise to the consternation of all. As the erstwhile visitors hurried home dejectedly, some of our brothers and sisters surreptitiously aligned themselves into the vacant positions they left. In the intermission the rest of us found ourselves lower down the rungs than we had been. To our utter dismay our erstwhile brothers now took all the land and handed us the foreigners’ book in recompense.
     Accepting our faith, we obeyed; but to no avail. When we complained that they were not playing according to the rules they branded us opposition; accusing us of treason and charging with sedition. But it all amounted to nothing when victory came.
     As it turned out though, we had had been in opposition too long that we could not reverse our roles. Guess what? We opposed on notwithstanding that we were actually opposing ourselves.   
     While in opposition our spokesperson had been at her very best; even outdoing herself on occasion to the relish of all. Everybody was agreed that no man could put up a performance close to hers in the circumstances. Given that coincidentally lying rhymed with her last name, she even added soupcons of it to her unique demagoguery as the occasion granted. She was so good at it that even those she was riling occasionally gave kudos to her virtuosity against their wish.
     All these were to disappear into the ozone as we mounted the saddle of government. Somehow she just could not get herself to repeat what she had done so well in turbulent times in the peaceable tidings that besieged her new paraphernalia of function. Even when she appeared to reach deeper into her bag of tricks like she always did in the opposition days the result tended to backfire so bad it bordered on ridicule.

     Finally, after a spell of retrospection she found out that the problem came from the new opposition. Without hesitation, she squared up to them with reckless abandon. Penultimate week she even threatened to inflict them with a new disease – a virus, we hear – that was yet causing trouble in faraway Brazil if they didn’t let her be. Being scions off same stock they retorted that they were waiting for her with their own ailment – a fever, in fact – that they had excess stock of here.


Another Muslim public holiday has come and gone. Called the ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’, it celebrates the compliance of Ibrahim to readily forgo his son Ishmael as sacrifice at the command of Allah. For Islam, the later – their ancestor – was the son in question as opposed to Isaac – ancestor to the Jews – as recorded in the Hebrew Bible. It is on this count that the holiday – apart from the respite from the biting times it afforded – also served to awaken erstwhile sleeping thoughts.

Floating atop the eddying melange was why the patriarch in question did not have a third son to whom Africa could have clung to retain its ancestors forever lost – save something is done – to the two ‘world’ religions spawned in their commemoration. Or, taken from another angle, why in the world did we not end up like peoples like the Japanese or Chinese who were spared from this debacle by history.

Indeed, when the story of how Africa lost her religions to outright invaders will be told, it will make more compelling tale than that of how the leopard lost its spots. O yes, because though sundry revisionists are quick to reposition the continent as only the birthplace of mankind, it is also well and truly the cradle of its civilization. Indubitably, ever before the fountains in Mesopotamia n Asia – to whom the honour is being surreptitiously transferred to – so long before Greece on account of its Classical Age, black Egypt had risen, waxed, waned and subsisted. They only trouble was that those she treated as equals while it reigned supreme treated her vice versa at the turn of the civilization tide. Thus with help from a superior firepower they were to overrun it, usurping and supplanting her lands and ways.

Nowhere else was this more so than in the subject of her religions. When the early Christians were driven out of Jerusalem, those that made it elsewhere took along with them their local belief as Jews. This to the new proselytes meant accepting the two together and adding local belief systems to the mix was termed syncretism. In Egypt particularly the religion from which coincidentally the burgeoning religion had borrowed many aspects of its mythology, was set aside for the new. This was the main or part of the reasons why from the Arab invasion Egyptian Christianity could not cope with mass conversions to Islam – this after four solid centuries of achievement.

It is most heartrending that while spreading these newfangled faiths to Africa, none of either of them gave the old ways of people a doubter’s benefit. All our forebears had taken centuries to build were wholly and entirely swept under the carpet as primitive. Even concepts that would have served to endear the new faiths to the converted were labelled as belonging of the devil, worthy of nothing but the desuetude of oblivion. The proselytized in the same vein never questioned what they were taught. With the zeal of new converts, they even disowned their families and abandoned their homesteads for less than morsels of porridge served up as assurances to salvation after they must have died.

Opposed to their preachments of an omnipotent and omnipresent Supreme Being, they in no way try to explain why perhaps due to their untoward intrusion newer evils hitherto assuaged by local mores now plague the land on end. They even end up locating Him – o yes – to specific spots to which their adherents from all over the world paid regular visits that apart from offering abundant grace also enrich the respective home countries in recompense. These are fanned on by local clergy who end up inventing all kind of new fables to keep the people in line. Offensive old prayers are replaced with more compliant ones just to maintain the status quo.

Alien customs are not only introduced to supplant homemade ones but even dressing codes are altered to favour that of outright visitors who did not get a hang of what they had met on arrival in the continent. Practical modes of existence are condemned and passed off as of the devil whose colour is attributed to ours. In the urge to have our souls as white as snow as we are admonished, everything foreign is now way to go. Even houses are built as though we have cold seasons all through and not our God-given all-year summer. And the beat goes on – and on.