Reading football players’ stories on The Players’ Tribune reminds me of my own story. I had shelved this story. I always thought to myself, “One day, when I make it as a professional footballer, I will share it.”
But I didn’t make it as a professional football. A dream died along the journey.
But here’s my story.
I have always loved football. I played football. Almost every day. I played with my older brother (I was always better than him). We always competed against each other. If he was on the opposite team, I would skin him. If he was on my team, we would skin the opposite team. We were good. My family has a footballing blood. My cousin plays for Express FC (Go and like his Facebook Page – Edgar Bwogyi Sharp).
I played with my bare feet. I played with fiber balls. I played in the mud. I played in the long grass, almost touching my knees. I played in stones, slicing my feet. I played against big boys, against cattle keepers. I played against school boys, against younger lads. I played, won, lost. I played when I was little, when I was in high school and at Uni. I still play.
Back then, my dad hated the fact that I was wasting time playing football. In fact, when we were playing in the backyard at home, and we sniffed him coming back home, we would scatter uphill in a split second and pretend we were busy watching over cows and stuff. Then we would resume when he left.
I was obsessed.
One day, I played for a local school. I was on the first team. The heart of the team (seriously). I never told my dad, because he would be against it. I kept quiet. But I told my mum. Although she couldn’t keep the secret to herself and she told him. He kept quiet.
It was on a Friday, I remember. The sun was above us. The euphoria was in the air. We were facing our bitter rivals – a neighboring school. Droves of people turned up to watch, to support us.
We strolled on the pitch. My heart pounding in my mouth. Number 8 knitted at the back of my shirt. We lined up in the middle of the pitch to greet the opponents. People chanted loudly. It felt like a Champions League final.
Then I tilted my head and studied the crowd briefly. And there he was. My dad. Seated. Calm. Watching. He looked at me and I waved at him. He waved back. The referee blew the whistle.
I ran around the pitch like I was obsessed. I play in the midfield, but I was all over the pitch. Defending. Tackling. Passing. Shooting. I knew I had to impress someone.
The opponents scored. I knew it was going to turn out very ugly not just for the team, but for me as well. But we played on. The sun didn’t come to play that day; it was hot. I was melting. I played on nonetheless.
Second half. Still 1-0. We got a free kick, outside the box. I always took all the free kicks. So, I hurriedly got the ball. The wall was built in front of me. I could see the goalkeeper jumping in goal, running from post-to-post. People chanted my name. I knew this was it. This was my chance. I stepped back, my hands on my waist, my eyes on the ball, my heart in my ears. And I kicked the ball.
It flew in the air like a bird, every eye followed it. It curved slowly, like a kite. And entered the goal. Far post. The goalkeeper couldn’t do much. It was a goal.
Hundreds of people ran towards the pitch and carried me. I felt like Diego Maradona. Like that iconic Pele picture. I was Jesus Christ. I saved the team.
After the game, my dad hugged me. He had never hugged me.
But he did.