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SOME THOUGHTS ON NIGERIAN FOOTBALL

My dad was a speedy left winger who played all the way into the then popular Nigerian Ports Authority Football team in Nigeria. He probably quit playing to pursue a career in Law. His younger brother was the captain of the legendary St. Gregory’s College Football team, who were champions of the Principal Cup in Nigeria many years ago. My mother, on the other hand, was a serious football fan who frequented stadiums with the paraphernalia of her chosen team. She only stopped going to the stadium when she almost lost her ear after a fight broke out in a tension soaked match between Nigeria and Ghana in 1969 or thereabout. But she continued her support for local Nigerian teams of which Shooting Stars was the object of worship. I can actually remember my mum having the then coach of Shooting Stars over for lunch at our house in Calabar when they came to play against the Calabar Rovers. Of course they were beaten (smiles). My point is that for most of my life, I have been engrossed with analyzing and assessing skill, technique, team strategy, and pattern of play in football; and I’m proud to say that this has lasted as long as I have had the ability to swallow lumps of eba.

I was keen on taking Football as a major sport until I found that I was easily exasperated after running around the pitch. For this reason I played in defence position and still ran out of breath easily. I also played for one full year in secondary school and was coached by an extremely passionate Irish Reverend Father, who took soccer like a national call to warfare. He approached it with a kind of diligence that was akin to qualifying examinations. Once you made a mistake and didn’t follow his laid down pattern of play, he will stop the match, pull you out of the field and give you a few strokes of his bulala, then send you back to do as he says. The fear of the Reverend Father was the beginning of conventional football wisdom in St. Patricks College Calabar. As far as I can remember, my school team remained invincible until the Father was transferred elsewhere and his new team of course became the new invincible eleven. But as hard as his regime was, I learnt so much about the game.
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