The empty plastic bottle of Viju yoghurt swirled before it stopped at the feet of Ado who trapped the ball like prime Xavi, the legendary Spanish footballer. Adimora, in his characteristic rashness, dove for the bottle, aiming to snatch it from Ado's legs. The latter shielded him off effortlessly; he was the bigger of the two, older even though they were in the same class in school.
"That's not fair." Cried Adimora. " Stop hiding the ball. Try dribbling me if you can!"
Ado chuckled mischievously as he danced with the bottle, moving it around from one feet to the other, raising dust, while a visibly frustrated Adimora tried to wrestle away the ball from him. Then he turned suddenly and kicked the ball into a drainage hemmed with refuse and plastic rubbish.
"Oh, shut up." Countered Adimora, fuming. "Which goal? For God's sake, you've been hiding the ball all through..."
"E no concern me. Wetin I know be say I don score goal "
"That one concern you." Said Ado, laughing.
" Even India people no do ojoro reach you."
Ado chuckled. "As if you don watch the match before?."
" Which match?"
"The match now — Nigeria versus India. Guy, if you see jazz eh. If you see jazz. Those guys weaved magical spells like it was nothing."
Adimora drew closer, his interest piqued. He knew of the story of that legendary match between Nigeria and India. His elder brother, Bro Big Ben, had painted the story with an astounding vividness; how the Indians had insisted on playing barefooted, how they turned the football to the most ridiculous of items, confusing the hapless Nigerians and proceeded to score a whooping hundred unreplied goals. Big Ben, had, also added the sad but heroic twist that befell a Nigerian player, Samuel Okwaraji, his beards like Osama Bin Laden's, that took it upon himself to score a goal for Nigeria. He'd succeeded in adorning the score with a bit of honor for the Nigerians but collapsed on the field before he could celebrate the goal. Big Ben swore that it was the Indian's jazz that struck him dead!
" Have you watched it? Brother Big Ben told me the story the other day."
"For sure. Ñigeria wore green jerseys while the Indians wore faded white."
"The Indians were barefooted though."
Adimora laughed. " Who told you that, Big Ben?"
" Laugh all you want but it's true. They couldn't wear boots because their juju hated shoes."
"Shut up, Ado."
"I should shut up, eh? Oya, what did they wear then?"
"Flip-flops is bougie; they wore normal slippers, bathroom slippers. Crazy."
"But that's what they wore. The thing is, the soles of the slippers was tapped to their feets which made it seem as if they wore nothing, especially if you're watching from a tv screen."
" Big Ben said that they used juju on the referee and made him a zombie for the duration of the match when he had refused them entry onto the pitch because they wore no boots."
" That didn't happen, Ado."
"So, you're saying Big Ben is a liar or what?"
"And how did you know all these — were you there?"
"Ask my mama now. Ask her. She was the one that bought the tickets for 25 naira then. The thing is, the match was so popular that we had to buy the tickets from someone who had bought it from a reseller. Mental. I remember the day we got them. Clear as day. Papa had gone to Potiskum for business. Only both of us were home — me and mama — when Jubril our gateman came and told mama that a man was looking for papa urgently."
"Was this man an Indian?"
Adimora scoffed. "Indian? Ado, caim down na, habadanlah. It was no Indian, rather Jekwu. He came to ask if Papa would be interested in the tickets to the football match which was happening the next day."
"Chai. But your papa wasn't around."
" Yes," agreed Adimora, "but I was. The thing is, back then, everybody was anticipating the match, waiting. Everybody except Mama. She didn't like football nor fancied the thought of watching 22 men run around a pitch pursuing a leather ball. So when Jekwu told her of the reason of his visit, she told him to allow the wind that carried him into our compound also carry him out. Mad"
"I couldn't miss the opportunity. I knew that I'd Papa were around that he'd grab those tickets in a blink."
"You convinced your mama?"
"Damn right I did. Told her that Papa would be utterly disappointed if he missed the tickets. She looked at me funny, hahaha. I knew she didn't believe me. Papa didn't say shit. Matter of fact, it was impossible for him to abandon his business in Potiskum just for a match in the Agege Stadium no matter how much he loved football. "
"What did you do then?"
"Nothing. I told her that I'll have to go borrow from our neighbors if she didn't give me the money."
"Like the Indians' juju." Adimora replied, laughing. "Mama knew I was probably lying but my saving grace was that she didn't know the small details of the match, like it being held the next day in Agege Stadium. She just didn't want her son to go about begging the neighbors for 50 naira."
"But... Adimora, wait. You don't have any neighbors. Na bush surround una house."
"Don't be silly, Ado. This was years back in Lagos. Are you even listening to me? There's no Agege Stadium in Onitsha for God's sake."
"Ok, my bad. But you said the Indians didn't use juju to make the goalkeeper a zombie."
"Yes. The keeper was Rufai. Peter Rufai. He had bald scodo like papa, the only difference being that he always rubbed oil on his and it shone like...like...what do I even use sef?"
"Like a mirror in the dark?"
" Not exactly but it'll do."
"Er....his scodo, did it make him immune to juju then?"
"No. Not even his bald, shining head could. The juju was so strong that whenever an Indian player hit the ball all Peter Rufai would see was a roaring, onrushing lion."
"That would be enough to make me become a zombie. Brother Big Ben was right."
"No, he wasn't."
"If you saw an angry lion would you not also behave like a zombie?"
"No, I'd run out of the stadium."
"That's what Peter Rufai did?"
"Yeah. But he couldn't leave the pitch."
"Forces beyond his control. Unseen forces. They pulled him back, burned him whenever he made to cross the barrier. It was horrible to watch from the stands."
"Seems like zombie behavior to me."
"Either that or you're lying."
"Maybe it's your Bro Big Ben that is lying — ever thought about that?"
"I don't think so."
Ado sighed. " You know what? Let's be going. I'm exhausted since you are believing your brother over me."
"Of course, I'll believe Big Ben. After all, he is older than you and I don't believe you were in that stadium. How old are you sef? Only 3 months older than me and you expect me to believe you were able to go to a stadium in Lagos of all places. How old were you then? Ahh, Adimora, fear God and lie small small."
"It's respect that you don't have, I see."
Adimora began to laugh.
"You don't have sense." Saying this, Ado turned and began walking home, a hail of mocking laughter accompanying him down the dusty road.
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