Jun 14



I am not a betting man. I was cured of that vice when one morning, instead of buying myself a delicious breakfast before I went to school (hmm — it was some “breakfast” – kokonte plus cow-tail-and-cow-entrails-soup: the sort whose ‘fragrance’ never leaves your hands, even if after you’ve washed them with soap, thus enabling you to boast to your classmates that – lucky you – you were rich enough to pass by “Maame Amma’s place” before coming to school) yes, stupidly, I sacrificed all that and went and betted on a lottery system constructed from torchlight bulbs powered by dry-cell batteries.

The bulbs lit up and extinguished themselves in sequence, illuminating numbers written on a board. You selected a Number, and if the bulb corresponding to that Number stayed lit up whilst all the others flashed alight but went out again, you won. I thought the Number 7 was unbeatable and put my breakfast money on it. But it was the Number 8 that came up. My friends comforted me by saying that I “nearly” won!

It was that which made me want to cry. How could fate have been so cruel? I was cheated of a good one shilling (twelve breakfasts! I mean: those were the days when twelve pennies (more correctly, “pence”) made one shilling, not these days when, in decimal England for instance, people actually say “one pence”!) by just one number coming after mine, in the sequence. I decided that if fate could play such tricks on me, then I wasn’t going to trust it ever again. Please let me repeat that: “one pence in the Land of The Queen’s English? Yes, I’ve heard it myself – filifili!) What is life coming to?

My resolve not to ever gamble again didn’t last too long. When ”Lotto” (or “Toto” as it is known in many European countries) first came to Ghana, I too was seduced or rather caught by its tentacles. I didn’t mind the Lotto Doctors, because they charged for their services. The question my rational mind asked was, “If they really were sure that their research would yield good results (they could tell you what numbers were dropped in Malta on 13 August 1950!) why did they need my money? Why didn’t they stake the results of their research and become millionaires, instead of standing by boards in the hot sunshine and trying to convince fools that the director of State Lotteries would celebrate his birthday (secretly discovered from the Ghana Gazette!) by dropping numbers that corresponded to that auspicious event?

Anyway, the Lotto Doctors’ efforts were irrelevant to me because –1had developed my own system of selecting the correct numbers that would “drop” each week. In one week, I would use the registration numbers of motor vehicles that I had fallen in love with in the past: the registration number of the first Morris Oxford car I had ever driven, AD 1943; the second Morris Oxford AD 2502; the number of the Cocoa Rehabilitation Department’s Ford Pilot that I had loved so much and which, shamefully, I can’t now remember; the Bedford one-and-a-half ton truck whose pedals I had had to fight to reach with my feet, AR 3460…The first brand new big saloon car whose embrace I’d enjoyed, Vanguard can Number AR 8397; and other less well-adored cars, such as AD 5081; or AR 9887. The next week, I would use the birthdays of my girl friends, starting with 10-11….

I wouldn’t just write down the numbers, but perm them. Well, one day, I had given my permed numbers to a lotto agent, with enough money to back them, and she was busily writing them on lottery tickets, when a friend I was waiting for made an early appearance. He claimed he would be late for his appointment and harried me to leave the lottery for “later”. Before I recovered from my bout of beer drinking, the deadline had passed for staking numbers had passed and the Lotto kiosks had all closed.

Yes, you’ve guessed it –that week’s dropped numbers began exactly where my permed numbers that had not been written by the Lotto Lady when I collected my money and the paper on which I’d written the numbers, from her at the urging of my friend. Had I continued staking all the numbers in my perm, I would have got four or even five numbers right! Talk of someone giving another bad luck! I am not sad to tell you that my friendship with the guy whose impatience had prevented me from becoming a multi-millionaire waned considerably after that. Since then, I have tried to obey the precept that one should never put one’s interests above those of anyone else: the Christian rule, after all, is love thy neighbour as, not better than, thyself!

And now, a very good friend has said something which has made me dare him to an interesting bet. He wrote a rather challenging posting on our internet forum, predicting that “BS will win the WC”! I couldn’t let that pass, could I?

At first,I thought that he was joking, or merely being sarcastic. After all, in the usual meanings attributed to those two sets of initials, they usually hung together – I mean “BS” usually lands with a thud (pun intended, despite the absence of the letter “r” in thud) in the “WC” doesn’t it?

But he has since confirmed that he really meant ‘BS’ to stand for ‘Black Stars’, and ‘WC’ stood for World Cup! This is what he wrote (in fairness, I must admit that he wrote this before he saw the display put up by Holland against Spain, which will probably make him eat his words, though I know him to be very stubborn!):

“… My predictions have all been uncannily accurate since August 2013… I’m now reaffirming that I expect the Black Stars to win the World Cup. To recap my football predictions:
1. Man City to win the English Premier League;
2. Arsenal to win the League Cup/FA Cup and come 4th in the Premier League;
3. Real Madrid to win the Champions League, beating Bayern either in the semis or final and 4. Kotoko to win the local league. Now, I say BS will win the World Cup. Let the Games begin, let the games continue!”

The wager I made with him, on appraising his self-predicated approbation of his predilection for predictions, was this:

“Dearest… while your other predictions may be impressive, your prediction re- ‘BS’ is, with the greatest respect, ‘bs’! (in small letters).

“You see, the mentality of Ghana’s current selectors seems to be this: defend, and defend, and defend, and leave it to some genius of a goal-scorer (Jordan Ayew, for example) to break through — unintentionally — to win the match for us! Or — we must pray that our opponents play without a goalkeeper (as happened to South Korea when we played them, for instance, and the absent goalkeeper dashed us four of the best!)

“I mean, look at Croatia — Croatia! — who IS Croatia? — attacking and attacking and attacking and forcing Great Brazil to score an own goal? Do you fully
appreciate what it means for Brazil to be forced to score an own goal? In
Brazil’s neighbourhood, in proper South American football, scoring an own
goal amounts to no less than treason, is punishable by death, and that
particular penalty can be enforced by any private citizen at will. I urge you to Google “own goal+execution+Colombia” to refresh your memory! If that fails, try the more specific words, “Escobar+World Cup ’94+shot six times+died”!

“Yet, instead of learning from the fact that attacking an unsettle many defences and force them to play FOR us, rather than AGAINST us, we are falling back on the dull football prevalent in Europe. I ask you: how did Brazil bounce back after scoring an own goal in that infamous match against Croatia, huh? Reverting to its usual style, Brazil counter-attacked and attacked and attacked. Croatia had no choice but to wilt. And it went down by 3 goals to 1!”

I asked my friend this: “Do you realise that Ghana is pitted against three of the greatest killjoys in the game of football today, namely, the USA (boring) Germany (stodgy) and Portugal (uninspiring, unless Ronaldo shines)? All three treasure the vaunted “technical” formulae laid down by scientifically-proficient soccer academies. We, on the other hand, hone our skills on the sandy beaches of Prampram and Kokrobeti; on the speckled pebbles of Rawlings Park, and from gutter-to-gutter across the storm drains of Kokompe and Ablenkpe. We, at our best, suck in the world’s breath of admiration by doing crazy things – such as Sulley Muntari shooting at goal from forty yards, without a by-your-leave to either the presumed instructions of his coach, or the pleas from fellow-players that he should pass the ball!

“Remember the crazy manner in which we beat the Czechs 2-0 in World Cup 2006 (in Germany)? We were on a frenetic attack from the first second, and got a goal after only 70 seconds – repeat 70 seconds! These sorts of attacks have been our landmark whenever we’ve shone in the international arena; in fact, ever since we drew 3-3 with Real Madrid and beat Blackpool 4-0; then became back-to-back Champions of Africa (1963 and 1965; and when we almost repeated the feat in 1978 and 1982).

“Didn’t you see what we were going to do to former World Champions, Uruguay, before Luis Suarez “The Shark” extended his ugly fin to keep the ball out?”

I became so intoxicated with the verbosity of my own football recollections that I forgot I was a non-betting man and wrote: “ I bet you– nay, I challenger you to this wager – if in spite of our current preoccupation with the middle ground, we do manage to win the World Cup (as you boldly predict) I shall accompany you arm-in-arm into the Sambisa Forest, in Borno State, Nigeria, and by our own efforts alone, without the slightest guidance from any Fulani herdsmen, “Bring Back” The Abducted Girls of Chibok!

“Then we shall conduct a poll of Ghanaian arm-chair football coaches: those of us who advocate attacking football will not get any of the girls at all, whilst those who go for defensive tactics will be allotted girls according to the girls’ own defensive prowess, i.e. as indicated by the size of their behinds. (Surely, you have heard of “bottom power” and its uses in Nigeria? If you haven’t, just ask me, and I shall tell you the full story! For a handsome fee, of course!”)

I am waiting to see whether the guy will take the bait. After the humiliation World Champion 2010, Spain, was subjected to on 13 June 2014, I am sure I shall win the bet. In fact, anyone who wants a Chibok Girl can start applying to me now.


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