Mar 10



The Ghanaian Times 28th February, 2012

Related Stories

SUNDAY evening.
Really exciting football on the telly.
Now, I don’t support any one club myself — I mean how would you feel if you supported Real Madrid and Lionel Messi was scoring all those amazing goals for Barcelona? Or if you supported Barcelona on the other hand and Christiaan Ronaldo decided one day to score from an angle so impossible that in trying to plot the trajectory of the ball in relation to the possibility of its entering the net, Onukpa Einstein himself would need to recallibrate the theory of relativity?

That’s not to say that in the past, I’ve not been coerced into supporting Tottenham Hotspurs. By my offspring, of course.

I mean, there used to be a video club in Accra called “Troika”, which made sure that you got, on Monday,  all the football matches played in England on the previous Saturday. I remember the plaintive voice of the pretty woman who ran it: “You have not rewinded!” Oh, VHS 180-240, where art thou? Motor racing videos, to me, were an added extra. Sheer heaven on Monday evening: a drink ar the Accra Polo Club, then video. Boy, oh boy.

Those were the days when Ricardo Villa and Osvaldo Ardiles were creating magic for Spurs. And the Club also had a brilliant black player in Garth Crooks.

So on visits to London, I would go to White Hart Lane to watch a live match. This was in spite of the fact that once, I nearly swooned, one extremely hot summer’s day, in the huge crowd that the police had ruthlessly marshalled into a near-stationary horde, in the confines of that horrible Tottenham tube station.  I’d sworn  never to  go there by tube  again but when your kid wants to go…. We went by bus, but the experience was still unpleasant. Watching football in the flesh — as against watching by video — has its price.

But it also has its pleasant surprises. I remember the thrill on the face of my little one, as we saw Glenn Hoddle descending from the team bus, and we ran to  corner him for his autograph. You could never see the blue of his eyes on video, could you?

Me an autograph hunter, then  Yep! That’s what kids do to you. I also once got Nelson Piquet and Patrick Tambay at Brands Hatch, the Formula One circuit in Britain. Again, “for him!” Of course.

On Sunday 26 February 2012, my long-lost love for Spurs was rekindled when they quickly put two past Arsenal. Alas, as I watched with half an eye whilst seeking Ben Webster jazz records on Youtube, Arsenal suddenly reminded me of the reason why one of my other kids was infatuated with them. They did to Spurs, what they once did to Manchester United – i.e. they walloped Spurs in front of its own supporters. From two-down, the Gunners were 5-2 up in no time. Whuch raised the question in my mind: had the Arsenal coach,  Arsene Wenger, got 200 lives or what? Every time talk of sacking him reached a crescendo, his boys put on a fantastic show, and the talk of his dismissal died a natural death.

Ok, if Spurs had let me down, I’d at least take comfort from the discomfiture that Liverpool was suffering at the hands of lowly Cardiff City at Wembley. Liverpool had antagonised me by loudly supporting its Uruguayan player, Luis Suarez, who had been caught uttering racist words against a black player. Admittedly, he didn’t need to do that to court my dislike, for who can forget the dishonourable way he turned himself from a forward player into an extra-goalkeeper to deprive Ghana of a semi-final place at World Cup 2010 in South Africa?

Cardiff led 1-0 against Liverpool for many minutes. But Liverpool, the club that had once given us John Barnes and Ian Rush, remembered their pedigree and  equalised before full time. So the match went into extra time. And Liverpool scored first and seemed to have sewn it up. Yet Cardiff equalised just 2 minutes or so before the end of extra time. What!

When Liverpool lost the first shot in the penalty shootout, , I actually yelled “YES!” (I’d been hoping that they would ask the Uruguayan [Ghanaian taboo-word] to take the first shot and that he’d shoot wide, but this was also OK — second best.

But then, poor Cardiff was unable to do the business! They managed, despite their earlier heroic efforts, to lose the match on penalties!

So there I was – I felt as if the gods of football had beaten me by two goals to nil. I now had two choices of action – either to sink into complete angst, or to do something bold which, if successful, would wipe defeat off my face.

I decided to try and unblock the sink in my bathroom!

That exclamation mark is there for a very good reason. You see, I am a certified ‘non-do-it-yourself’ person. I got to know that when I was in school. Once, when I was in love with a very beautiful girl and became clothes-conscious, I tried to iron my khaki uniform in the impeccable manner some of my more ‘with-it’ classmates ironed theirs. I asked how they did it and they told me that you either used starch, or gari soaked in water. You wetted the khaki with it. And then you stuck the very hot pressing iron on the cloth and made sharp, stylish pleats on the front and back of the shorts. You made equally sharp pleats on the sleeves of the shirt. Then you folded the shirt and made a neat, straight line across the back. Hey presto — you’d joined the dandy club.

It sounded as easy as koko [porridge] to me. But when I put the iron on the wet, starched shorts, the iron got stuck on it. I couldn’t pull it out! The short of it is that I burnt a brownish hole in my shorts. I had to rescue an old discarded  uniform of mine and go to school with it. I tried as hard as I could to avoid my would-be paramour that day, but as these things happen, she chose that day of all days to come up close to me to borrow an eraser. She smiled angelically when I told her that she could keep it, but that only added to my misery. I was trying to “hide my farm-going-type uniform” all the time, and that made me confused and shifty. I could foretell that my love for her was a lost cause. Why should I alone have been born with ‘two left hands’, huh?

I mean, I also tried, once, to cut two wheels out of a piece of odum wood that I had deftly nicked from the discards piled near the workshop of a carpenter. The wheels were to form part of a ‘lorry’ I was constructing to carry water home from a nearby stream. I drew a couple of very fine circles on the wood with a piece of chalk, and then went about cutting them out as wheels. My circles, however, came out, when I cut them, as jag-ended rectangles. The unevenly-cut wheels wobbled when I drove my finished ‘lorry’,  and half the water dribbled on to the ground from the bucket in which I was trying to convey water home.

And I wanted to unblock a sink?

Yeah. I knew from experience that if you called a plumber, he would charge you as soon as he arrived at your house – even before he had set eyes on the work you wanted him to do for you. They denominate that as a “call-out charge”.


Yes. The plumber could also take as long over your job as he wanted. For the longer he stayed with your sink, the more he would charge you! One has quoted me sixty pounds sterling an hour before. Yet British plumbers never cease to complain that plumbers from Poland are flooding the country to take the food out of the mouths of British plumbers.

So I decided to have a go at the sink myself. Fortunately, I had inherited something called a ‘plunger,’ and I began to try my hand at using it to unblock the sink.

I put the plunger in the sink and pressed it down, then pushed it up. Several times. It was like practising the technique for resuscitating heart attavk victims.

Nothing happened. The dirty water merely passed through the overflow pipe and dripped straight back into the sink. The water level stayed the same, no matter how hard I tried.

I was now sorely tempted to leave it and — call a plumber. I considered a chemical option, but dropped the idea pretty fast. For I’d once been told to use caustic soda to unblock a sink, with results that were not exactly Nobel-Prize-for-Chemistry-winning stuff. The caustic soda in fact solidified in the pipe and ahem! – a plumber – had to come and cut through the pipe with a hacksaw! His charge was very high. Naturally.

As confused thoughts raced through my mind, an idea occurred to me – why not Google the words sink+unblock+plunger and see what came up?

A clearly-written article conveyed to me, exactly what I had been doing wrong: “put a rag in the overflow pipe of the sink, so that water cannot pass through it back into the sink”, it instructed.

I did that. And Eureka! The water in the sink began to go down effortlessly. Soon, the sink was empty. Knowhow, eh? Even a hamfisted idiot could be taught things, if only he’d seek info based on knowhow.

I felt absolutely euphoric.

I forgot all about Spurs and their inability to hold on to their lead.

I forgave Cardiff for not punishing Suarez/Liverpool for me.

I even began to forgive Liverpool itself – surely, there was a case for deciding that it was not their fault that Suarez became a swear-word to us, Ghanaians? Anyway, were we convinced, with the type of coaches we hired (one of whom had just let our soccer secrets out of the bag: namely that our players strongly believe in “juju” rituals before a match, and often suspected one another of bringing “bad luck” to the rest) that we were World Cup-winning material? On the issue of coaches, was it not generally known that our sports administrators (some of whom double as soccer agents) put too much pressure on them by specially pleading for particular players to be included in the selected squads, in the belief that if “their players” were selected, they would get a chance to showcase their skills to the world and thereby be signed by the rich clubs of Europe? With good commissions paid to their agents?

I became a rational person again, once the sink problem had been solved. So, hey, man – Mr Ben Webster – play that [again!], even though  you’re not called ‘Sam’.  (If you haven’t watched the film, Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, be up on your bike — to the nearest video store!)


Permanent link to this article: