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Aug
26

WHEN FOOTBALL BECOMES WAR

SO WE ARE NOT THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO THINK THAT FOOTBALL MEANS WAR?

By CAMERON DUODU

NEWS REPORT: QUOTE:Cameroonian striker Albert Ebosse has died after being hit by an object thrown by fans at a game in Algeria. Ebosse, who was 24, was declared dead after being taken to hospital in Tizi Ouzou, east of the capital, Algiers. [Ebosse scored the only goal for his team] JS Kabylie … who were defeated 2-1 at home in a league encounter by USM Alger. Ebosse was hit when spectators started throwing objects from the stands, as the teams left the pitch at full-time.END QUOTE

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Ebossse could not have been killed by objects thrown by his team’s adversaries, because it was the opposing team that WON the match. Not only that – it would be suicidal for a visiting team’s supporters to throw objects at the players of their adversaries on the adversaries’ home ground, wouldn’t it?

So it stands to reason that Ebosse was killed by his own team’s supporters! Now, why would they do that – to the only player who, in fact, scored for them during the match?

No – it is difficult to dismiss the possibility that racism played a part in the deadly attack against Ebosse. He was a pure black Cameroonian, whereas many Algerians consider themselves to be white, or “nearly-white”! Unfortunately, even if the Algeria authorities discover racist motives in the attack, they won’t admit it, for it would go against the grain of Algeria’s valiant position in Africa’s anti-colonial struggle.

The sad affair eloquently illustrates the fact that many people consider football as more of a “war” than a game. It brings to mind, some of the football encounters between my village and the other villages nearby.

There were some particularly nasty matches called “shabo-shabo” in which the sides were not necessarily drawn from the “villages” playing at all, but were largely constituted by mercenaries hired from big towns nearby.

Asiakwa Eleven, for instance, used to surreptitiously hire players from Koforidua or Tafo (where the Rovers team was full of talent because its ranks were swollen by “WACRI” [West African Cacao Research Institute] employees. We didn’t know who really constituted the teams of such rivals as Kibi Eleven, either, and we expected its ranks benefited from players studying at Abuakwa State College, or the “Addo Kwaata” commercial college in the town. The suspicion that we were playing mercenaries, not “native townspeople”, lent an extra edge to the rivalries that marked matches between us.

Because our team was happy to bend the rules of the game and knew that its opponents did the same, no quarter was given on the field. If we were playing at home, the first thing we did was to find a referee who would be “sympathetic” to us. We would normally choose a school-teacher (preferably, a “Games Master”) and use a respected patron of our team to go and corrupt him before the match. Usually, he would be promised a “sweetheart” or, if he was not the romantic type, hard cash. Sometimes we bought a chicken for the guy. Anyway, it would all be done in a very diplomatic manner, so that the guy would not feel guilty.

Once this referee had accepted our subtle bribe, he would take decisions on the field that baffled our opponents. One of these was the strange rule we had cleverly evolved, that decreed that “seven corners make one goal”!

What?

Yes – if, during the match, one of our strikers got near the goalmouth of our opponents, he would deliberately not try to score, but rather kick the ball at one of our opponents defenders. If the ball hit him and went into touch behind the goal-posts, it would be a corner. Now, if our strikers managed to obtain seven consecutive corners against our opponents, the referee would point to the centre-spot and declare that we had scored a goal, because “seven corners make one goal!”

Of course, the opposing players would argue strongly that this was not in the rules of the game. Whereupon, our referee, backed vociferously by our team and its home supporters (who would invade the pitch at the slightest sign of a dispute!) would repeat the refrain that “’the referee’s decision is final”.

Normally, the opposing side would threaten to leave the field rather than succumb to the dictates of a referee who was so “partial” that he invented his own rules whilst officiating in a match. So we only gave the referee the signal to invoke that rule when we were quite certain we would lose the game.

But sometimes, even a bribed referee would think it too blatant to implement the strange rule that “seven corners make one goal”. Well, if he did that, he would be threatened – if he had taken money, it would be demanded back. If he had been promised a “sweetheart” after the match, he would sleep alone that night!

As for the opposing team, if they chose to withdraw from the field, we would chase them, and beat them up. We could also provoke a fight on the field of play by asking them to pay back any contribution we had made to their transport costs! They would normally refuse to give us any money back – and so we fought them.

Now, when we were playing away, we couldn’t implement our own rules, so the only weapon available to us would be to withdraw from the field of play, if we suspected that some cunny-cunny (cunning) rule had been applied against us by a partial referee. But marching off the field in anger was not without its own dangers.

We had to be extremely fast whilst trying to make it to our lorry after abandoning a match! If we found that through bad luck, our lorry driver was not around but had gone to look for some palm-wine or akpeteshie to drink, on the reasonable assumption that the match would last the full 90 minutes, we would have hell to pay for. You see, the promoters of village football matches often had to pay money to employ labourers to fence the football pitch with palm fronds and bamboo, in order to be able to collect gate fees. And those who had paid to come and watch the match would be seriously looking for the promoters! And the promoters had a word or two to tell us. So it was usually WAR!

We would sing self-adulatory songs on our way back home:

LEAD SINGERS: We are we! We are we! We are we!

CHORUS: We are we! (Repeat)

LEAD SINGERS: No-one can match us!

CHORUS: We are we!…

And so on. One of our songs even compared us to “the speedy doves of the skies”:

Mmoroma eeeei, eeee ee,

Mmoroma eei! (Repeat)

Asiakwa mmoroma eee

Yenam

Na sena obiara nntumi yen!

(Asiakwa doves, we are flying! And no-one could us! In anything that we do!)

No one could us?”

Yes! You see, in the Twi language, the equivalent of the word can is an active verb, not an auxiliary verb that needs another in order to complete the idea it wants to convey. So if someone annoys you, you merely ask him, Can you me? (Not can you beat/match/equal me.) It is in fact the Twi equivalent of the recently-famous rhetorical question in English: “Are you my co-equal?”

By the way, before “tweaa!” and “co-equal” became household words in recent times, there was a dance, notoriously danced in Kumasi by a CPP woman, called (Ithink) Madam Banda which went by the name, “Wobetumi me?” [Can you me?] The woman, danced it triumphantly outside a court in Kumasi, after she’d been acquitted of a charge brought against her by her political opponents!

It is our propensity to see football in terms of war that has persuaded many to believe that Ghana should be “Co-World-Champions with Germany” as a result of lour efforts in the World Cup of 2014 in Brazil.

The reasoning is this: if we had walked off the pitch in the Ghana-versus-Germany match as soon as Ghana went ahead of Germany by 2 goals to 1. , we would have WON the match. Morally.

If we were kicked out of the competition for doing that, so what? We would still have got the whole world to know that since we were leading Germany by 2 goals to 1 before the match was abandoned, we were, the real World Champions. If the world would not agree to that, it should at least accept that we were the only co-equals of the Germans in the tournament. When we foolishly stayed on the pitch, we still managed to draw with Germany 2-2! So if they are World Champions, they should understand that they do have co-equals – us! We are de facto Co-World Champions., whether anyone likes it or not!

Q.E.D. 

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