Village soccer was a lot more exciting


BELIEVE, in the same way that I believe that there is God in whom I believe, that, if soccer rivalry was the equivalent of military warfare, my beloved country, which also happens to own four major things – love, peace, harmony and mountain Kilimanjaro – would have long been reduced to nothingness; pure ash.

While heading to my stool at the counter of a facility that sells drinks that born-again children of God hate and don’t want fellow human beings to drink, I came face-to-face with near-disaster. For the record, no-one except me sits on that stool, which is reserved for an old patron reverentially referred to as Babu K.

Even when I am out of town, or in town but feels like drinking sugar-less coffee at a senior citizens’ chit-chat evening baraza for a change, as well as to feel a bit heavenly, the stool remains empty.

A young man whose identity no-one disclosed for fear that I would have cursed him, and he could die ten years or so earlier than schedule, reportedly remarked that the babu in question was a wizard.

He claimed that when he tried to seat on it once, he felt a frighteningly piercing sensation on his backyard, as though he had suffered a mild electric shock. I am 73 per cent sure that he is an uncrowned champion at manufacturing lies, and, at the very least, a distant companion of the devil.

Before I reached the stool, something happened to my blessed nose, and by the time I was deposited on the hard surface, blood was gushing from the nostrils the way water does from a burst pipe. The two young men responsible vanished as fast as ice cubes melt in a glass of whisky.

At the height of a bitter argument, the chaps, who turned out to be twins, had been arguing as fiercely as two Burundian politicians. It was shortly after a football match between two European teams that they had been watching on a giant screen in the bar. At the height of the argument, as they were heading home, one teased the other, that the victorious team had applied juju imported from Sumbawanga. He said that, minus the agency of witchcraft, it could be beaten even by the Madongo Kuinama FC of Mbagala Rangi Tatu !

It’s at that point that the teased man threw a punch that he dodged, and which landed on my un-insured nose. A week later, I was the focus of a brief drama while doing Nchi Yetu Breweries a favour at the facility, by buying and drinking a liquid that the late broadcaster, Julius Nyaisangah, informed us that it shared bronze colour with cockroaches. The two young men knelt beside the stool and started shedding tears that were truly theirs and not a crocodile’s.

The elder of the twins (by two and a half minutes) apologized for the accidental attack, and pleaded with me not to cause them to grow monkey-like tails at their backyards, as they had reliably heard I would. People nearby laughed as hilariously as baboons that had just munched sweet bananas.

I reassured them that I was not just not superstitious, but had difficulties in even spelling its Kiswahili version, ushirikina, correctly. The following evening, the bar manager informed me that the chaps had deposited two crates of beer for me at the counter to sip in liberal installments, as a self-imposed shared fine for having hurt me.

I thanked them privately, because, in these times of Government Number Five’s financial dryness, such an offer is almost as rare as a solar eclipse! I recalled my boyhood days when, unlike our digital-era compatriots, it was virtually criminal for anyone not to play football.

Shirtless and shoe-less, we played on partially hilly clearings; our feet were hardened by hitting stones, and, on average, everyone, everyone lost three nails.

Matches were frequently suspended for livestock to be conducted across, and for snake boys to cross for visits to their girl friends on the other side. No-one passed the ball to anyone else; everyone shot it towards the rival’s direction, to become a hero if he scored, though not on a Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi scale.

We took turns to act as whistle-less referee, who was also a player who shouted out orders and even booked himself for offences like off-side play. Procedures like half-time break and how long the match stretched were non-existent. Whoever felt tired went off the pitch, as did whoever guessed it was time to go on a firewood-fetching errand.

The reason behind my slight limping is that in 1963, grandpa hit my right knee with a big stick, for delaying to collect family cattle from the grazing field, thanks to being overwhelmed by the sweetness of a game one blessed evening.

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