It was the start of a revolution. It was the beginning of an era. Do you think you know this tale?
Perhaps most of you think you do.
I, however, will prove you wrong. So forget history, forget what you have heard before, forget what you think you know and join me as I take you down the memory lane.
Once upon a time…
It was the day we all had been waiting for. The climax of the Provincial seminary games was here with the football grand finale, pitting Bigard FC against one of its greatest rivals in the game - Isienu FC. Yes! We were tagged heavy favourites for the match. So far, we were the only football team boasting a 100% win record, conceding only a single goal in the build-up to the final. Besides, during the pre-tournament friendlies, we had withstood a reserve team of Rangers FC, Enugu who were at the peak of their success in the Nigerian premier league. We had initially played a thrilling 40-minute-goalless draw against their Team C after which Team B was called into action. They dominated possession against our tiring team for long periods of play. However, we had the zeal and stamina. At the end of the day, we had achieved almost the impossible. The score board read:
Bigard FC 0 -0 Rangers FC
Thus, that was why going into the football final against Isienu, most people believed that the coveted trophy was coming home. However, in the dressing room, many of us were extremely nervous and tense. This was chiefly because Bigard already lost all the final matches they had qualified for; volleyball, basketball, lawn tennis (double) and table tennis (single). Some had secretly begun to call it the ‘Bigardian curse’. We knew that we had to clinch this trophy to avoid Bigard ’98 becoming a disaster for the school. Our rector, Rev. Fr. V. entered the locker room briefly to wish us success in the upcoming match. Our coach Taribo was shouting instructions to us.
“Ipa, try to make good use of your aerial prowess…”
“Bulala, you dare not get a yellow card before the end of first half…”
“De Cat, make sure your gloves are well in order…”
We knew we had to make him proud. Playing as a defensive midfielder, I was assigned to man-mark ‘Zoza’, the skilful Isienu shadow striker. This was to create more freedom for ‘Omoka’, one of the three players who had been called from our newly created affiliate institute; Pope Johnpaul, Bigard campus, Awka. Hierarchy, arguably the best player in our team was looking calm, probably in an attempt to reassure us.
Finally, it was time to move into ‘Atakwu’ stadium for the match. I opened my mouth in amazement. We had expected a large number of spectators, but what we saw certainly shocked us. The entire Enugu state was there in the stands. It felt like the World cup final at USA 1994. They had come to watch their own version of Brazil versus Italy, only that we wished we were going to be Brazil by the time the match ended.
At the podium already was the Bigard fan club, proudly led by our able trumpeter, ‘Kojoni’. The atmosphere was thrilling and charged. After the pre-match formalities, our captain, Samba and the skipper of the opposing team exchanged a warm handshake and then ‘Piii’, the center referre’s whistle sounded. We were playing the greatest match of our life.
The first half was devoid of chances, as the tense atmosphere was getting at us. Albeit, a sublime effort from ‘Hierarchy’; making a wonderful effort from ‘Maimon’s’ pass which grazed the post, there was no other serious attempt at goal. The second half itself was a battle field as both teams played dangerously, desperate to score a possible winner. Bigard had already been brandished four yellow cards, as opposed to Isienu’s three. Finally, full time saw the score end 0-0. Going into extra time, our minds were racing. Even the fan club had started to feel the heat as the intensity of their music was gradually ebbing. Maimon had already been substituted and our veteran goalie, ‘Rene De Cat’ was looking more cat-like than I had ever seen before. The match commenced and it seemed Isienu FC had been pumped adrenaline into their blood. Gradually, we were pegged back at our own half. ‘Rene De Cat’ had already made three crucial saves. Suddenly, we started a swift counter-attack, ‘Samba’ gave me a through ball, my pass then found ‘Cafu’ who moved with superb skill and gave an exquisite cross to ‘Equalizer’ who headed powerfully into the net. It was a memorable moment as a voracious noise erupted from us. Most of the supporters thought we had already won the trophy. However, we knew the match was far from over as FIFA had already replaced the rule of ‘golden goal’ after the 1996 Olympics tournament at Atlanta, which saw Kanu Nwankwo score a 94th minute winner against Brazil to take Nigeria to the final (of course, we won Argentina at the final). We held on after the goal and it felt like ages playing the second half of the extra-time. Finally, the referee blew his whistle… we had done it. We were champions. Spectators ran into the stadium, lifting all our teammates to the air. I felt hot tears rolling down my eyes. Slowly in the distance, someone was calling my name…
“Igwe Charles! Igwe Charles!”
I gradually opened my eyes. It was one of the twins tugging my soutane as he was making effort to wake me up. Slowly my eyes got accustomed to my surrounding. It was the Multi-purpose hall. The handout before me read ‘GENEALOGY OF RELIGION’. Instantly, I was jolted to reality. I had drifted to sleep during lectures.
“Charles Igwe, stand!” boomed the voice of the lecturer. “Narrate the Islamic invasion of the Christian states of North Africa.”
I stood up weakly, my mind still very much enchanted by fantasy dream.
“It was the start of a revolution. It was the beginning of an era…”