I have never been an ardent football lover, or lover of any kind of sport. I grew up to a dad that was, well, a football freak, but even at that, I wasn’t enticed.
All this changed about two months ago when I actually started getting interested in football as I joined a group that organized the 1st edition of the Brown Ideye Challenge, a football competition for clubs in and around Port Harcourt.
It was a one month event and in the period I worked with this group, my love for football grew in leaps and bounds, especially watching a live game at a stadium.
As I noticed in the last two months, the difference between watching a football game on TV and at the stadium is your closeness to the players, the fans and the arguments in the bleachers.
There will be the supporters club singing and keeping the place lively as a commentator will be pointing out things, exclaiming even when absolutely unnecessary and generally talking.
There will be agitated coaches, and there will be an atmosphere filled with different emotions.
Bottom line is that it is always fun.
How MFM FC rocked Port Harcourt
I’ve not watched lots of games on TV, or gone to lots of stadiums, but in my little experience, never have I seen what happened at the Liberation Stadium (Oops! I hear it’s called the Yakubu Gowon Stadium these days) in Port Harcourt on 12th June, 2016.
I arrived the stadium some few minutes past 2pm with Mr Emeka Nwani of Super
Sports and was later joined by Nigeria’s biggest football blogger, Mr China Acheru.
It was a match between Rivers United and MFM FC slated for 4pm, but we got there when we did not because we love the games more than the next person, but because some things have to be put in place before a match begins, so believe me when I say I saw it all.
Before I go any further, let me state that MFM FC belongs to the famous church,
Mountain of Fire & Miracles Ministry (MFM).
The players arrived not long after we did and started their usual warm up became the first whistle.
While they were at it, security protocols moved around to make sure people sat in the right places, and more people came and chose their seats.
I noticed that most of the women looked…’churchy’. I thought it was maybe that day was a Sunday. I completely forgot that I had witnessed a game on a Sunday before.
I also forgot that MFM FC belonged to a church.
Well, more people came and at exactly 4pm, after observing a minute’s silence for
Late Stephen Keshi and Shaibu Amodu, the match kicked off.
I sat in the row meant for the press and away from the chants coming from the supporters club, and the DJ.
But when I heard the thunderous sounds of trumpets, tambourines, clapping and singing, I was surprised.
Players of both teams were already on the pitch digging it out with neither side willing to concede, but it didn’t feel like a football match, it felt like a crusade.
Members of the church came to the stadium and filled up a whole sector of the stadium
Some people put the number of MFM members in the stadium at one thousand.
It would have been a beautiful sight without all the noise. If a player looks up to the bleachers and see faces of his fans he doesn’t have to disappoint, he’ll play the game of his life.
I wasn’t keeping track of time, but few minutes into the game, the first goal was scored and it came in around the 16th minute by the MFM FC.
The ruckus that ensued was alarming. I’m so sure that if there hadn’t been a barricade, most of them would have run into the pitch.
Not long after that goal, Rivers United FC equalized making the scores 1-1.
The players were still at it with neither side willing to give in.
Another goal! Rivers United FC was on fire.
The jubilation from fans of MFM FC didn’t slow go down a notch, even though they were down. They continued their celebration.
After 45mins, first half came to an end. The scores were Rivers United FC 2-1 MFM FC.
The short break before the beginning of second half wasn’t a dull one. A raffle draw took place, vendors moved around with their goods, and of course the chants coming from fans of MFM FC.
Second half began after what didn’t seem like forever. The boys, with renewed strength, picked up from where they left off.
I still did not think to turn on my stopwatch cause then I didn’t know I’ll get a piece done from that match.
But after a few minutes, there was yet another goal…from Rivers United FC.
They’d done it again, putting the scores at 3-1.
I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that just maybe the singing, clapping and dancing was distracting the players, and maybe, just maybe some might have lost sight of the objective at hand.
The enthusiasm of MFM FC fans reduced and it affected their chanting. Some of them actually left.
But the game continued. Both teams were at each other’s throats, and playing so well.
Another goooal!! Unbelievable! Rivers United FC 4-1 MFM FC. I didn’t see that last one coming.
MFM FC fans couldn’t hide their disappointment. More people left. The empty bleachers became more obvious.
The noise reduced, and you could tell from the look on some faces that there was no hope.
Finally, it was 90mins and the referee raised the whistle to his lips.
It was an amazing game to say the least. Never in my wildest imaginations did I think that a football match could feel more like a church crusade, but it didn’t only happen, I witnessed it.
It was an unusual sight.
In the midst of everything though, I learnt something. Fans of MFM FC came to the stadium from church in their numbers, not minding that there had earlier been a
Downpour and the weather was looking like another rain was coming.
Even when they knew the odds were against them, they stayed. More than a handful remained and cheered on until the sound of the final whistle.
I’m patiently looking forward to my next visit to a stadium for another game and maybe another surprise.
It still amazes me how I transformed from not giving football a second thought, to looking forward to next games.
I call this one a game I won’t forget in a hurry.
The magic isn’t in scoring the first goal, it’s in maintaining the winning streak.
And this is coming from a person who did not care about football three months ago.
You can follow Lisetta Woluchem on twitter via @LisettaWoluchem