Super Eagles Uyo Diary: Many things I do not understand

It was a different kind of match day than we had seen with the Super Eagles in God knows how long.

I do not know if the Super Eagles have ever had an 8 pm kick-off in Nigeria, or when last they did, but it was a bit awkward that we had so many hours to burn before the game.

My friends, Mike, Harris and Eddie were supposed to arrive in Uyo at about 11 am, but they sent a message early that their flight had been delayed until 1.40 pm. I got a bit apprehensive hoping they would actually come to Uyo at all.

Breakfast was in bed as Andrew Randa, Carl Orakwue, Ghanaman, Sawadinho, Okey Onwugbonu, Oluwafemi Balogun all gathered in my room for omelette, bread and coffee, and then we reminisced on the SWAN Selected game from the previous day

Our coach must be sacked

Benchwarmers: Faith Oluchi, Chris Emenoyu, China Acheru, Victor Kwame Sampong, Tunde Bello, Okey Onwugbonu and Andrew Randa

I was played out of position. I am China Baresi, also known as the Great Wall of China. No attacker goes behind me (Well, in my heyday).

When Tobi looked at me on the bench and said, “You go enter play on the right,” I thought he was joking, but as an obedient footballer, I ran in to play on the right side of midfield in front of Tunde Bello who played in Right Back. Did Tobi set me up to fail? Was he envious of my legendary status in football? Why did he play me on the right? Sabotage?

We have to bring back coach Yema Olarenwaju to our team. Tobi Adepoju will only lead us to destruction. Yes, I said it.

A concerned citizen of the world, livid

And the travel bloggers arrive

Arrival at Vinpy hotel: Eddie Pelle, Glen Harris (Backing us) and Mike Safoscnick

Mike Safoscnick found me on Amazon while searching for anything on Nigerian sports. So he saw my book, A Thousand Times on The Same Road and bought it. He read it and approached me on Twitter. We have been friends since 2020 and that was when he started planning this trip to Nigeria.

He was coming along with two other travel bloggers, Eddie Pelle and Glen Harris. In this one trip, they had been to Abidjan, then Lagos, and Lome to watch the game between Togo and South Sudan, back to Abuja and then Uyo.

Vincent Enyeama on ground to welcome them

I had called the former Super Eagles goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, as I thought they should stay in his Vinpy Hotel. He was there to welcome us in as we arrived from the airport. They chatted a bit, then went to their rooms, while we prepared to leave for the stadium, Fisherman soup was being readied for them. They had no idea what Fisherman soup was but were open to exploring.

Fisherman soup on the menu

In their short time in Nigeria, they had tried Fufu, Nkwobi, Suya, snails, pounded yam, pepper soup, and of course jollof rice. Fisherman soup was like the icing on the cake. When Harris saw the crab, he exclaimed, “There’s a full crab in here,” as he pulled it out by one of its limbs and kept it on one side of the plate. I almost choked on my food. I told them that Fisherman soup should not be finished, but a bit left in the plate, but Mike would have none of that. He cleared his plate or almost did. Eddie was a bit more conservative while Glen Harris just seemed excited about the whole thing.

They had fifteen minutes go get ready so we headed to the stadium.

The Stadium

The stadium, as usual, was a mess at the gates. And this is the reason why I decided to leave the hotel at 5,30pm for the game kicking off at 8 pm.

I know how crazy Nigerian stadium attendants are, and the overzealous police too. I also got press tags for my friends, rather than just the VIP tickets. I knew what I was doing.

There was already a ruckus at the gate. Then some crazy man in uniform had asked someone to lock the gate, and I wondered why.

At the bigger gate for cars, a Stadium assistant was screaming at the top of his voice. I had no idea what he was on about, but we had to get in because any extra minute spent at the gates would mean extra or more intense mayhem. Ghana man was in front, I was behind, and then there was Mike, Eddie and Harris following us. I looked at the vehicle gate and wanted to push Eddie and Mike ahead of me through that gate. I know how Nigerians react when they see Caucasians. They’d worship them, whilst opening the gates for us all to pass. Suddenly, Ghana man raised his press tag at the uniformed men, the fellow looked at it, and went, “Let them pass. They are pressmen!”

At that moment, every single one of them raised up their press tags while something like a guard of honour was formed for us as we walked through. Was it just the tags, or the added fact that there were Oyimbo men with us? I could see the excitement on the face of Harris. He never stopped talking about that moment.

The match, Finidi’s bravery, gun-totting policemen

Big shame! these are the policemen that will open fire as soon as they smell trouble

We got in to see an empty stadium, so why did they lock the gates? Is there something they are not telling us about spectators filling up the stadium? They throw gates open so more people can get in, and then they shut the gates to stop the people from going crazy!

Another crazy thing was Finidi’s starting line up. It was not crazy, but brave. No Moffi, no Boniface? Iheanacho on the right, Fisayo in the middle? What was in his head?

The play was neither here nor there but I will not join Nigerians with their knee jerk reactions. It was not the result we all wanted, but we will take it. The Eagles did enough to win. They lost at least three chances in the last ten minutes. Hopefully, the team wins in Abidjan against Benin.

During the game, someone came into the state box. I have no idea who the person was, but there were loads of rifle-carrying policemen right there in the terraces. Not good at all. But this is Nigeria. We know how to do it anyhow. One day, we will get it right.

I did not bother going to the Post Match Press Conference. No need for that. It would be a mess, once again. Ii was always going to get the recording, and I could always call up the coach and ask him any questions I thought was necessary.

After the game, one kid asked to take a selfie with one of the guys, and then all of a sudden, there was a frenzy. A small group gathered around us, and they each wanted a selfie with Mike, Harris and Eddie.

Nigeria should have won that game. We did not. The world does not end. I tick off another game watched. We will be back to Uyo for another game.

Port Harcourt at last, even the air tastes different

Janine Anthony, the kid from my past

Our scheduled time for departure was noon. Breakfast was supposed to come in at 8 am. Good plan, our chef asked us to wait until 9 am but still did not turn up until way past 10 am. This was very annoying. I asked the hotel kitchen to get a pot of hot water for coffee, and I insisted on it being very hot.

The jabroni came with a pot of water that was not hot. Shet! I only noticed after mixing my coffee. I went back to the reception to make a complaint. He apologised and said he would send another one. At this time the food had not even arrived. He brought in another pot of water, and we mixed more coffee. It was Femi Balogun who said, “Bros, this one too is no hot o!” I put my mouth to the cup and it was worse than the first one. I was livid.

I went back to the reception and then called the fellow out. His response made me lose it. He touched the cup with the back of his hand, and went, “Sir, but it is warm!”

Me wey no dey shout, I shout wetin no good that morning. Okey Onwugbonu came out later to ask what had happened. “I heard your voice and I knew that it must have been annoying for you to get that angry.

By the time breakfast came, two and a half hours late, the food was cold. I do not naturally eat cold food, so I did not. It was already a bad morning for me.

We eventually did not leave our hotel until way past 1 pm. Yes, another thing that delayed us was the arrival of Janine Anthony. A little kid I had first met sometime in 2012 and hadn’t seen her in maybe eight years. She was now doing big things with TikTok. We spent so much time trying to catch up before we eventually left the hotel.

Yes, our vehicle had an issue on the road (as usual) and we stayed there for at least thirty minutes before we continued on our journey. I was home at about 6.30 pm and immediately stepped out with Andrew Randa again. There was a party somewhere he had to attend. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, but who were we to run from a little vanity? Port Harcourt at last! Even the air tastes different.

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