Sierra Leone vs Nigeria AFCON qualifiers 2008

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Although morale was low after last Sunday’s 2-0 defeat in Equireal Guinea we were convinced that all was not lost as we looked ahead to the Sierra Leone Nigeria match at the national stadium. This was the first time I would watch the national team play an international match live at home. I was excited; hoping we would win, and worried we would lose.

The night before I got a text on my Comium phone instructing that tickets would be available for purchase at Youyi Building and at the Stadium starting at 8:30am. Later still in the same night I received another text stating that for security reasons tickets were only going to be sold at Police Stations starting at 10:30am. When I left my house at 11am to head to the shop, there was traffic both ways to town and Lumbley direction a rarity on a Saturday. I asked Hamid my driver and a big leone star lover-hater “traffic satiday na wetin apin?” “ na football fever. Dem day sell ticket na congo cross police station en di pipul dem make line tay cam na trit”.

On Wilkinson Road I saw homie Mahawa and we stopped both cars (adding to the traffic) and yelled across at each other. “ Yo, do we have tickets yet?” “ Not yet…lets make some calls” “ Alright…presidential stand…3 tickets?” “yeah three…see you at the shop”. Ticket prices ranged from 10,000 ($3) for open stand, 30,000 ($10) for covered and 100,000 ($33) for presidential. Impatient drivers had already begun to hunk at us as we drove off in opposite directions. 🙂

As we drove around, taxis and private cars with green white and blue flying in the sunshine and sweet salone breeze honked their horns as they blasted different radio stations all half playing music but mostly reading text messages of predictions on the game. One text message read “ Dj we’re going to give the super chickens 2-0”…I laughed. Another read, “Leone stars will not win if everyone does not come out to support”.

We picked up a friend visiting Freetown and we took the hill station/Wilberforce/tengbeh town/brookfields route to the stadium. People were arriving in droves…as we drove to the side entrance by the swimming pool the radio played the national anthem of Nigeria followed by that of Sierra Leone..letting us know that we were missing kick off.

Not knowing which way to go I spot a police officer and walk up to him…. “excuse me, how do we get to presidential stand” “follow me I will escort you” I guess he could sense that we were super important V VIPs J

We walked towards the gate and I showed our tickets…a man standing at the entrance asked to open my bag and I was like “for wetin?” Whenever people congregate di tif tif increases. He says; “ I am security” but before I could ask for identification I feel my body being shoved forward…di push push don begin. I half open my bag and squeeze my way past the entrance….We laugh at the madness and we head for presidential stand. As we zealously marched on I spotted my mom’s boss the ambassador from Ghana in front of us. He’d come to watch the games as well. I greet him and we head to the entrance.

Police and security are manning the entrance checking tickets…before we ever get in line three SLPs and one plane clothes officer are shoving a 300 pound 6 ft 3 young man (who had to have recently been living in America with that size) out of the way. There seems to be a mix up…I let the katakata fade to the side before we make an attempt to enter. The Ambassador in front and the four of us behind him all shoved together trying to get through and holding on to our purses. All of a sudden the Ambassador feels a man put his hand and his pocket and he grabs his hand. Na im roforofo cam yo…the police pummel the man with some serious pimp slaps and blows while we eased our way up stairs to be seated.

We come through and the entire stadium is jam packed with people, all the standing as filled to the max and I spot a several flags waving in the air. Ah SALONE WE LOVE YOU TO DEATH!!!!!

Then I heard drums and trumpets and singing and dancing….Its the Nigerian supporters…Damn these pipul they are out supporting us in our own stadium ha ba dem noh day fraid sef…singing their church songs and what not…where is our own band???

We have to climb a couple rows to seat on our plastic seats. What’s the difference between presidential stand and the rest??? NOTHING much except maybe the guarantee that you will see some persons of self or national importance…like a minister or two and yours truly and folks who seem to have money. The other thing about presidential stand is that most of the people there don’t care much for the game…They are there to pose J

Dressed in a fitted off the shoulder greenwhiteblue cotton I was ready to support. As the game went on, you could tell that we had a better team. We had more ball possession and we even kadded some of those ebeh fed naijans well well. I spotted Nigerian superstar Kanu with his infamous cornrows while our star M. Kallon sat out the match.

By the end of the first half Salone 0 Naija 0. I was not happy. My “lets go team” and “Offence!!!” were falling on def ears. I had a spooky feeling that we were going to lose the game…but I shook it off thinking “ PAPA GOD NOH GO DO WE SO BO”

The whistle blew and the game started for the second half. My Nigerian friend asked why the stadium was so quiet. I responded that the salone supporter takes the game too seriously to be jolly…man dem need fo focus. The Nigerian supporters on the other hand were still singing, drumming, and dancing. Every once in a while they would drop a hot beat and my body would move involuntarily until I made a conscious effort to be still.

Finally the moment I had been dreading came…A corner kick on the Nigerian side produced a funny fekeh fekeh goal. The kind of goal not worthy of replay, that makes you feel u could have saved it. And just like that, they beat us and the game was over.
As the tears rolled down my eyes I felt personally beaten…we never win anything….i felt the game was a testament to our condition….so much wasted potential…always feeling u’re good enough to win but u never score. This was the first national game I had ever watched live. Leone Stars the only team I ever really supported. As I sat there broken hearted, all I could think was….I WANNA GO HOME

We walked out of the presidential stand and waited outside for the stadium to clear up. I got cajoled into taking some pictures wanting to record the moment.We exited the stadium and headed home…on our way the team passed us in their convoy as they headed for Hill Valley Guest House. As I watched them go I felt really sad…couldn’t blame the team much. Who do u blame? They played well and didn’t score…maybe just bad luck coupled with Naija juju…yes na dat, na di juju na im make dem win

(Since the Nigeria game, We beat South Africa 1-0 at home, and drew 0-0 in South Africa…our dreams for the 2010 world cup are DEAD but hopefully we make it to the Nations cup in Angola.)

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