EP 01

The match has gotten to the last 15mins and we are 2nill down in what is our first ever final match in the FIFA world cup competition. We couldn’t believe our eyes as the center referee point to the penalty spot after the Uruguan striker willingly dive to the ground as if he was hit by a speed train. I can’t believe the same ref who had earlier gave two penalties to the Uruguans which resulted in their two goal lead will dip his hand into his pocket giving our left central back his marching order. Red card! For what? The guy wasn’t even the last man. This is a prove this FIFA won’t allow an African nation talkless of Nigeria to win the prestigious FIFA World Cup.

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Our coach was furious and all of us on the bench feel like protesting but it matters not as the penalty is well taken by the Uruguan striker who is now on hat-trick. He again put our goal keeper who has been jumping here and ther like a castrated mosquito the wrong way, again. 3nill with one man down, less than 15mins to the regular time, the game is all but over.

A change is expected from our coach to substitute either a midfielder or our lone striker (who has done nothing in the match but to dress his hair every now and then) for a defender to prevent a total humiliation. I, a young striker who made the team as a result of my performance in the previous year’s world youth tournament has giving up hope of ever appearing in the tournament. I was already lost in thinking when I heard the voice of my coach
“Williams”! Come over here and show the world how strong we are coming back next four years. I couldn’t believe my ears but quickly jump up removing the bench bib that I was putting on and now fully kitted. The assistant referee raise the changing bar with my number (32) in green and that of our left winger in red. I thought, does coach want me to play on the left side? My left leg is not as strong compare to my right.
Coach: listen Williams, I’m using you as my free man now
Me: What does that mean sir?
Coach: It means you are free to play any whereon the pitch
Me: Okay sir
Coach: Tell Okowa (our lone striker) it’s over to you guys now.
The coach then send a sign to the captain and the rest of the team which mean they should withdraw. I ecstatically entered the pitch knowing I’m now the youngest player to ever represent my country in the tournament. To my surprise, the crowds all stood up clapping as I entered the pitch, some singing using my name “You did it in Sydney you can do it here, you did it with Chelsea, you can do it here, go Williams go, go Africa go”. I immediately felt adrenalin running my body; chasing the ball as if my life depends on it. The singing was still going on when their last defender receiving a pass from their goal keeper tried to nutmeg me, but missed his step and instead hit the ball sideway, I saw the opportunity and remembered my coach’s word “use your speed” he said. I ran after the ball, looked up and I saw their goalkeeper was already on me with Okowa shouting at his back “I’m free boy!, ball!, ball!!, ball!!!. I hit the leather made white coloured round object with my right foot and the ball went directly to Okowa’s waiting right leg who made no mistake in sending the ball to the back of net from just 6yards. Goal! We scored. I was expecting a running jubilation from Okowa, but he instead run inside the goal, pick the ball and run towards the center pass using his hand to tell me to follow. It was then I remembered we were still two goals down with 10mins to go at regular time.

The match continued with Uruguans passing the ball around, to which they got a goal attempt from the powerful header of their powerful striker who headed the ball towards the far post from a perfect cross from the left wing. But our goalkeeper did well this time around clipping the ball between his palms and immediately sending the ball like a missile far beyond the center line towards the waiting Okowa who after some moves forward a pass to my very self who has a defender to go through and boom! I was already rolling on the floor; I did not even know what happened until I heard my captain shouting “you wan kill him? wetin happen na?

Then Okowa was beside me saying, “O boy get up, there is no time, he already gave the free kick”. I stood up perfectly okay as the free kick was about to be taken by our captain. I stood in the box with others running here and there. The ball was kicked and before I know what’s going on I felt a push from behind and as I was trying not to fall the ball hit my head and deflected to the far corner of the post. Goal! I just scored! 3-2 and said to myself, Liverpool versus AC Millan is happening all over again. You cannot hear your words anymore as the cheers and jeers from the crowd are overwhelming. The match continues and we go an equalizer from a corner kick by one of our fill backs who headed the ball beyond their goalkeeper’s reach at the end of regular time 90mins. Wao! I can’t believe this is happening. The assistant referee signifies additional 3minutes of injury time but I wish the match ends by 90mins.
The Uruguans are now playing at a very high tempo to which they hit the woodwork in the space of 1min. 30secs to go and the ball got to my leg through a direct pass from our goalkeeper.

I kept moving with the ball speeding along as I only have the goalkeeper to beat. He kept moving towards me and approach speedily as I get towards the edge of the box, I dribbled to the right side, and immediately lose control but struggled to hit the ball towards the goal before another boom! I’m on the floor again. But this time, it’s a penalty. I received hailing from my team mate with shout of jubilation from the crowd. Our bench has already stood up as our captain is about to take what will be the kick of our life! The referee blew and he kicked the ball so hard but it hit the goalkeeper’s waiting leg.




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