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Don’t Die on Wednesday is first as sports fiction, says Afenfia




Until recently, Michael Afenfia took creative writing, as a pastime but after writing his third novel titled Don’t Die on Wednesday, he has begun to think differently. Afenfia found motivation for using an issue as contemporary as football to tell the infectious story of a successful young Nigerian who faced challenges that finally ended his career. It eventually led to issues with his marital and family life.

He recently told reporters in Abuja that trying to do something different accounted for the title of his latest book.

He said, “I wanted the book to draw as much attention as possible. I wanted something unique, something catchy, and different from my previous books. When the title came, I thought I liked it and everyone that has seen the book tells me the same thing.

“I want people to ask the kind of question you are asking now about the title and how it came about. That was why I stuck to it. I hope it’s a trailblazer. I haven’t read a book like it before. I wanted to do something that had not been done and see how people receive it. Therefore, I intended it to be unique.

“I wanted to explore an aspect of the genres in a way that is trendsetting so other writers can task themselves, too. The whole world is captivated by football today and I wanted my book to be the first of its kind by way of sports fiction.

“Through Bubaraye, we are reminded how fleeting a career in football can be and how people deal with post-traumatic situations when they are confronted with them. There was a time when the whole world was gushing over Tiger Woods, but today he can hardly make the list of top 100 golfers in the world. That must be hard”.

The book is a combination of fiction and reality, with real names and places like Manchester United, Tottenham, Old Trafford, London etc being mentioned, as well as non-existent names.

As he put it, “I wanted to try something new. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to be contemporary. I wanted people 50 years from now to say, ‘in 2015, this was how football was. There was somebody called (Wayne) Rooney who played for Manchester United’. It’s like doing a snapshot of the situation we are in now and building a work of fiction around it.

“I wrote the book this way to situate a contemporary story around real events. So that in future people would know how things are in Nigeria at the moment.”

On his ambition as a writer, Afenfia said, “Writing is a gift, I think. It’s a privilege to actualize the dream of being a writer. I constantly come across people who ask me, ‘How did you do it? How do you find the time?’ I believe so many persons have interesting stories to tell, be it biographical or fictional, but time and job pressure make it almost impossible for them to write. I have many more stories to tell and I will like to write more. The impact my books will have on people I cannot predict”.

Asked if his use football is to attract the young audience since reading culture has declined irretrievably in the country, Afenfia said he believes football remains one of the major avenues to attracting the attention of Nigerian youth, and said he knew that other topics have been explored in the past.

According to him, “Actually, all the other interesting topics one could write on have been covered and possibly over-flogged. You have slavery, colonialism, racism, the civil war, politics, love, etc. Therefore, I wanted to do something new; that was why I decided on sports fiction. And football was the obvious choice because of the interest it generates globally.

“Football is so infectious and global in its acceptance. It unites the world, and across the several kinds of lines we have drawn to divide us. When two good teams are playing, it really doesn’t matter who is Christian or Muslim or who speaks Ibibio or Ijaw. That’s what a good book does”.

As a writer, he confessed to being a difficult person to be with whenever he was doing his thing. But he is happy that those close to him understand his kind of person, noting, “I’m difficult to be with when I am writing. I almost become the characters myself. I guess it’s different with actors because they only get to play one character most times, but for a writer you have to imagine dialogue for all your characters and build a world around them. That process can be intense but my family members do understand that I am a writer and they give their support as much as possible.”

He hopes sincerely that it won’t be for too long to get his next book on the shelve, and when it does, it would be a fulfillment of the promise he made to the late Special Adviser to the President of Research and Documentation, Comrade Oronto Douglas, who he describes as his boss and mentor.

According to him, “I made a promise to my late boss, Oronto Douglas that Don’t Die on Wednesday wouldn’t be my last. Weeks before he died, he encouraged me to start writing again. When the book is finished and released, I hope it would be something that will measure up to his standard and I hope my fans will like it, too.”

Asked if he intends to write a book on him, especially the trauma of battling with cancer? Afenfia said, “Because of his battle with cancer, I would like to do something around it, but not necessarily tell his story and his own unique fight with the disease. I spent a lot of time with him and his family towards the end of his life. Those moments are personal and private and I’d like to keep it that way but I would love to create awareness about the plight of suffers and those who provide care for them”.

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