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Nutritious, alimentative and alimental football

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Tottenham’s Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino (C) and players of Tottenham Hotspur jubilate after winning the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Ajax Amsterdam and Tottenham Hotspur at the Johan Cruyff Arena, in Amsterdam, on May 8, 2019. – Tottenham fought back from three goals down on aggregate to stun Ajax 3-2 and set up a Champions League final against Liverpool. (Photo by Olaf Kraak / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT

As soon as Ajax of the Netherlands and Tottenham Hotspur of England ended their UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final encounter in the night of Wednesday, May 08, 2019, that is, nine nights ago, someone called to ask me what I thought of it and the eventual triumph of Spurs. He went further to make me venture which of the two English sides will eventually clinch victory at the UEFA Champions League final at the Wanda Metropolitano, Athletico Madrid Stadium in Spain. Will it be Liverpool or Spurs?

Well, well, well, regarding his first inquiry I answered as follows: “My Oh my! What we just saw Ajax and Spurs play was nutritious football, another nutritious football, similar to what we devoured a night earlier.” Perhaps I should even add now that what we saw in the two nights of the two UEFA Champions semi-finals between Liverpool and Barcelona, and between Ajax and Spurs respectively was nutritious, alimentative and alimental football.

Clearly, both semi-finals had their respective qualities that nourished buoyantly and bountifully my football heart and mind. I cherished (and still cherish) their worthiness which attracted my heart and mind which devoured them with pleasure. Oh nutritious football! Oh alimentative football! Oh alimental football!

What made the two nights the nights they were, were the “negroes,” the black “labourers,” in Liverpool and Spurs. They made possible the forms of football “psychologism” those two nutritious, alimentative and alimental nights that my Spider-Heart-and-Mind would wish to ingest again – if I must invoke this imagery with every sense of conscious nutrition and assimilation.

Last Friday in this column, I mentioned the “negro” “labourers” (minus one) in Liverpool who played lavishly prominent roles in Liverpool’s magnificent triumph over Barcelona. The missing name was Joel Matip who played at centre of defence. Joel Matip is a Cameroonian who is a member of the fabulous Indomitable Lions. According to Mayowa Akinsola, a regular reader of this column, “It was his long ball up-field, which Jordi Alba [of Barcelona] failed to clear properly that created the chain of events leading to Divock Origi’s opener. He made a couple of crucial challenges on Messi in the first half when he threatened to score. Striding forward with the ball whenever he could, he gave a performance worthy of one of the most important roles in contemporary football, the ball playing centre.” Well observed and well said, Mayowa. But Joel Matip is more than a contemporary black footballer in England. Like his fellow blacks in Liverpool or Spurs, he is a post-colonial elite “negro” footballer giving us the kind of football which we will always devour with our eyes, hearts and minds. He is like Dele Ali, Sissoko, Danny Rose and Lucas Moura, all of Spurs and goal-keeper Andre Onana of Ajax. They are classical post-colonials making hay while their sun shines in the white man’s land and land. These players’ moments of brilliance, each of which was a delight in the well-organized teams and matches referred to here, gave prominence to the black character that colonialism once-upon- a-time absurdly suppressed.

And the reference to colonialism here makes me remember what Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), French radical, revolutionary writer/philosopher said about this “institutionalized daily violence [of] a regime of brutal dehumanization,” that could only be defeated through the “liberatory power of violence.” (Are our oppressed workers reading this?)
Rightly or wrongly, as post-colonial black footballers, they have proved to the football-loving world that before our very eyes, hearts and minds black players are laying claim to the true and correct art of twenty-first century football. This may be an idealistic idealism, but it is an idealism that is real and devoid of illusion. Lucas Moura’s three goals (hat-trick in football language) that killed and buried Ajax despite the goal-keeping heroics of Andre Onana were nutritiously digestive ones that will recreate the shape and capabilities of other blacks in the material world of post-colonial football. Liverpool’s Origi’s and Wijnaldum’s respective two goals called braces, again in football lingo, will similarly influence many black players in and outside Europe to diet and exercise to fit into the new post-colonial clear evening of a quick, unexpected rare “pulse of heat or a sound or a smell” of nutritious, alimentative and alimental twenty-first century of black life. (By the way, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal’s three goals in the second leg away semi-final in the Europa league against Spain’s Valencia at the Mestalla should be seen in the same light. He and his fellow black brother Lacazette have marched the Gunners into the final with an aggregate score of 7-3. Their opponents? Chelsea of Stamford Bridge, their fellow Londoners.)

Now a pertinent focus on neo-football theory, which Liverpool and Spurs demonstrated in their respective second leg semi-finals. It is the theory of motivation. What did Klopp of Liverpool and Pochettino of Spurs promise or give to their respective players and teams that inspired and motivated them totally to achieve their nutritious triumphs which they will savour as truly historic engagements hereafter?

Let me answer this question by way of a simple ancient reference to my primary school team decades ago. My football team qualified to meet the dreaded St. Francis Primary School football team. My school was Council Primary School everybody in my time called the “best school around.” Both schools were in Sapele. The competition we partook in was “Football Competition for Primary Schools in Sapele and Environs.” To inspire us to beat St. Francis, and to drive fear and injuries from our feet, they were rubbed with mashed green leaves and sundry plants and alligator-pepper and hot water – just before we entered the field of Sapele Stadium. We were psychologically ready to fly to victory-land as our coach impressed it on our young minds as he and the man he brought to pep us up recited some incantations. Before then two things happened. Our captain, a centre-back, lost his father hours before the match was to commence. He was close to me. I was particularly told not to broach the sad news to him until after we won the match which we must win for him, for ourselves and our school. Of course, my other team-mates must also seal their lips until the match was over. We betrayed no emotions in order not to stimulate our captain’s suspicion.

The second event was in the form of a goat-promise from our head-master. He announced it openly at our morning assembly two days before the final that he would slaughter a huge goat for us the players if we beat St. Francis and shut their boastful mouths.

When the match began I reminded my mates, especially my fellow forwards, of the goat we must eat! “The goat, the goat! We must eat the goat!” I was in-side right. I scored the first goal! My cousin, who has since passed on in New York where he journeyed to as a “labourer” there after qualifying as an engineer, scored two goals, one of which was a penalty which I earned my team. My cousin was our centre-forward and he and our left winger, Okponkwu, an Ibo boy, were master-dribblers. After we scored our three goals, “Play to India!” thundered and roared from our coach and supporters any time St. Francis players attacked our goal-area. We won. We brought the trophy to our headmaster. But he gave us no goat! In fact, the goat was never mentioned until we passed out.

For a long time after we left school, “The goat, the goat!” or “We must eat the goat!” became my moniker.

What did Klopp and Pochettino give their respective teams in those alimentative nights? We will know in the clear night of June 1st of another unmatchable nutritious, alimentative and alimental football. But I give the night to Liverpool – barring the unforeseen. Believe me, yours sincerely. They will not walk alone in Spain.
•Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059 (SMS only).


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