Famous Olympic moment with dad

By Nelson Dafe on August 5, 2016

Views: 907

Twenty years after Nigeria won Africa’s first ever Olympics gold medal in Atlanta 1996, the country is in search of a repetition of that feat as the Rio Olympics is set to start.

I recall vividly how my family witnessed the historic Atlanta ’96 feat.

It was August 1996. I woke up with my heart throbbing at about 6.00am and in my mind were nervous taught of the impending battle. It was the night’s football game between my country Nigeria and Brazil, their tormentors in the round leather game prior to that time. And it was the semi final stage of sport’s biggest showpiece; the Olympics.

On that cool August morning, hip hop music echoed from the stereo set on the head-side of my bed, as I emerged bleary eyed from my room. I saw my dad coming out of his too and with the customary “Miguo” and “vre do” Urhobo greetings quickly exchanged, I launched into an inevitable interrogation.

“Has your magic crystal ball revealed anything about today’s game, Daddy?”

Perhaps noticing the hungry curiosity in my face, he smiled and delayed his answer; it looked dramatic, but somehow I did not find it so funny.

My dad’s fair, chubby face had had to face such questions in the past, since he amazingly predicted correctly the world cup qualifying game between Nigeria and Algeria which held in Lagos in 1993.On the morning of that game, we were all in trepidation as we feared a tough Algerian side would scuttle Nigeria’s chances of appearing in the world cup for the first time. The nervousness on that day is indescribable.

Dad, no doubt loved football, and never missed the chance to rush home from his law chambers to watch the Eagles play a live match. We loved watching games with Daddy too if nothing, but to see his dramatic jumping up and down, and his peculiar way of dealing with the tension of penalty shoot-outs by holding his sagging trousers by the waist while pacing outside the living room, remaining there and depending on our pitch and tones to know if Nigeria had won or not.

Daddy woke up that morning of the Nigeria-Algeria game to address our fears with a most daring foretelling. We found it hard to believe him when he told us point blank that Nigeria would defeat Algeria 4-1. He told us jokingly that he had a crystal ball, and that it had revealed the score line to him. “Don’t panic my children. We have already won the game. It’s 4-1. You will see.” He was confident. I asked: “How do you know it’s going to be 4-1?” Why not a more probable score line like 1-0 or 2-0? But he urged me to “just wait and see.”

Lo and behold, the game ended exactly 4-1. Nigeria had triumphed over Algeria, and daddy had become some kind of football prophet. Since that time he had always had to deal with my skinny figure demanding to know his prediction on important games involving Nigeria. Some he got spot on, and some others he didn’t. He would always find a funny way of explaining the wrong ones. “You guys didn’t wash my clothes”, “when I asked you to meditate on a Super Eagles win you refused”. He surely enjoyed the interest his predictions garnered. I wasn’t too sure if I totally believed his power of predictions, but I somehow continued to want to get every clue in order to address my anxieties every time there was a game.

So, when he hesitated about predicting the outcome of the Nigeria-Brazil semi-final Olympics match, I took it as some kind of foreboding omen. I was worried. But as I set out for school later, he called out to me and told me that this game would NOT be won by the side that scored first. 'Hmmm'. It was a different kind of prediction, and it did not really offer me any hopes.

School hours were dominated by talk about the coming game. I opened my books, but all I could see and think about was football. Enthusiasm, skepticism, hope and fear filled the classroom, as I tried to make out whether all talk in class preparation to view a football war or a more physical one. Even our English teacher, a normally straight-faced-man, joined in the football gist. He asked us all to pray for Nigeria and hoped to see us the next day smiling to a Nigerian victory.

The game was billed for about midnight, and close to kick off, the streets went silent. Everyone had gone home to stay glued to their TV sets. Daddy called the family together, including my mom and sisters, who had been infected by the men's world of football. We formed a circle in the living room, holding hands and visualised a Nigeria win. Dad asked us to see in our minds eyes the Nigerian players scoring goals, and celebrating victory. I tried to get the vision clear in my mind, but in reality I still dreaded the Brazilians. “They have Ronaldo and Bebeto,” a part of my mind warned me.

Off the referee’s whistle went to signal the beginning of proceedings.

Hardly had we settled down when Brazil struck. The feeling all around was a de ja vu of collective groans. A Nigerian equaliser raised the roof, but not long after the Brazilians got a second, and then a third goal. First half ended 3-1 to Brazil and at half time the silence that hung over the Upper Sakpoba streets spoke loudly of a collective despair.

The second half petered out with no sign of a Nigeria comeback. Then with a few minutes left we had a penalty. A chance for a Nigeria comeback. But disgustingly Jay-Jay Okocha missed. To add to our irritation was that smile of his after he had wasted the golden chance.

But then, THE KANU DOUBLE MAGIC with just a few minutes remaining of the 90, and early in extra time to hand Nigeria a golden goal win. We had come back from the dead to beat the almighty Brazilians. “Pandemonium” would best describe the state of the Benin City streets. Daddy, caught in the crazy glee, and not wanting us to miss out on the fun, got us all into the car to join in the wide celebrations in the streets. It was surreal to be in the car in what should have been the dead night.

Our Peugeot 504 car joined others in mad blaring. We were heading everywhere and nowhere. After some minutes in the streets we got back home. Daddy reminded us of his prediction. The team that scored first did not win. We gave him a peck. He had got another prediction spot on. He was our REAL prophet, and we did not care to ask of the wrong ones.

•Photo shows writer Nelson Dafe (left) with his father, late Anthony Dafe and elder brother Ochuko (right) in 1998.

Source Daily Sports

Posted August 5, 2016

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