Ebuka Ogbonna could feel the sweat on his face. His entire body is on fire right now in this sweaty viewing center. Today is going to be a day he remembers for the rest of his life. Today he climbs from the ugly position of poverty to the status of a millionaire. In exactly fifty five minutes or so from now he is going to be a millionaire. He just cannot believe it.
Lagos has not been fair to him but so far he has stayed strong to his inner man and dreams. He kept going even when the going got tough. He never finished his secondary school education and when the opportunity presented itself to leave the forsaken village to Lagos he jumped at it. His father will never forgive him for his decision. His mother is a person better to reason with.
Lagos was not exactly what he envisioned. Certainly not the stories of how easy it was to make some cool cash. Two months after he moved in with his friend he was still trying really hard to keep up with his dreams. He has done everything a young man like him could do to survive in Lagos; he has washed cars, sold chilled drinks on the streets, served as a messenger in countless offices. He has done everything and at twenty one years of age he was still strong and unwilling to give up on the possibility of him making it in Lagos. Now everything appears to be in the perfect position. Only if Theresa had not been such a cheat she will be here to celebrate with him on this millionaire position. He loved that girl but she still left him for that internet fraudster that parades himself as Demolu.
Ebuka looked at his 41BetKoto slip. Yes. Everything was going on great. All he needed right now is two goals from the remaining fifty minutes of the match and he is a freaking millionaire! He knew his team will not disappoint him on his road to success. He had been playing soccer bets for the past three and a half years. The first time he played he picked only ten games and gave them all over one point five goals which means that all the matches must have the outcome of at least two goals. He was lucky and won a whooping ten thousand naira. But sadly since then he had failed to win again. But is hope is alive now and this win will erase all the sorrows of his losts in the past years.
The viewing center is really stuffy. It has no air conditioner and the lone fan on the ceiling looks like it will drop down anytime soon from working overtime. The referee blew the whistle to bring the first half to a close. He still needed two goals from this match. He suddenly began to perspire not just from the hotness of the room but from an inner keenness. In the little corner of the viewing centre where he sat he offered a solemn prayer to God. He has not spoken to him for a very long time but he needs his intervention at the moment.
He looks at the many faces watching the final match of the season with him. Their faces speak of different stories; some of anguish, others of joy and uncertainty. The two teams have been consistent throughout the season and today’s match will decide who wins the title. United Kawa is the team at home and the team Ebuka proudly supports. The referee started the second forty five minutes after the fifteen minutes break.
He really doesn’t care if his team loses the title to their fiercest rival. All he needed is two goals from the second half. He offered some more prayer.
“That’s a foul” one of the boys sitting beside him shouted as if the referee could hear him. Maybe he did because a foul was given in favour of United Kawa. Kaminski the team’s mercurial midfielder took position and curved the ball over the wall of the opposing team. The whole stadium and the viewing centre erupted in ecstasy. “What a wonderful goal by Kaminski” the commentator shouted. “The title looks to be going United Kawa’s way for the first time in twenty years. Fifteen minutes from now the whole stadium could be on fire. They have been consistent all season and providence seems to be on their side today” continued the commentator.
Ebuka could not contain the joy erupting inside him but he needed one more goal now and everything will be all right. He brought out the ticket and looks at it again as he offer another prayer to the man above.
Ten minutes to go. The game is still one nil in United Kawa’s favour. That is enough for his team to be crowned the champion of the season but for him to be crowned a millionaire he needed one more funking goal. He told nobody about his ticket for fear that his village witches will sit on his fortune. He had placed the bets one week ago and he never thought about it until two days ago when he began to check the results of the matches and discovered that they have all turned green except for this last game. But it seems now that his village witches are really after his downfall. He cannot lose this money. He ignored the shouts and laughs coming from the other fans and entered into another prayer mood.
One minute of added time from the fourth official. He could feel hot tears well up in his eyes. So this is how people commit suicide he asked himself in terrible anguish. He could practically see his entire life slip from him right now. He remembered all of his hard earned money that he has lost to football betting. He felt another wave of pain and regret wash over him again.
“Penalty! Penalty! Penalty!” the shout grew louder from the United Kawa’s fans in the viewing center. Ebuka jumped out of his thoughts and joined in the celebration. He almost kissed the mouth of the boy sitting next to him from immense joy. He restrained himself as he looks at the replay. Indeed the opposing defense has carelessly brought down Kaminski as he waives his way through their tight defensive web and the referee is now pointing to the penalty spot.
Finally hope was alive as Kaminski steps up to take the kick.
“This is going to be the last kick of the game. Kaminski has been tremendous this season. He is the top scorer this season. Thirty two goals and still counting… Kaminski takes his dramatic position and the referee has signaled for him to shoot. Is this going to be goal that seals their season’s phenomenon?” The commentator’s keeps ringing in Ebuka’s eyes.
Ebuka was afraid to look so he closed one of his eyes. Kaminski shoots.
“Oh no. Denied by the woodwork and cleared hurriedly away by the opposing defense. Oh my God what a miss by Kaminski. This has been wonderful football. Well it doesn’t matter now because United Kawa is the new King of the Bligger league. You can hear the fans. They have waited for so long to taste this honour and now they are the worthy champions of the most competitive league in the world! History has been made on this turf and now they can celebrate. Victory is such a sweet thing…” the commentator’s voice trail off as Ebuka slowly gets up and leave the viewing centre.
As he walks home he looks at the ticket in his hand and felt fresh pain. He wanted to cry. Maybe he will do that when he is alone in his lonely room. Right now he feels very weak as if he has not eaten in the past ten days. He looks at the throng of people on the streets but he really does not see them. He felt dizzy and as he slumps to ground of the busy street he feels the betting ticket slips away from his hand. As people gather to help him and see what was wrong with him he thought about how today was another date with fate and how he for the millionth time was late to the celebratory party.
WRITTEN BY UMUKORO ISAAC