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The stage was set, all the players had filed out and all seemed set but then … well, nothing spectacular happened. The whistle for the kick off went and Seyi rolled the ball, we were at the stadium of H.S.A.S.S named the theatre of dreams. The whole stadium was filled with Nigerians chanting, singing, drumming and doing what they call ‘gyration’ all in the name of supporting their team perhaps the reason behind the stadium sell-out was that they were playing a foreign team for the very first time coupled with the fact that the match was the first in the stadium.
I was enjoying the atmosphere; the beats, the trumpet, chants but my attention was moved by the increased voice of those who supported Auckland. Seyi skipped past two players before locating Francis with a clean pass over the head, the opponent’s goalkeeper ran out in a bid to get the ball first but Francis was faster lobbing the ball over a panicking keeper. I stood to my feet as I watched the ball crawl into the net, it was a moment of joy which was soon to be cut short as the H.S.A.S.S. boys replied not long after with a screamer from the edge of the box, Adrian jumped like a lifeless bird but couldn’t get to it the whole stadium went on its feet as the ball went in, the drums became louder singing became a competition amongst the H.S.A.S.S. fans but there was no time for another goal in the first half as the refree called time after the goal.
We were awaited by coach’s stern face. He gave some instructions before we went in for the game and we clear cut have not followed them. “What nonsense? We could have been three or four up by now if only you…” He looked to John “Had played on the left wing, Adrian has had to save the team’s butt on more than three occasions as a matter of fact it’s all Damian’s fault.” He continued. Damian looked at him with confused eyes “Yes you are making him work too much by not closing the number nine down or why else are you a centre back?” coach retorted. “I’m expecting better in the second half.” He slammed walking out; well not on us but because he had seen an official walk in. we came together for the usual pre-half hands in. every eye was on me not for something bad as you might have been thinking they just wanted me to lead them through it. “1,2,3..Auckland!” we shouted after my nod.
The whistle went and they rolled the ball they managed to roll the ball confidently around till it got to the right wing for the third time. James intercepted a pass and slid the ball directly to Damian who quickly found me with the pass, I quickly looked up and for the first time in the match I could see John on his wing and I floated the ball across to him, he didn’t disappoint me with his control as well as his cross Francis did exceptionally well to get his head to the ball first even with the attention he received from his marker but so unlucky, the ball came rattling off the cross bar and a defender got to it first. He cleared the ball so weakly that it could only go as far as I and with acres of space to myself I knew more than to waste the opportunity, I quickly balanced the ball and settled for a well place shot that set the Auckland fans into raptures, we had taken the lead and the commentator was not done with the goal “Splendidly spectacular!” he kept on announcing.
We played another couple of minutes before another chance that was to be a goal came. John had the ball, he slid it through to me I looked up to see Francis making a run, this was it a chance for a third goal so I sent the ball flying towards him I wasn’t shocked to see him control the ball nicely in the process attempting to skip past his marker though the ball was successful, he wasn’t as he had his shirt pulled causing him to fall badly on his knee. I could see the only replacement we had for Hikmar in so much pain. The physio’s came on the pitch quickly after a brief chat- not up to thirty seconds- one of them called for a stretcher. I rubbed my palm on my head as I walked up to him. “It’s gonna be alright dude” I said. I had to take the resulting free kick so I went for the ball while an attacking midfielder came on as a substitute for the injured Francis.
There was a goal- I converted the free kick- but the action in the game was far from over. This time again, it was Auckland on the attack; Pushakyov passed the ball to me I had two men in front of me I had to be fast, dribbling was my best option but then I decided to sprint past them. A moment of stupidity cost me two weeks bed ridden with injury as one of them had his leg stuck out and it caught my calf. I knew as soon as I went down that I had torn a calf muscle so I called for the stretcher. The physio’s had to take me straight for surgery.