Super Eagles Asaba Diary Day 2: Asaba is a wonderful place

The score board looked like they just fixed a Plasma TV there
Aside from the Nigeria v Seychelles game for Friday, there would be another important game on Saturday morning.

As had become a tradition since 2017 when a Kano SWAN team played against visiting SWAN (SWAN meaning Sports Writers Association of Nigeria) something had been brewing. That event held during the Super VI invitational tournament.

Kudos to the likes of Andrew Randa, Tobi Adepoju, Sanipe Damiete and a lot of others involved, games like these held in Uyo before the Super Eagles played against Libya and again in Asaba when the Eagles played against Uganda. The planning was always top notch, sports journalists applied to be part of a WhatsApp group where discussions held and subscriptions were paid to produce jerseys, t-shirts and other memorabilia. The group also had a coach, Yema who was doing a good job on the part-timers.

For the novelty game in Asaba, we would be training at 8am on Friday morning for the game and at 7 am we were all up and headed to Masterclass School where the hosts said we had been given permission to train but were locked out of the premises and could not do any work out.
Locked out of training as Delta State All-Stars apply underhand tactics

This definitely reminded me of the Nigerian League back in the day when the away team would be denied access to the stadium for their mandatory training on the eve of the game.

We hurried back to our hotel to use a small patch of grass behind the building for light work out. That was the worst pitch I had ever played in. Not even in my jeun jeun days did I see it that bad.

Breakfast for ten was in my apartment (this had become a tradition of some sorts from Calabar to Uyo and even Abuja whenever the Super Eagles played and after that, it was time to prep for the Stadium. The main thing that brought us to Asaba was to watch the Super Eagles, wasn't it?

Crowd control around the venue

Road cordoned off from a distance to the stadium
I wanted to drive to the stadium and then I thought better. I did not have a pass for my car and did not even ask for one. They would probably have the road cordoned off from a distance to the stadium.

Randa wanted us to go in the car anyway, but we convinced him to agree with us. True to it, the road was cordoned off and we had to walk in. Well, we had prepared for it. The Federal Road Safety Corporation officials were there with the police and other barrel-chested security personnel in plain clothes and I thought it was smooth... at least at the time I passed, it was. The mess in Uyo and Abuja on days the Eagles play games may have been worse than this.

We got into the stadium seamlessly and made our way to the Media Tribune where I saw the first wonder of Asaba.

Asaba is a wonderful place

Remember I had never been to Asaba for a Super Eagles game and had never been inside the Stephen Keshi International Stadium until this weekend. I needed to see what was built to remember Nigeria's greatest ever footballer.
It was not a bad stadium (by Nigerian Standards) but as is with many stadia in Nigeria, the original building plan clearly showed it was not meant to host international matches. How did I know this? I looked at the size, the terraces, the television stands, the scoreboard amongst others. The pitch was green and looked smooth from where I was, but the media tribune made me exclaim out loud, “What is this?”
Aaron Akerejola struggles with his adjustable table top

Who built the media tribune? Who approved and fixed the seats in the tribune? First, they were low and when you sat, it would seem as though you were sinking into oblivion. Then the moveable table top was a complete mess. When moved in front of you, it stuck so tight that you would think you were in a straitjacket. That was horrible, to say the least, but here we were and about to watch an international game. Nothing was going to steal our shine.

Aaron Akerejola soon walked in with his very flat tummy. He sank into oblivion and when he tried to place the adjustable tabletop in front of him to maybe rest his hands but it rested on his stomach. I watched him try to force it to its normal position, but each time he tried to push it downwards, I was sure he felt pain in his stomach. He soon moved it away completely, got up and walked away from the media tribune. I do not remember him coming back to sit anytime during the game.

The second wonder of Asaba I saw was the scoreboard. At first it quite get it, but looking at it, I thought something was not right. From about thirty minutes before kick off, I kept looking up at it, but couldn't quite place my finger on what was bothering me about it until Diegwu Nwankwo who was sitting behind me gave me a nudge and pointed upwards.

Laughing uncontrollably he said, and I can never forget these words, “Bros (Sir), it seemed they just bought a plasma TV, used sticks to hold it up there and it is their scoreboard.”

i looked up and then it hit me. That was why the scoreboard looked funny, but it was okay. I am sure it was a work in progress.
Post Match press conference

Then again, towards the end of the match, I heard Ayo Olu Ibidapo on the Public Address System announce the Post Match meeting at the Media Center (As it should be) after the game. Then a few minutes later i heard him say it would be done pitch side.

I was like, how? In 2019? an international game? I gathered it was an impromptu arrangement that came from TV partners, Supersport. I knew immediately that it would be a mess and did not bother to go down for the interview sessions. I hadn't been part of an Eagles' post-match presser in about two years and it was for things like this.

I later heard there was a fight down there that was captured on live television. Sad.

But Asaba is really a wonderful place, you have to believe this

While watching the game I suddenly realised I was hungry. The only meal I had all day was breakfast. A few slices of bread, fried eggs and two cups of coffee.

I turned to Sanipe who was sat next to me and said, “If I no eat Banga Soup and starch today, I fit die o,” meaning that I could die if I didn't get a meal of Starch and Banga soup.

He immediately put a call to someone he knew in Asaba requesting a place we could get banga soup and starch.

As soon as we were through with the game and its formalities, it was off to the address given to us. It took a while but we finally found it and I asked for catfish head and what was given to me was the biggest catfish head I had ever seen in front of me as a meal.

Let this just sink in

Tomorrow morning we play against the Delta All-Stars. We needed to rest. Besides the meal completely knocked me out.

At 11 pm Andrew Randa wanted us to go to the club at Shoprite and spend, maybe until 1 am before we retire for the night. I told him I would pass, and I did. Sanipe also turned down his offer.

I had a game in the morning. I am not an undisciplined player. I had to be in high spirits and stay focused on the task ahead.

Entrance to the Stephen Keshi Stadium with ninety minutes to kick off

There was an Ex- professionals game just before kick-off

Frustrated, Miyen Akiri gets up and leaves

Another view

After the deed was done

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