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The world cup tournament has just begun and you are confused on who to support. There’s a flurry of teams with bludgeoning zest to succeed at the competition. There’s Brazil, prominent for their passion for football. They are most favorite to win by dint of the fact that their virtuoso of the ball, is substance for cinema. How they dilly-dally with the ball in foot—networking , creating a whirligig blur for their opponents to not fathom the game—and their goals, a superstition-come-alive—the ball taking flight, darting and twirling, gleefully, in violent currents, hurled by gust of blustering wind across miles and stretched necks of players towards the post, and finally landing, of all places and against all odds, in that little space the keeper left for himself and God.

There’s France, the defending champions. In the last World cup, they displayed the art of football. Every of their opponents witnessed the game in masterful waves of grit. Saturated with spry wunderkinds who were only clocking two decades on earth, they won the final game against Croatia, who themselves, showed a staggering amount of deftness.

Argentina, Lionel Messi’s nationality, had won all their thirty-six games prior to the tournament. They were third on the list of favorites to go home with the trophy. You doubted the possibility due to the lack of lithe players in the team—like France and Brazil.

To untangle this quandary, you raise Brazil as the logical choice and emote with Argentina. You love Messi to the extent that might threaten his wife. On gloomy days, you scour football channels on Youtube for compilations of his previous matches, where he, as you like to put it, performed magic. It always worked—how he wriggles out of a cobweb of numerous players with gusto, and lurches the ball slyly to the back of the net, leaving the keeper in yoga positions—always leaves you beaming with marvel. You have promised to draw his face on your left arm when you live alone.



After losing their first match to the Arabian side, in a game that spoke of force and sheer luck, the complexion of the tournament thickened for Argentina. The match was meant to be a walkover as the Arabians were football amateurs. You shut out of the media while they took turns bombarding Messi with mockery, for flunking to score a penalty kick that might have mitigated their loss. You check their next fixture and it's Mexico. You find it hard computing them to win the match, let alone the world cup.



In their next game, you sat in front of a fifty-five inch television planted into a white coated wall. Other sides of the room were also splashed white and the bulbs lighted the kind of blue that gave the room the aura of a disco hall. You asked Harrison who sat opposite you, if Mexico was a strong team and all he said was they might upset Argentina. He said this in reference to their game against Saudi-Arabia, you no see wetin them play against those Arab men the other day? Your hope dashed. You became a piece of meat doused with anxiety. You once read somewhere that they were the most hardworking people in the world, because their people worked an average of 43.2 hours a week.

You muttered a prayer as the game began. The tussle for the ball, the hot sprints, agile transition of plays, witty positioning, the passes and shots that almost climaxed into a goal, by the Mexicans, jolted your heart. The Argentines, anytime they got the ball, advanced forward, finding Messi to perform his magic. And in one of such moments—like an epiphany—in the sixty-third minute, the ball slinked into his legs from a pass by the lanky winger and he shot it, in a split second, into the net. Argentina are alive, the commentator crooned. Messi has always been the Moses of his teams, leading them to the promised land. Fans banked on him once again to lead them. And he never failed. The second goal came from the left side of the Mexican post, when Enzo Fernandes pitched the ball into the far right of the post. The Mexicans rigmarole in the remaining minutes of the match to equal the two goals, but the Argentine side proved firmer than the wall of Jericho. They stopped every ball that aimed to cross their defense, as though the goal would shorten their lifespan. After the last whistle of the game, hope flickered in your mind. The chances of qualifying to the next stage went from the thinness of a reed to the plump of a mafiat’s blunt. Flushed in their win, the blue vested Argentines walked with an added bounce to their steps. They knew that if they had flunked this match again, they’d have rolled out of the tournament, disgracefully.


What you know about Poland is; they are the second country in the world to write a constitution which only functioned for fourteen months before another war that lasted a century. Also, you know they are home to the biggest castle in the world. These you learned when your father places you on his lap to tell you about the world. You know they have the Oldest Restaurant in Europe named the tongue-clicking Piwnica Swidnicka. And their traditional last names were gendered, for instance; the daughter or wife of Mr Lewandoski would be Miss or Mrs Lewandoska.

The first half ended in a tie. You mewled under your breath, hoping the game would change hands. When the second half began, the Argentines looked tang as though they spent the break swallowing steroids. The Poles on the other hand continued squaring up to the Albiceleste, causing a penalty kick and saving the goal. After a series of clever plays from both sides—a chain of violent slides and body collisions, a rectangular faced Argentine found his teammate lurking freely around the post and ticked the ball to the side of his leg, leading to a goal. The stadium roared in delight and your heart snapped, racing beyond the rhythm of your chest. Then it calmed. You needed another goal to seal the game and call it a day. It came barely after the minute hand had limped away from the first goal. Alvarez, a twenty-three year old willowy striker with two digit body mass—with the precision of a surgeon, placed the ball at the right side of the net where it rarely went. The game was sealed and you started dreaming of Argentina, particularly Lionel lifting the cup. He had won every other tournament he had participated in except for the world cup, and it was the most prized—his most prized, in all of football. Only a handful of players had won it and so much as three times. It was the missing piece in his fairytale. Winning it would be the completion of his compulsive, spellbinding, tears-inducing career.


With Australia, you knew there would be space for the ball to wriggle through to the expanse of the post, but who was going to make it wriggle was the question. Although you knew they were regarded as the sports capital of the world, it didn’t alarm you. The bulldozing passion of the Argentines at this point, could crush any team. The things you knew about Australia were few; that Kangaroos outnumbered the humans in the country, and the Dingo fence, the biggest fence in the world.

In the thirty-fourth minute of the game, the blue vests made a string of passes to each other that created a trapezium vision in the eyes of viewers and gently inched forward into Australia's post. The ball found Messi and he, in a great leg-to-ball gravitas, curved it to the left side of the net and the keeper could only but stretch.You only jolted forward and backward on your seat because you had predicted an Argentina win. Eleven minutes into the second half, the Aussie keeper failed to launch the ball promptly into the pitch. Alvarez, the sharp, all-smile striker, snatched it from his feet and rolled it into the net. You blessed the keeper for that mistake for how it handed the game to the Argentines on a platter. The game got nervy from there; several intelligent strikes from the Aussies only an inch away from goal, a bit of wrangling from both sides, hot asphalt against the ball, an Aussie goal, an Argentine defensive block, a save from the Argentine keeper, another,  and the final whistle.

This ended the Round of sixteen. Argentina qualified for the quarter-final and were paired against the Netherlands right after the break. You spent the break preparing for your exams and debating facts about the tournament. What annoyed you the most about the competition was Qatar’s intolerance of the LQBTQ community. They had prohibited visitors from engaging in any LGBTQ activity . All primates and species that have sex, have homosexual relationships. They seem to be more rational than humans these days, you tell your friend who was puzzled at your concern for them. Is it not against nature’s preparation of society for men to fuck men? He says in response. Do you think humans can do or perform anything outside of their nature in the first place? Aren’t these just antique stories written by men who didn’t understand nature and thought that earth was flat? Homsexuality is natural in the same capacity as heterosexuality and no law should be made against them because they are human beings. Moreso, it is prominent in every mammal ianspecie. He grimaced at you and looked into the sky concentratedly, as if counting the stars—avoiding our LGBTQ evangelism. You flung your gaze at the sky and watched the stars swirl by in their white elegance. With a smile on your face, you wondered what created the stars—you only know that they have a life span of 10,000,000,000 years and that they burn by fusing hydrogen into helium. And the sun, a star that has lived half of its lifespan and the other half is what we currently live in. You try to make a metaphor out of the longevity of the sun but nothing impressive formed. You remembered the ancient Egyptians who worshiped it.You wondered whether it had memories of history and if it had, whether it will tally with what we are taught in class.You wondered what earth would be like after the death of the sun. You tell him that Argentina’s forthcoming games are tough, he tells you to keep the hope alive.


The day of the Quarter-final loomed. The sun was punishing—the norm for a December afternoon. Many predicted a Netherland win. You understood their logic but audaciously imagined an Argentina win. You knew Dutch men were the tallest men in the world and were likely to use it against the dwarfing Argentine players. You liked the country because it ranked sixth happiest country in the world and were baffled at the fact that there are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are humans. You wondered what happiness meant; whether the blacks were counted to make up this claim, and whether you’d be happy if you went there. You concluded to holiday in Amsterdam sometime in the future with your lover.

The Netherlands started the match with a luminous bruising power that crushed your expectations. They towered over the Argentine players aerially that made it look as though fate had already decided in their favor. But there was always Lionel Messi, the point of difference, as many have called it. He got the ball from a teammate and snaked it through the middle of the defender, stalking him. His teammate, lanky and pleasant looking, stretched and tipped the ball into the net. The climax of the goal was Messi’s pass—how it seemed he was running north of the pitch but wormed the ball over to a teammate, just south of his movement. You beamed, stumbled around, chortling, dancing in the faces of naysayers. In the seventeenth minute, a brisk tatted Argentine, forcing his way into Netherland’s box fell from the tackle of a defender who was out of patience. The referee ruled for a penalty kick and Messi scored the goal. The stadium lit up in tuneless voices and thuds and trumpets from happy Argentines and supporters. You loved life. You looked back at the time you were suicidal and thank your stars for not jumping off the cliff because you wouldn’t have felt this moment.

In a twist of fate, a Dutch player, the height of an iroko tree, headed the ball into Argentina's net. You cared less, it was the eighty-second minute of the match and they needed two more goals to win—it felt impossible. At the eighty-ninth minute, the referee added ten more minutes to the game, to compensate for minutes lost to celebration and foul queries. The first minute of the extra time came with a goal from the same long Dutch that scored the first goal. You didn’t know whether to blame the referee for the first adding extra minutes, or the Argentine defenders for playing carelessly, or God, for making Dutch men tall, but your face fell ghoule, and your interest waned. To ease the tension, you opened your phone and rang your mother to tell her about your day. While one eye was fixed on the television, the other was darting around the room. The game ended in a draw and was to be decided by penalty. Your mother asked if you were safe, you didn’t know what to tell her; whether the answer depended on the outcome of the penalty kick, or whether the gun fight  from three days ago gave you sleepless nights. You talked about food, money and the Nigerian economy, while the penalty shoot out was happening. You sniggered anytime a Dutch missed a goal. Argentina won the penalty and proceeded to the next stage of the tournament—the semi-final. You screamed, startling birds hovering above, thumping the ground with your feet, knowing that Argentina had triumphed again. You told your mother you were safe, in a voice stupefied with glee and told her you loved her after she had told you to sleep well. She knew it was a football match that had you giddy.



In the semi-final, Argentina plays Croatia. You like the name of the country, because it’s a three syllable word—Cro-a-tia, that oscillates between sounding like a proper and a good spell, and makes your tongue shower between clenched teeth. You like the country because Game of Thrones was filmed there, in Dubrovnik—and it’s your favorite show. The city of Vinkovci has been inhabited for 8000 years, you wonder what kind of smell it has—whether of skitty souls, wandering the abysmal realm of the spirit world, or of ancient people teeming with scandals. You wonder if spirits lurk around the city. You wonder what night would feel like; whether scary, with violent ghosts and deep eyes, niggling sleepy heads or whistling palm trees and cooling breeze telling the poem of nature. You want to satisfy your curiosity by visiting.

In the thirty-first minute of the match, Julian Alvarez, powered through the Croatian defense to net the ball, but was aggressively stopped by the keeper. The referee, not having it, stopped the game and called for a penalty kick. Lionel Messi took it, with a little funny shuffle of both legs—as if starting a dance, only to rocket the ball into the right side of the post, leaving the keeper slouching awkwardly in front of the net. You were immediately coated with goosebumps. You became gingered again to believe there was a purpose of human existence. Earlier, you had thought life had no purpose and was not worth living due to the poverty rate in your country. You loved that moment and wished it lasted forever.

In the second goal, Alvarez got the ball and lurched forward, skipping past every opponent that got in his way, until the ball became a goal in the net. It wasn’t a shot, but a long run into the net. The game has been sealed, Argentina is in the final, you said, happily, glowingly, as though you had a stake in the trophy if Argentina won it. To add flesh to the argument for the essence of life, Messi orchestrated another goal. Alvarez threw the ball at him, he passed back, running forward, declustering himself from the midst of Croatian players. Only one player remained and Alvarez gave him the ball. He started his run on the right side of the pitch, with the Croatian player attempting a tackle, all to no avail. Inside the Croatian box, Messi did a body feint that saw him leap forward, then backward, simultaneously,  in a moment too short for Gvardiol (the Croatian defender left with him) to understand. It created a small space which he utilized in making a pass, to Alvarez who then sent it into the net, softly, gently, as though the ball would explode if he added more vim. Argentina would win the World cup, you said, confidently, like a child who had just pummeled his bully and started claiming the strongest in the class. You smiled all through the night that your reflection in the mirror, the next morning, felt more handsome than usual.



France seemed luminous. The thought of playing them gave you sleepless nights. They were the defending champions. They aced their last world cup final match as though their opponents were amateurs. Their left winger, Mbappe, was deemed the fastest player on earth and had a very intimidating score rate. More than half of their players were black and of African origin. You compared each Argentine player with France players in their different roles. The French were better at each role, paralleling Messi and Di Maria. You wondered what the game would look like. Your friend joined you on the balcony to ponder about the game. You told him that no matter the outcome of the game, your allegiance remained with Argentina and Messi. He agreed, but feared the worst. You talk about the extent to which the tournament had strengthened your mental health—how optimistic it had made you feel about living and pursuing your dreams. The only thing that could scatter it was an Argentine loss. He prefered Argentina falling out in earlier rounds than in the final, because it would look like a conspiracy by God to make living seductive, only for you to unwrap it and meet death. The final was fixed for December 18.

Days rushed past, time flushed and bustled forward and forward until the day loomed. A blaring afternoon of hope, with a promise of either dashing your hope or fulfilling your dreams. You had mixed feelings about the match; on one hand, you weren’t ready to be milked of your energy because the game didn’t look promising, and it threatened your newly acquired mental fortitude. On the other hand, you wanted to get it over with. You didn’t know the state of your faith, whether it thinned or was fat as a lamb. The more you checked time, the more it waned. You stopped to check whether it’ll slow down. You climbed the balcony and met other boys brooding about the match. When they asked for your opinion, you narrated the paradox of thirst to them. In this paradox, a desert survivor emerges into a city and is asked to fight an opponent before he’s given a waterpack. The opponent looks like he fractures rocks for a living. The survivor is lanky with veins protruding all over his body. You tell them that Argentina is the lanky survivor and France, the rock Fracturer. Paradoxes are not meant to be solved, you tell them as they are about to argue the winner of the bottle of water. You tell them though, that the lanky man is ready to do anything, beyond the rule even, to get the waterpack, because the thirst is his spirit animal. You do not like France, they have conducted the most coups in Africa. They still collect $500,000,000 Colonial dues and cheat Niger for their uranium. An Argentina triumph would be their punishment, at least for once, they know what loss means and how the people they steal from, feel it. You enter the game with faith.

The Albicestes appeared in their light blue and white jersey, while the French, navy blue with a splash of red here and there. The Argentines trumped the game from the defense to the midfield, to the forward. They exhibited football mastery in their passes, dribbles, ball recovery, speed and strength that made French players sweat and pant profusely, than usual. The look on their faces, revealed they prayed the match would end soon.. The thirst for the world cup was their spirit animal, it’s what was in play. Your fear dissipated every minute of the game that passed. In the twentieth minute, Di Maria, a long, contour-faced Argentine with a trapezium hairline, fell from the tackle of Dembele, a French player, black, already sweaty, nervous and emotionally loaded. The referee ruled for a penalty kick and Lionel Messi took it with power, sending it to the right side of the post, while the keeper diving left, in a parallel shot.The stadium erupted. You started shaking on your seat. You couldn’t believe it. You beamed and glowed, and danced in the face of naysayers. The goal disconcerted the French players and they began to lose the ball quickly. In one of their carelessness, Mac Alister, a cunning Argentine, sluiced into the middle of the French players, intercepted the coming pass and sent the ball Di Maria’s way. Another goal. The game was sealed. This was likely the best year of your life. You fell deeper in love with life, with football and most of all, with Lionel Messi. The eagerness to see the next day, next month, new year, magnified. At the eightieth minute, an Argentine defender fell Kolo Muani, a French player, an inch away from the net. Mbappe, fired the ball into the net. Immediately, the scently air ranked with a stench you couldn’t trace the origin. It felt like it stemmed inwardly, but the other boy opposite you, scrunched his face too. You assumed he perceived the stench. In the next minute, Mbappe scored another goal. You didn’t know how it happened, you just knew there was a goal. How much is joy? You asked yourself. Fear began to mushroom in your stomach. You got blasé about the rest of the game. What seemed of your life to be good, instantly became sore. Messi on the TV screen, looked equanimous, donned a smile even. After the final whistle, you opened google chrome to ask who invented television. It said John Logic Baird. You wonder what he was thinking, if he knew his invention would cause so much grief that made people hate life. Innovating ways for improving sexual pleasure would have served humans better than this grief box. You Googled who invented football but saw nothing tangible. An article said Britain, in the nineteenth century, standardized football. Aside from their widespread colonial endeavors, inventing a grief-laden game was another sin they needed to apologize for. You hated them even more. You missed the years when nothing seemed that deep. The extra-time began with a torrent of emotions. Your eyes were blurry with tears, your glasses were off. You just gazed insouciantly, watching both teams score one goal each, leading them to penalty shoot-out. The room termed crying boys, heaving blame on this player, that player, suggesting what could have been done. After the final whistle for the extra-time, something whispered that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Suddenly, you leaped up, motioned close to the television set and folded your hands. Everyone in the room joined you. Some knelt down and prayed and promised God they’ll never sin again, if he let Messi win the world cup. The shoot-out started with Messi and Mbappe both scoring. You started breathing as though you inhaled from borrowed air. Your stomach knotted, your heart thumped, like the game was happening in your chest. The second and third French players rocketed their penalties. When the last Argentine motioned to take his penalty kick, all ten of you in the room cross-armed each other, with tears gushing out some of their eyes, as though they were fountains. You closed your eyes, then opened it as the Argentine shot the ball powerfully into the net, leaving no hope for the keeper to catch or stop it. Lionel Messi, after seeing the goal, sank to the ground, his teammate falling on him, one after the other. You in the room, bawled your eyes out, along with other boys. You stood up and started singing, hugging boys who wouldn’t go past shaking you, boys who purveyors of the red-pill movement, boys who saw hugging as girly and too intimate for them. Each and everyone got a hug, excluding the two naysayers who ran off after the last goal. You sank on your seat and watched Messi strut around, encased in successes glow. Other boys wipe their tears and watched the Franks bawl their whole body fluid out. You say to France, this is the punishment for the continuous collection of colonial dues. You play Avicii’s This night as you set the bed and relive the moment.