Short Stories, Tale Africa

Alas, no cameras were by!

By Nick Twinamatsiko:

Manchester United winger Luis Nani has scored some of the most spectacular goals in contemporary football. But the celebratory back flips he typically performs after scoring are even more aesthetically satisfying than his awesome goals.  Manager Ferguson isn't very enthusiastic about the flips; mindful of the case of Lomano Lua Lua who famously injured himself after performing a back-flip celebration, he has tried to get his charge to drop his trademark celebratory style. But most of the spectators that fill the stands at the Theatre of Dreams, and most of the millions that watch Manchester United matches via Satellite, would vote for the flips if the matter were put to vote.

I have seen people gasp in awe and grin with glee as Nani has performed the flips. But my response is usually moderate, because I am always thinking, 'I have done that, or at least something near that!' Believe it or not, I pulled off similar or nearly similar flips, when I was a child. Without touching the ground I managed to get my feet to roll over my head backward and return.
Nani usually makes his feet roll forward (unlike mine which rolled backward), but a flip, whatever the direction, is a flip. I did flips at nine. I did them at ten. I only stopped when I got a bad accident, my head badly crushing into the ground, in the course of an attempt at another flip. I guess the scientific explanation for the accident was that my Mass Body index had exceeded a certain threshold. The point however is that time was, when I pulled off flips similar to the ones for which Nani is famous. That's why I never gasp in awe as Nani's flips are relayed. Memory tempers my awe. But who would believe if I voiced my thoughts, if I said aloud that, 'I have done that'? If I had performed my flips before cameras, the case would be different. I would only have to show the video and all doubters would fall silent. As matters now stand, only my siblings can vouch for me. But they wouldn't find the matter worth getting involved in. They would probably say, 'yes, Nick, you did the flips, but what does that have to do with anything?' But if I am as romantic as they seem to think I am, then the fact that I performed those flips has everything to do with everything – it points to the very heart of my personality.

Beyond the age of age, I made no attempts at flips, but I played football. I never got to the big stage – at school, I never even got to play for my house. But one afternoon, as my friends and I played with a banana-fiber ball on the New House grounds, something came over me, and I magically dribbled past several opponents and then beautifully curled the ball past the keeper. It was one of those moments that, sadly, couldn't be replicated. In my book – a biased book, I concede – that goal should be a contender for the greatest goal of all time! But everybody talks of Maradona's goal and Ronaldo's goal and Pele's and a seemingly conspiratorial silence is maintained about mine! I would confront the world about the matter, but alas, there were no cameras when I scored my wonder goal!

Just as I had quit flips at ten, I quit soccer at about fourteen. I left it for the big boys – I mean big in size, not necessarily in talent – and concentrated on books, since size wasn't a factor in this line of endeavor. At the end of S3, when I heard mates whispering about the person that had topped our class stream, and not mentioning my name, I knew that there had been a rigging. I had been doing my private tallying as results had come in, and I thought I knew how matters were supposed to stand. But the whisperers had apparently peeped at our class teacher's papers as he had taken our results to the headmaster's office. I wasn't one to participate in a process I recognized as rigged, and so I boycotted the Speech Day at which prizes were given to the top students. The morning after the Speech Day, we picked our report cards, and I was able to establish how the rigging had been done. On my returned script, the mathematics teacher had written 58%, but on the report card, he had written 28%. The 58% was the lowest mark I had posted in Mathematics since P3 Entry Interviews. Apparently unsatisfied, the teacher had gone and pushed it further, further down!

I registered no complaint. Satisfied that I knew how the rigging had been done, I scurried home. My father was furious when he saw the 28%. I explained that I had actually performed badly in the subject, but not that badly. It so happened that we shared a shop with the vice-chairman of PTA, a former MP that had been thrown behind bars after the fall of Obote, but who had retained his fighting spirit even after 7 years in Luzira. This gentleman convinced my father that they should return to the school with my returned script and get an explanation. They did, and returned with my report card corrected. And the apologetic headmaster had given them the prize that I should have received at the ceremony of the previous evening. It was a textbook: The Essentials of Commerce.

The next term, the headmaster caught two of my classmates and me as we tried to slip past the school threshold. He brought us before our classmates, and, before punishing us, asked us to state what our positions had been the previous term. Of course I said that I had been the first. He knew it, but my classmates thought me a brazen liar. How could I claim that I had been the first when everybody knew – had even seen at Speech Day – who the first had been?

They couldn't believe me, just as you will probably not believe me when I tell you that I have ever performed flips worthy of Nani, and that it's me that scored the greatest soccer goal of all time.

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