A long time ago in the Land of Àkámárà, Ádámò sat on a mat outside his little hut. Thoughts waded through his mind as he watched the sinking sun sneak home eastward behind the clouds fleeting westward.
How the cottony clouds could defy gravitational force and hold the almighty sun from falling remained a mystery to Ádámò.
As he contemplated the awesomeness of God, his eyes became moist.
Though Ádámò had no formal education, he was steeped enough in African cultural mores to recognise gratitude and praise as wholesome sacrifices acceptable to God. He was worried about the journey at hand. So, he said a prayer, “The Atérere-Kárí-Ayé worldwide God, the Elétí-Gbáròyé hearer of supplications, the Ògbàmùgbámú-Ojú-Òrun-Ò-Sé-Gbámú unconquerable God; you’re the Unimpeachable Proclaimer called Awímáyewùn, I praise and thank you. I beseech you to be with me and my son on our journey tomorrow.”
Early in the morning before the first crow of the cock, Ádámò and his son, Ayésòro, set out on the journey to the Land of Inúnibíni aka Land of Resentment. Ádámò hoisted Ayésòro onto the back of their horse, Esin Dondo. Quickly, he climbed the horse. They had enough hay and water for the horse and food for themselves.
The neighbourhood was still asleep when the kùkurúku at cockcrow announced the stirring of dawn. Mìlíkì, the village palm wine tapper, was returning from his midnight tapping rounds when he saw father and son on their horse. “Ha, Ádámò! How old are you that you cannot walk beside your horse? Father and son on a miserable horse! Do you want to kill the beast? So, Ádámò disembarked from the horse, leaving his son on it.
As the smile of the sun was becoming bigger, gradually turning into a grin, they got to a river and decided to drink. Father, son and horse drank, rested and resumed their journey. Shortly, the sun was all out grinning and beaming. They neared the junction to the shrine of Ogun, the god of Iron, and they saw the hunchback, Sobolóyoké, who burst out crying: “Ádámò, why are you so foolish? Your young son sits atop the horse, and you, an old man, are walking?” Quickly, Ádámò brought his son down from the horse and he mounted it.
They continued on their journey and, by midday, they came to a big market. Ìyá Àsàbí, who sells herbs, saw Ádámò on the horse with his son walking beside it. She screamed, “Baba ìkà, wicked father!!! You sat on the horse like the king of bedbugs while your son trekked like a slave!?” Determined to please his critics, Ádámò dismounted from the horse, and both he and his son trekked beside the horse.
They hadn’t trekked for one hour when they saw Ámèbo, the gossip, who first let out a gasp, then clasped her hands on her chest and eyed both sojourners scornfully. Then she burst into sad laughter, “The horse is even wiser than father and son; it is leading the way and swishing its tail to repel flies. Both father and son have ceded leadership to the horse!” Ámèbo tugged at Ádámò’s robe, shooing and saying, “Eskelebe ti o le bebe! Dundee Papa and múngùn pikin.”
Exasperated, Ádámò looked at the sky, seeking a divine answer to why man is unpleasable. A soothing but firm voice said, “Ádámò, no one can please the world. Man is insatiable.” Ádámò nodded…
ME8SSI. In African, Jewish and many other cultures worldwide, the eighth day after childbirth is very significant. It is the day the child is christened. It’s the baby’s first official outing.
The trajectory of the soccer god, Lionel Andreas Messi, is a semblance of Ádámò’s journey but the footballer’s companions are Barcelona FC and his Argentina national team. Millions of soccer fans worldwide hate Barcelona FC because of the agony Messi put them through when he played for the Spanish soccer team which once played the most beautiful football in the world. Such soccer fans include many of Manchester United who haven’t forgiven Messi for the 3-1 demolition of their team in the Champions League final of the 2010-2011 season, winning UEFA and fans’ Man-of-the-Match awards.
With their infamous style of parking the bus, Chelsea fans cannot like Barcelona’s penetrative audacity and jaw-dropping football that have earned the Catalan team five Champions League trophies to Chelsea’s two. Locked in a 4-4 head-to-head tie with six draws against Barcelona, Chelsea are, for me, England’s most resilient club, but Barca have an edge over the Pride of London in more goal aggregate. Well, there’s no way Chelsea fans would like Messi’s tenacious creativity and defence-splitting passes. He led the routing of Chelsea in a famous 3-0 mauling at Barcelona in a UEFA Round of 16 match.
Back at home in Spain, Messi was a key figure in Barcelona’s Golden Age reign, winning 10 Ligas, 7 Copas del Rey, 8 Spanish Cups, four Champions Leagues, 3 European Super Cups, and 3 World Cup Championships. Despite their huge financial spending, which earned their stars the Galacticos nickname, Messi ensured Real Madrid FC was silenced in Spain, spearheading the winning of more el clasicos than Los Blancos. Real Madrid are, however, more successful in Europe.
The unequal rivalry between former Real Madrid superstar, Christiano Ronaldo and Messi’s Barcelona often ended in near-meltdown for the Portuguese footballer during their time in Spain due to the goal margins of Barcelona’s wins.
Unlike Ádámò, Messi was unperturbed about the noise of his critics, responding to their criticisms with more sterling performances and achievements. When he wept for losing three Copa America finals, his critics who are essentially Ronaldo, Real Madrid, Man United and Chelsea fans, laughed, saying he can never win a continental trophy for Argentina. Messi remained focused and responded with a Copa America trophy, beating Brazil-led Neymar at the Maracana Stadium on July 11, 2021.
The cockroach took its three senior advocate sons to the court of chickens, seeking to overturn a guilty verdict. The cockroach and its sons never returned home. “What’s Copa America, is that a cup?” anti-Messi fans cried, agonised that Messi equalled the greatest achievement of their idol, Ronaldo, who had lifted the European Cup in 2016 without playing in the final due to an injury and without being as critical as Messi was for Argentina.
Red-hot Argentina took a 36-match unbeaten run form into the 2022 World Cup in Dubai. So, when the La Albiceleste lost the opening match to Saudi Arabia, 1-2, jubilant mockers glided into Cloud 9, puffing, “It’s not in Messi’s destiny to win the World Cup. He should just retire or die trying.”
A nervy 2-0 win against Mexico and Poland in the group stage didn’t silence his critics, who scoffed and said, “Australia are giant killers, they will shock Argentina in the Round of 16,” but when Messi led the 2-1 demolition of Australia, his frenemies, now uncomfortable with the prospect of Messi getting into the final, shouted louder than the revolutionary animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “Messi can never win the World Cup!!! Never!!!” – wishing their babel could undo the magical left leg that is worthier than the head, legs and height of their Ororo idol in the Arabian desert.
When Argentina were drawn to face the Oranje of Netherlands in the quarter-final, “Argentina will see òràn! Messi should go and ask what the Yoruba call òràn. May we not see òràn o.” wailers wailed, wishing Messi a waterloo. Argentina played better, succumbing a 2-0 goal lead between the 83rd minute and extra time. Argentina proved superior in the penalty shootout, winning 4-3, to advance into the final against France.
On paper, the French national team aka Les Blues looked more fearsome. The army of anti-Messi wailers was so happy that their much-wanted comeuppance for Argentina had finally arrived. Across the world, they printed jerseys and bought food and drinks, preparatory to an anticipated French victory. On match day, they brought out their grills and barbecued chicken, turkey and beef, eating, lavishing, and gulping water and alcohol.
Before many of the anti-Messi wailers could finish their first bottles of alcohol, the little magician of Rosario had fired home the first goal. Some anti-Messi fans opened their chicken-stuffed mouths wide in shock, their drinks gradually turning into bile. “This short man again!,” they wondered.
To be continued.
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. Published in The PUNCH, on Friday, November 3, 2023.