I rarely watch football. I really can't cope with 90 minutes of having my heart in my mouth over grown men who are chasing a ball.
My lack of passion for the game began while I was in primary school. During break time, all the boys would rush outside to utilise our large school field for football while girls would huddle in groups playing "ten-ten" and skipping. I would, of course, go with the boys and hope for a chance to make one of the teams for that day. Then the count would begin and... no captain would choose me. I was one of those football liabilities who would literally shoot the air with all my might and miss the ball, so everyone had learnt to avoid me like a plague unless they wanted their team to lose.
And then, in those days when colour TVs were a luxury, the streets would be deserted whenever there was an important match involving Nigeria. We would also sit at home to watch. Perhaps it was an overdose of patriotism, but my mum would begin speaking in tongues as soon as the match began to insulate the Nigerian team from losing. If a goal was scored, we would shout at the top of our voices and get into the celebration frenzy. It looked to me, though, as if we lost more times than we won. As someone who could not bear the emotional drain of expecting so much and ending up losing, I began watching fewer of those matches.
Needless to say, it did not take me long to learn that football was definitely not for me.
So, I tried being a runner. However, I was neither tall nor fast. I tried skipping but I never seemed to get my balance. I never saw the egg on time in table tennis, and always lost in arm wrestling. I was just this peaceful guy who was good at nothing.
My parents also did not understand me initially. Not only was I poor at sports, my school grades were terrible! I could hardly ever remember simple sums and even with a lot of parental attention, I was just slow. I also had a liking for snails and used to rear them by the window in my room. The day my mum found out, she threw them away and cast out the snail spirit which she must have been affecting my speed in life...
Then one day, my mum discovered that I could not read, even though I was supposed to have been long past that stage of basic reading and writing in school. My teachers had since stopped paying serious attention to me, determined that I was too slow for the pace of the class, and so it never occurred, even to me, that I did not know how to read! But this fateful day when my mum discovered, everything changed. Armed with a long "pankere" (whip), she forced me to learn how to read a story from my elementary textbook that day. It was like having scales fall off my eyes: I had always loved stories (my father being a fantastic storyteller) and here were stories hidden right within my book! After that day, I began reading every story in sight. The Famous Five became my friends and the Secret Seven were my acquaintances. I enjoyed the solitude of my imagination and talked about mysteries which mere mortals like my football-loving school mates could not understand, and that felt really cool!
My vocabulary and reasoning power improved astronomically. Suddenly, everyone in school wanted to associate with me! Before long, I began representing the school and my self-confidence skyrocketed. I still never made the football team, though.
My story is a long one. Along the line, I fell into the trap of believing I had finally become good at Math (because my secondary school Math teacher had a way of telling stories anytime he wanted to explain basic Math concepts and so I was one of his best students) and wasted a lot of time getting a degree in the sciences. Now, I am finally back within my true calling as a storyteller, telling stories with words, photos and videos.
I have learnt that it takes intelligence to kick a ball and get it into the net. It takes a different kind of intelligence to solve math problems and understand boring calculus. It takes yet another kind of intelligence to be a reality TV star, getting millions of people to lose their sleep over the dress you wore yesterday and the boyfriend you cheated on today. And while I'm at it, it takes a very complex type of intelligence to put stories together, see the meaning in pictures and craft a good video.
Someone once said that "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid". The world is filled with amazing and intelligent people who are trying too hard to conform to the expectations of others just like I thought that liking or being able to play football was a critical attribute of a man. My advice? Discover the real you and be the best of you!
"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You."- Dr Seuss