They called me “Striker.”
He was called “Mature.”
The rule of play was; should the ball go over the fence, whoever it touched last, would go after it.
This was the way football had been played in the lodge before I came in, everybody kept to it.
Mature, was a gang member and a notorious one at that. As a new student in that community, one of the basic orientations was to stay out of the way of gang members. Mature was always one of the first names to pop up.
I did my best, until that day. He had kicked the ball over and was feeling too big to go after it. I lost my cool. I shouted at him. We had a heated exchange and almost came to blows. That moment, all I wanted was to speak for what was right and being a towering six feet tall, I had some inches of advantage if we had to go into the age-old fist fight.
He was mad with anger. How dare you? Who are you?
“Striker, when you enter this school to begin challenge me? You know who I be? You wan make I burst your head?”
I was having none of that. My mother would always say, “don’t let anyone intimidate you. Stand your ground especially when you’re right.” I did just that. I responded to everything he said with reckless abandon.
“Guy, calm down! No dey raise voice. Who be you sef? You kickball komot, e come dey hard you to go bring am? You dey craze? You keep servant for here?” I was red with fury.
“Striker, na me you dey ask if I dey mad? Striker…”
He came at me. I clenched my fist, stood firm and waited for him. He was close when other guys stopped him midway. We continued exchanging words while the gathering cleared slowly.
While some people praised me for standing up to the tyrant, others simply told me to brace myself.
“He will come for you,” my roommate said. “Him and his gang with come for you. Hopefully, they’ll just beat you.”
The next three weeks of my life was a mess. I lived in paranoia. I was scared of my own shadow. I walked with my head bent, afraid to make eye contact. I avoided watching night football matches to avoid being roughed up while coming back. And my favorite teams played really interesting games that period. I never answered anyone and almost always locked myself up in my room.
The fear began to fade at the beginning of the third week. One night, I lost track of time. I had visited a girl and stayed longer than I had been doing the past two weeks. That night, I let my guard down. As I turned on the path that led to my lodge, I saw shadows ahead and behind me. The way one walked, I knew judgment day had come.