Half Time

By Tolu Ogunlesi

At a beer parlour, patiently waiting for Nigeria

to put Argentina on the flight back

to Buenos Aires; loud discussions on everything

from ash clouds to Diego’s immortal hand

of Goddamit! The TV proudly wears dark glasses,

drawing technicolour mockery

from the crowd, booze swirling

in our brains like a million Messi

own-goals, scored all at once.

Imagine watching the World

Cup in tones of grey! Then,

just as the match is about to resume,

she shows up (sandwiched between beer ads)

to face a berlin wall of leering eyes.

Not our fault, really. She is cute, plus

the beer. Before we can wonder what

cream or soap she wants our wives

to compel us to buy for them, she

has dropped it, her 250-kilo bomb.

She is positive, has been for five years.

But she is coping positively.

She wants us to stick to our wives,

and if we can’t, to sheath our strikers

in rubber jerseys.

“This thing is real man!” says one man

to another. “Look at her. You could never

tell who’s got it. If I saw her on the streets,

I’d pick her up in an instant!”

We laugh wildly. The way of men. Let

the match begin! But it is a man that rises

slowly from amidst us; to tell us it is no laughing

matter. “What is no laughing matter?”

The virus. The dreaded one. He should know

because he has carried it for two years,

the way we carry our prejudices, our love

for the game of the round leather; for

beautiful girls. Silence seeps from the cold bottles

in our hands, from the single fan blowing

heat upon us like an angry deity.

He is not done yet. Chuckling,

he tells of how, after discovering

his status, he began to count time

anew. B.V – before virus, A.V – after virus.

He says it without bitterness.

Then he sits down, quietly as he stood.

By this time the second half has started,

and King Kanu is strolling with the ball,

into the Argentinean goal area.

Only most of us no longer see the conquering King.

Instead, on that flickering screen, are roving shapes,

(out of a high school biology tome)

advancing swiftly, into the 18-yard box

of what looks to be the human body…

Kanu is unstoppable. Kanu is unslowdownable.

Kanu is unstoppable. Kanu is untackleable.

It is therefore yet another award-winning GOOOAL…