LET’S PLAY BALL
If you think it isn’t a big deal that I couldn’t play ball, please ask a young boy whose friends not only enjoy playing football but can actually play it well. I was a professional otu a.k.aa short one. I was the boy that will be on the pitch and my friends won’t mind leaving the pitch to go find someone else to join their team. No one ever wanted me on their team. I was not wanted. I didn’t blame them anyway, the times some had looked upon me and helped my situation, I had flopped, I didn’t know how to handle the ball properly, I was good at ‘lago’-ing another word for kicking the air instead of the ball.
I hated the fact that I was good in my books, at least a lot more than others but I was no use with my friends on the pitch. I was almost clueless when it came to things that boys did. I didn’t know how to play video games, I didn’t know how to play basketball, I didn’t know how to play football. All I knew was books. It was frustrating!
Somehow I didn’t like it, and like I have learnt, I decided I was going to do something about it. I eventually learnt to play the ‘brick’ game and the car race on nintendo. I felt like I had achieved something. I believed then, even though I couldn’t put it into words then, that I wasn’t what others called me, I was what God called me and other thing I choose to accept. So I decided to accept myself as I was, what was the point anyway, I couldn’t change anything could I? Yes I could. I could change somethings.
I remember going to a game center with a friend of mine, and the first time he allowed me play PES, I was flogged 10-0. I eventually improved but that thrashing can’t be forgotten. I’m grateful that it was my friend, Samuel that thrashed me that much and not some random outsider or the various street boys who usually hang around the game centre, that way it was less painful.
Samuel eventually thought me how to play mortal kombat on Sega. We played Contra together, car race, Crash, Tank on video games. Somewhere in my heart all this was making me feel more like a guy.
Whenever I was ‘abused’ for having a pointed nose, I took it in stride and joked about how I was the Nigerian version of Mr bean, whom everyone was a big fan of then. I joked about the fact that I won’t need a passport or visa to travel out of the country as my nose was prove that I belonged there. I didn’t just think about these things, I talked about them. I wouldn’t allow anyone make me feel less of myself. Even though I did feel like that from time to time, I didn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing me feel bad about me. Luckily for me, the girls liked me. Every girl I liked, liked me back…lol except one who I wasn’t sure of. You think that isn’t important?
My breakthrough continued as I grew, I was given more responsibilities in church I was given the opportunity to teach the children the word, conduct choreography and such. I grew into a teenager with this responsibilities, stepping into unfilled leadership positions. I was discovering my talents more. I wasn’t just a nerd, I was a good program planner, I enjoyed singing, speaking and conducting rehearsals. I soon started acting. I had all this in me and I was upset about not being able to play football?
One day, during one of the school session breaks, my neighbour’s daughter, who attended one of the prestigious girls only boarding school came visiting and as she was teaching myself and my siblings how to break dance. I told her I couldn’t. But she did it and asked me to try it. I followed her cue and I can clearly remember her saying “You can dance”. Wow! So I can dance too? I am talented. I started appreciating God more for the things I had than the ones I didn’t. I still couldn’t play football though, I was good with the girly game of suwe, ten-ten, and in-and-out. Football wasn’t my thing, but I decided I wasn’t going to give anyone the permission to put me down even if I was called ‘short one’. Nah. So everytime I had the opportunity to play football, I volunteered, sometimes I would be chosen someitmes, I won’t. I continued to lago, but I didn’t give up. I would run up and down the pitch to find the perfect place to stay and not be the cause of the team’s loss. I eventually decided to settle for defender, what we called backman. Atleast there I don’t have to really push the ball around, just stop the ball from passing me and kick it out, to whatever direction. I did that, very well. Some laughed at me and changed my name to any-where-belle-face mocking the fact that I placed the ball anywhere my stomach pointed. It stung, but it didn’t keep me from continuing.
Finally a day came, I scored my first goal ever! We were playing in a narrow place behind the school building, we were playing two-two. I was on the same team as Junior, one of the best football players I have ever met and two of our classmates were the ooponents. Junior passed the ball to me to go for a counter attack, I pushed the ball forward carefully until I was faced with the defender, alone. I swung my right leg over the ball in a bid to do the legover dribble, and shot the ball directly into the post. I watched as the ball rolled in the opposite direction to which he moved his leg, allowing space for the ball to pass through his toros. It was a goal! The legover worked!! My legover worked!!!
What made the goal more thrilling was that the defender and I were having a rift during that period, I was so glad I scored from my ‘enemy’.
That added to the set of talents I had, scoring goals. If I could score 1 goal, it was possible for it to happen again. I was glad.
One of my highest points in secondary, actually two of my highest point was when I was chosen by my mathematics teacher to be a part of the team that was going to represent my school in the eleganza young brain competition. I remember her telling me that “aremo, I am not choosing you because you are very good, but I see you are ready to learn”. I appreciate her a lot. I went for the competition and I answered two questions correctly. Questions that got us the win. I was proud of myself. I gave God thanks.
Another high point was when I acted a movie on the assembly and I used my real name for the character that I acted, I became very popular in school coupled with the fact that I was also an acting prefect as at that time, a very nice acting prefect.
My life started taking shape. My high school story won’t be complete if I don’t share how I met ‘her’ but then, this isn’t a book on just high school. Maybe some other time.
I left secondary school, continued working in the corner of my church until one day I got an invitation to my province to come and be a part of the provincial executives, a couple of distasteful experiences occured, but I eventually joined, I later ‘retired’ from teens executive as the province’s vice president. I was always awed at how God brought me from a place of obscurity to a place of influence, giving me an opportunity to change the lives of many people. It was a privilege I do not take for granted. Through the position as a provincial executive, I visited Mummy Folu Adeboye, wife of Daddy E.A Adeboye, the general overseer of RCCG. It was a God orchestrated privilege.
After then I had held and still hold different leadership responsibilities, I have helped people break away from low self-esteem that almost hindered my life and from time to time I look back and give thanks to God because I know that it was only Him that could have worked things out for me the way things worked out.
I stand before people today to speak and I know that even I couldn’t see this many years ago. I still wonder how I, Aremo Olalekan could be anyone’s mentor, It didn’t fit many years ago.
Every time you see me or hear about my name, please know that here is a boy who was nothing but trouble right from birth but whom God took and raised from the ground and placed on a high place with honour. ONLY God could have brought me this far.
To be continued…