Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

Pre-reading: Football made in Nigeria

Group work. Choose one of the topics below and present your findings to the rest of the class. You may want to produce a PP, a written essay, or an oral presentation.

How and when did people begin to play football? You may find different explanations on the Internet, present the ones you find most convincing.

What was the British Empire? Why was Nigeria a part of it?

What do you know about African football, or Nigerian football in particular? Which nations or clubs are the best? How have African teams done at the World Cup? Make a list of famous African players and see how many the class recognises.

What are the basic rules of football? What is allowed, and what is not allowed? How do you win a match? Your presentation should make sense for somebody who has never heard about football before.

Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking
Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu: Football Made in Nigeria

Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

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Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

We played the game. It entailed any number of men or women running about kicking any roundish object. We had no special name for the game. Then the man from overseas came. He brought balls and boots and talked of football and soccer. Like most white men Coach Clemence came to Africa with a mission—to discover the beautiful game of football.


Coach Clemence came with many rules and regulations. And we all got hoarse complaining that he was complicating a simple game with his many rules. The bounce of the ball was beyond the ken of most of us. Kicking with boots put us in all kinds of trouble: the ball flew everywhere but the goalposts. It was all so cumbersome, like teaching a man to use the left hand in grand old age.


“Keep the ball on the ground!” Coach Clemence hollered, daring the noonday sun as he ran from one goal to the other correcting us. “The birds in the sky do not play football.”


We suffered at the hands of this man. He made us run endlessly round the field building up what he called stamina. After the marathon running, kicking football was well-nigh impossible. Even so Coach Clemence insisted that we must play football. There was nothing like impossibility in the man’s dictionary. You cannot play the man’s game unless you have sapped all your energy running like a madman chasing after dry leaves.

Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

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Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

“Who ever heard of the footballer with neither skill nor stamina?” Coach Clemence asked rhetorically while pushing us ahead to more suffering. “You lot deserve special places in the Football Hall of Shame!”


To give him his due, Coach Clemence led by example. He ran all the rounds with us and played ball like a maestro. He could keep the ball up in the air for an entire day, juggling masterfully as though the ball were tied to his boots. And he could whack a shot at goal. The goalkeeper once flew into the net together with his thunderously wheezing shot. And the man cried like a baby, ending his football career just as abruptly.


The first competitive match we played was against a team of some tourist friends of Coach Clemence. It was a massacre. We somewhat stood fixed watching the soccer wizards from London do all the scoring. They ran like the wind and danced past our ears like mosquitoes. They were more slippery than catfish in water. Neither skill nor stamina was on our side, a total mismatch. Coach Clemence had to stop the match after thirty or so torrid minutes to save us from further punishment. Even he had lost count of the number of goals scored against us.

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Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

“I quit,” my elder brother said to me moments after the game.


He was gasping for breath, dying for oxygen. It had been his job to mark the fleet-footed left-winger of the tourists. My big brother, big and proud fellow that he is, was dusted on the corners of the field by the flying little wizard on the left wing. The wee ball player drew circles round my brother, dribbling, taunting and scoring. After the humiliation my brother picked up his climbing-rope and returned fulltime to his trade of tapping palm wine. All the entreaties from Coach Clemence could not get my brother back on the field.


“I can’t afford to spend all my life chasing the wind,” Brother Okoro said. “My younger one is still there and he may yet catch the wind.”


“You can’t afford to throw in the towel so early in your career,” Coach Clemence pleaded, staring fixedly with imploring eyes on my brother Okoro. “You can still make the grade and earn tons of money as a football professional.”


“It is a man who is alive that can earn money,” Okoro replied, unmoved. “Do you know how many times I died in that field?”


“The beginning of every act is always difficult,” Coach Clemence said, patting Okoro on the shoulder. “Once you have mastered the art, all the suffering you took would look glorious in hindsight.”


“White man, I have played my last match.” The finality in Okoro’s tone could not be missed by Coach Clemence. “There is even no sense at all in fully grown adults running all over the place chasing an inflated balloon!”

Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

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Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

The exit of Brother Okoro was an open wound felt by all our teammates. He was a natural wag who softened our suffering with his many jokes. In his absence everybody looked upon me to take up the mantle of team clown. I was a profound failure on all counts. One statement assailed my ears everyday: “If only your brother Okoro had been here …”


We played some other matches. We lost all the matches. The score on each occasion was scandalous. Coach Clemence had the same words for us after every defeat: “You learn from losing.”


After one particularly humiliating defeat, a game in which half of our players scored own goals, one rugged man walked into our fold. Some said he had been a coup-seasoned soldier while others said he was an expired politician. Nobody was sure of anything about the man. A pudgy and crafty old stager, he was gap-toothed and his goggles were darker than midnight. He spoke quaint English that edged Coach Clemence's for incomprehension. He at first introduced himself as our Team Manager. In the next practice session he appointed himself Defence Minister, explaining that he had all the answers for all our defensive frailties. Next he called himself Sole Administrator. Coach Clemence could not hide his amusement as the strange fellow by and by took the titles of Head of State, C-in-C, Life President etc. The title Presido fitted him like a cap.

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Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

“They are my people,” the man said to Coach Clemence, pointing at us as we sat head bowed. “I know their psychology.”


In the football field he spoke to Coach Clemence in English while he talked to us in the native tongue. Some of his words to us were actually full-throated insults directed at the white man.


“Don’t mind the white monkey,” the man said, pretending to be serious. “May he dissolve under the hot African sun!”


“What’s that?” Coach Clemence asked quizzically after we had burst out in laughter.


“Oh I was telling the boys to rise up to the magnitude of the British Empire,” the man replied in grand English elocution. Then he turned to us and asked in vernacular: “Can this white nobody give birth to a black somebody?”


We continued to laugh much to the puzzlement of Coach Clemence.


“Don’t mind the native morons,” the man said, reverting to English. “They are laughing at my lack of knowledge of the local lingo.”


Coach Clemence was none the wiser but would not be distracted. He upped the ante by taking us into the classroom to teach us football. He mentioned many incomprehensible figures and numbers: 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-4 etc. He drew many lines on the blackboard and plotted many graphs. He pointed and directed through arrows and curves. We got more confused by the minute. The classroom lessons continued interminably. If there was anything worse than being defeated woefully on the field it was being made to sit through the dreary lessons in the classroom.

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Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

“My people cannot get the hang of this teaching of football inside the classroom,” our self-appointed President challenged Coach Clemence.


“Without a sound theory there can be no good praxis,” Coach Clemence explained.


“How can somebody do on the blackboard what is played out there in the football field?”


“Presido!” We all rose in salute of our President for asking a question that we had all individually wanted to ask.


“Football is a game of the head rather than of the feet …”


We all shouted, interrupting Coach Clemence.


“In that case,” Presido was saying, “the game would have been called headball instead of football.”


Yes! We were all screaming in support of the thesis of our darling Presido, a true man of the people.


Coach Clemence shook his head and announced the end of the day’s lesson. He then said that the British Embassy Staff Club had challenged us to a football match. Presido instantly volunteered to produce FIFA-graded match officials and a record crowd for the special match.


“This match I take as your command performance,” Coach Clemence said, dismissing us for the day.

Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

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Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

The football stadium was a wild forest of people and spirits on the august day. The pep talk of Coach Clemence minutes before the match dwelt much on the anticipated style of our opponents. He talked of the speed and accuracy of British football and asked us to watch out particularly for the overlapping runs of the full-backs. He mentioned a certain footballer of yore called Terry Cooper who by overlapping turned into a menacing demon for all opponents of England.


“We know what you mean,” said Presido, interrupting as usual. “Overlapping means that somebody comes as a missionary and then overlaps as a colonial master!”


“Don’t mix football with politics,” Coach Clemence said.


“Don’t listen to the white man,” Presido said to us in the native tongue. “When we get into the field we shall play our style.”


“Our style is home-grown freestyle soccer democracy played with military boots,” shouted our dancing goalkeeper who had for some time been taking some private lessons at the insistence of Presido.


The match was not yet a minute old when the British left-back, overlapping, scored. He would have scored again in the very next minute but for the agility of our goalkeeper. Now instead of putting the ball into play according to the rule of the game our goalkeeper ran the full length of the field and threw the ball into the net of our opponents!

Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

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Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

“The overlapping goalkeeper!” roared the crowd.


Unprecedented! Fit for the Guinness Book of World Records! First in history!” I heard so many exclamations.


The referee looked at his assistants and at the excited crowd and then pointed to the centre of the field, thus counting our goalkeeper’s caper of a coup as a goal. The British Embassy Staff Club players were dumbfounded. I could not understand what was happening. The referee was asking the Embassy boys to restart the game, but they refused to. Suddenly our goalkeeper picked up the ball and ran all the way to score again. The referee blew a blast on his whistle, jumping up in excitement like Presido and the crowd. The overlapping goalkeeper scored many more times, and the spectators could no longer be controlled for joy. They encroached into the field, passing the ball to us with their hands and feet. It was a melee. Nobody could leave the field of play. I looked in the direction of Coach Clemence but his place had been taken by Presido. And how Presido enjoyed the game! He actually came into the field to score a handful of goals with his hands and feet and head. How he gloried in “our style” of total football! He jumped and screamed and laughed, urging us on with his hands and feet and mouth. And we obeyed him, playing with all parts of our bodies and scoring with every section of our anatomy. It was indeed an original never-ending game.

Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking


Vís í nýggjum vindeyga
Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

Task 2.8.1


  • Why does Coach Clemence come to Africa?
  • How do the players feel about his training methods?
  • What happens at the first match they play?
  • Why does the narrator’s brother Okoro quit?
  • What does Okoro want to do instead?
  • Who is Presido?
  • What happens at the final match?
Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

Study questions

  • Account for setting, narrator, and point of view.

  • Use the Hollywood model to make a structural analysis of the short story. Compare the beginning of the story with the end; what has happened?

  • Make character sketches of Coach Clemence. Presido and the narrator

  • Make two actantial models of the short story, one with Coach Clemence as the subject, and one with Presido as subject. What do the models tell us about the conflicts in the text?

  • Make a list of the values and norms that the short story connects to Europeans and Africans, respectively. Then decide what the short story tells us about the culture clash between the coloniser and the colonised.

  • Which function does language have in this short story? How – and to what end – does Presido use the fact that Coach Clemence does not understand the native tongue?
Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

Talk about it

  • If the short story uses football as metaphor to talk about colonialism, then what does it want to tell us?
  • Many Africans play their football in Europe, and many leave their countries as early as 12 or 13 to live in football academies. Some make it, some don’t. Discuss that life – and discuss if Europe is once again looting Africa for its wealth the way we did during the colonization.
  • In the beginning of the short story, it says that the sport “entailed any number of men or women running about kicking any roundish object” which indicates that men and women played the game together. Discuss why we have chosen to divide all sports into gender categories. You may want to investigate the case of the South African runner Caster Semenya.
Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking

Write about it

  • Write a short story about how Coach Clemence experiences the final match. You may use either a 1st person or a 3rd person narrator.
  • Or write a short story about what happens after the final match.
Tú skalt rita inn fyri at skriva viðmerking


FIFA-graded match officials

[of'ficials] FIFA-góðkendir dómarar

command performance

[com'mand per'formance] n privat framførsla fyri kongshúsið ella øðrum ráðandi


[dis'miss] s her: geva frí


l virðingsverdur


s dvølja við

of yore

í gomlum døgum

menacing demon

hóttandi marra


n trúboði


[over'lap] s "yvirlappa," umskarast

colonial master

[co'lonial] n hjálandaharri


l heimavaksin

at the insistence of Presido

[in'sistence] eftir áheitan frá Presido


[a'gility] l kvikleiki, fimi


[un'precedented] l óhoyrt


[excla'mation] n róp


h á hendan hátt, soleiðis

caper of a coup

her: svikabragd


[dumb'founded] l málleysur, ovfarin


n her: hart bríksl


[en'croach] s her: troka seg 


n hurlivasi

gloried in

vb frøast um

urging us on

eggja okkum


[o'bey] s akta


[a'natomy] n kroppur


[en'tail] s her: fevna um


[over'seas] h handanhavs, uttanlands


adj hás

beyond the ken

ikki til at skilja


l trupul, tvørligur


rópa, ýla


s vága, erta


n áhaldni


h so at siga, næstan (gomul orðing)


s mergsúgva, forkoma

to give him his due

tað skal hann eiga

led by example

[ex'ample] gekk sjálvur undan


n meistari


s buka

thunderously wheezing



[a'bruptly] h knappliga


l hálur


n steinbítur


l glóðheitur, rúkandi


l fótfimur

dusted the corners of the field

her:  verða hurraður runt á øllum vøllinum


l pinkulítil


s spotta


n lína (at klíva í)


s tappa


[en'treat] innilig bøn


[im'ploring] l bønandi


n tá ið hugt verður afturá aftur


[fi'nality] n endaleiki


[in'flated] l uppblástur


n skálkur


n kappi, her: leiklutur


[pro'found] l her: fullkomin

on all counts

í øllum lutum


[as'sail] s her: pína, níva


l kvettin, illbrýntur

coup-seasoned soldier

royndur og herdur hermaður

expired politician

[ex'pired poli'tician] fyrrverandi politikkari


l hyldligur, væl í holdum


l snúin, snildur


[sta'ger] n (lívs)royndur maður


l við gloppi millum tenninar


n brillur


l undarligur

edged Coach Clemence's for incomprehension

var torført hjá Coach Clemence at skilja


n veikleiki

Sole Administrator

[ad'ministrator] n einkarstjóri

native tongue

n móðurmál


l her: týðuligur


[dis'solve] s fara í upploysn


l spyrjandi


n stórbæri, stórur týdningur


l hábærsligur


[elo'cution] n talukynstur


[ver'nacular] n her: bygdarmál


n undran


[re'vert] s fara aftur til


n her: bygdarmál

none the wiser

skilti framvegis einki


[di'stracted] l ørkymlaður

up the ante

hækka innskotið


[incompre'hensible] l óskiljandi

plotted many graphs

tekna nógvar farmyndir


[in'terminably] h út í tað óendaliga


h vanlukkuliga


l keðiligur, dapur


[self-ap'pointed] l sjálvtilnevndur


l haldgóður


n verk, útinnan

rose in salute

[sa'lute] reisast fyri at fagna

ISBN: 9788761657954. © Rithøvundarnir, Systime A/S og Nám 2011