When they say we are a corrupt people in Nigeria, don’t think it is only our leaders.
The average Nigerian who has small power also wields it in the most corrupt manner. Why am I talking like this? I have just returned from a super market in my area, one of the security guards is one lady I used to know when I was still living with my parents in Surulere. This lady is much younger than me. Back then she was a footballer and a very good one at that.
Tina, that’s her name could dribble and play better than many guys in our area at that time. She was so talented and everybody in the area at that time knew she would go places.
Of course at that time, female football in Nigeria was budding, it hadn’t become such a big thing but even so, she was already headed abroad where female soccer was better recognized and encouraged.
Tina as i said was much younger than me; she was about 15 or 16 years old then when she was recruited by a local coach along with several other girls to form a team. And they were doing well; they had gone from beating several other female teams in Nigeria and were spreading their wings to Africa and a few eastern European countries.
Like all female footballers are wont to look, Tina is built strong, she is tall, muscular but in a feminine way. She commands a lot of attention anywhere she goes and I don’t ever think I have ever spotted her in skirts and dresses. She was always dressed in track downs, jeans trousers and t-shirts and the like, so you couldn’t but notice her fine physique.
She was a girl we were all proud of: well behaved, decent. She was always at the stadium, always practicing, always honing her skills, the sky was no limit.
A few years after she joined the team and had gone on a few matches outside the country; she saved money to build her parents a house in Ikorodu!
Then things began to go wrong.
Now, the guy that was coach to Tina and the team was someone we also knew; I mean, if you lived in that area, you would see him walking by, scouting for new talents, he would come to the fields on Saturdays to look for girls who were interested in playing soccer. He wasn’t much of a guy really, he was, you know, I guess, just doing his job.
Then, when we all had concluded Tina’s career in football could only get better, it began to get worse. We heard that she had been left behind from several tournaments, that she had not ‘qualified’ for any of the international matches that we all wanted to watch simply because our girl from the area was going to play. We didn’t quite understand that anyone would be more talented, more qualified than our Tina.
I didn’t follow-up on much of the stories; who knew? Maybe indeed some better talented girl had taken Tina’s spot, maybe she should work harder. I got a job, left my parents house, started my own life at some other part of town and heard nothing more about Tina.
I went to visit the parents few years ago when I heard again about her, the story broke my heart; I was told that the reason Tina and a few others in the team were dropped by the coach was because they refused to sleep with him to ‘qualify’ for the big league abroad. Of course you know matches abroad fetch money, right?
So this coach had been demanding sex to qualify for tournaments abroad, meaning that regardless of her talents, Tina and some other girls had decided to forfeit their dreams to making it in leagues abroad.
I felt so bad.
A few days back, I went to the supermarket in my area to pick up a few items and right there at the door, I met a well-built security lady. I made to walk past her when she pulled me back and said, “Uncle, long time.’’
I looked up, it was Tina; she was a security guard and my heart broke all over again.
‘Tina, how are you? You work here?’
Yes, she did, was security for the store.
I dragged her out to talk to her after she asked one of her colleagues to cover for her.
She confirmed the ‘rumour’ about the coach demanding sex for qualification to tournaments abroad. She told me she had tried to join other female teams and after rising to a certain level, sex was demanded as criteria for moving abroad. “…How many coaches person go do?’ She asked me.
I deduced she had given in at some point and perhaps when it became a regular pattern, had decided she was not going to keep doing this or that maybe even after giving in, she still didn’t get to travel for matches abroad. Whatever the thing was, I felt so sorry for her.
She and several who have continued to give in or hold back are silent sufferers, they are victims of a society that neglects to address issues.
So what it means is that many people will definitely be aware of what is going on here, it’s the same in our university system, same in many places of employment. I felt bad for Tina. When she was much younger, we never even thought she would end up in Nigeria, not to talk of being a security lady.
But here’s the thing o. I was kind of happy she became a security guard than lose her dignity sleeping from coach to coach. She has a job that though may not pay much, still gives her something to take home. So yes, I was sad that she didn’t make it big like we had thought she would but who says this is the end of her life? I told her this was just a phase even though she will never be able to play football because of age and all that but something better will come along, of this I am sure.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)