My Experience as a First-Timer at an NPFL Game

It took a while before I found out that Ibadan would play host to the great Elephants of Aba, Enyimba FC. After the strange decision by whoever to stop airing live NPFL games, I kind of lost touch with the NPFL world.

An Instagram picture, another there plus a bunch of tweets is how I managed to keep up with the second half of the nation’s beloved -or so I think – football league.

Earlier in the season, the coverage and broadcast of games by “that” media company helped me to have a better knowledge of the league, be able to identify Al Hassan of Akwa United when I see him and, ah yes, that Sikiru Olatunbosun wonder goal.

With live games gone – the same thing that irked my interest in the league – I became partially blind to happenings in the league… until I heard Chisom of Naija Made say 3SC of Ibadan would play host to Enyimba.

Like thunderbolt, the idea of going to watch the game live struck me. I had never been to any stadium to watch live games. With former 3SC coach, Gbenga Ogunbote, bringing Enyimba to town, and Shooting Stars teetering on the edge of relegation, the game was too good to miss.

But I had not been to a stadium before – not since when I struggled to climb and sit on a couch. How does this whole thing work? I knew the venue but being my first time, I was a bit dramatic about what to expect.

Thought after thought bombarded my head from Thursday night till Sunday afternoon. I kept imagining what the place would look like.

So I decided to go along with my friend Victor – whose version of the experience can be found here. While waiting at a bus-stop called Gate – those living in Ibadan can relate to this – I caught a revelation, something like a rhema.

While I won’t divulge all, I’ll tell you this: Dear reader, do not be deceived. Nigerians still flock to stadiums country-wide to see their beloved teams play. When you have time, visit a stadium – try going alone first for reasons I’ll explain later – near you and see things for yourself.

On getting to the stadium, the number of fans I saw was staggering. While some were already seated inside the stadium screaming their hearts out, some others were outside, screaming their lungs out!

Not sure if it was out of love or frustration but these folks outside the stadium looked like they wanted in at all cost! They exchanged heated words with the hefty bodyguards at the gates and the showed displeasure.

But there was a ticket issue. At least that’s what it looked like. Tickets had ‘finished.’ After a while, match tickets became all of a sudden available again.

There was one scramble to get the tickets, it was another to get into the stadium. It was yet another struggled to find available seats among the tough-looking, alcohol-sipping and marijuana-smoking fans already either comfortably seated or comfortably standing.

As you must have guessed, one half of the game had already been played by the time I found my way into the stadium through those rusty revolving bars that barricaded the tiny entrance.

Although greeted by the stench of urine and marijuana combined, the joy of finally entering into the stadium is one I won’t forget in a hurry. Finally, I was able to catch a glimpse of the quite tall Enyimba defenders battle things out with the not-so-tall Shooting Stars players.

I also saw some policewomen whose khaki trousers were very well starched and ironed. It was hard to look past Enyimba’s beautiful white jersey and the scramble by the medical team to bring back to life a Sootin’ player who had passed out.

Unperturbed by the unfriendliness of the structure of the stadium, the long queues for match tickets and the not-so-family-friendly ambience, I look forward to visiting the stadium again – and so the other stadiums across the country (see you sooner than you think oh Enyimba fan).

For those wondering whether to visit a stadium or not, you now know well enough to judge for yourself. You may want to test the waters with one toe rather than diving in.

For those interested in how the game ended, a lone goal was all 3SC needed to grab a win over Enyimba FC. One good move towards avoiding relegation. Maybe they won’t get relegated after all.

Just maybe.