Today was Friday and Morgan International Community School had just trodden their bitterest rivals in a competitive football match. The fun in it was that Morgan chalked up this feat by pipping a home team. Mubarak Jaye was at the centre of it all, the lone goal hero, the goalkeeper who braved the odds by hacking on a loose ball in midfield, dazzling defender ball-watchers to de-wing the top flight football team of a 25 year old IB/IGCSE school. That was their first home defeat in the 21st century, thanks to Morgan International Community School. The team coach, Callistus Sullo could not hide his joy. Also, Matthew Williams, the Morgan International School student who had just won a coveted United Nations award was beside himself with joy, taking shots from all angles, grace-à a UN prize camera presented to him in Tokyo, Japan.
Among the supporters, Vera shouted out of jubilation until her sides nearly split; at least they hurt. She, like her mates, had retired to their lush Gomoa Manso campus and were preparing to go to sleep now. She knew she was too tired to read her TOK notes, but well, something caught her attention in town today: a news item suggesting Ghana preparing to host the 2038 FIFA World Cup finals with the unveiling of an artist’s impression of a new stadium. She turned on her Apple computer and engaged a search engine to navigate her way to the Daily Graphic homepage.
Vera looked around, not knowing exactly how she got there. It’s like waking up from one of these short naps you have on an airplane when you’re visiting a certain country the first time. And in that nap you see things as if in a Science Fiction. She’d been to Warsaw a countless number of times, but this was not it. Whichever way, she seemed to have snaked through a foggy glen maze and was seeing clear pictures for a first time. She was wondering where she was when impulsively she caught a glimpse of the conspicuous inscription: “Welcome to Greece”, and another one: “Welcome to the Future”. Indeed, whoever wrote that sign thought right because for the rest of her stay in that land, things happened as though in Science Fiction.
She did not realize it first. Greece had recuperated from her credit lapse state, and was now a strong link in the European Union. News had it that they were planning a financial aid to Spain whose young president had got the economy bleeding from unmitigated borrowing and uncontrolled spending on military hardware. Analysts did not consider the young president’s spending unwise because he was highly anticipating a Third World War to be sparked by the bad blood between Washington and Pyongyang. Things, however, took a different turn when Moscow out of the blue offered support to her former Cold War rival. By then, Madrid had already spent fortunes on self-insulation and fortification. Vera walked herself through the situational irony of the whole Third World War hoax again. Hmmm….and to think that Mugabe was no longer president of Zimbabwe. Zuma exiled…..
The first time she heard about Greece was from a verse attributed to Paul, the Apostle in the Bible, then her History teacher, Dr Danny Gyan told her that the Greeks were noted for originating the Olympic Games, the study of History, Philosophy and a lot more… that’s all she could remember now. Greece looked more beautiful than the photos she saw ever. “Greece is not camera-friendly”, she muttered under her breath.
She got to her hotel from the airport in a jiffy and it came not as a surprise because she realized something common in the second quarter of the 21st century: no vehicular traffic. The bus she rode on was a programmable automobile that used GPS and Google map to get to its destination, and it had no human driver. There was rather a figure stationed behind the steering wheels: it was a T-700 poly-mimetic alloy which possessed the highest level of artificial intelligence. She was surprised they refused to call the driver a robot. It was said that the name robot was offensive to machines with high intelligence in the second quarter of the 21st century.
The bus was like the one she boarded in Amsterdam some 12 years earlier when Daimler Benz was piloting its new android-driver technology in Amsterdam. The interior of the bus looked like a canopy room in a theme park but when the bus began to move, the décor looked like a drive through a park. The interior décor made advanced use of a proportionate combination of three powerful optical illusion patterns: herring, scintillation and Zolner. Beautiful! Many of the functions on the bus ride were controlled either by voice prompts, finger prints or with seat side knobs.
They were soon at the hotel.
“Vera, United Nations”
“Your passport, please.”
“How are you?”
“Akwaba, is that how we say it?”
“Your passport, please.”
That was simple. Room number K on the 119th floor. She did not ask for a key. Her finger prints at the security check point were enough to open her door for her. She did not have to worry about the journey to the apex of the skyscraper or the lift. The lift was a capsule lift, an exterior capsule lift, without those jerky rickety-crickety cascaded conveyor belts; it used a fine gear cog system instead, so its movement was swift and unnoticed. A ride to the 119th floor took less than 30 seconds. What if….? Yes. But there had been no power failure in Greece for the past twelve years, not even for a nanosecond.
She got to her room. The magic wall was to her left, bigger than the ones she had in Vienna and Warsaw. She required not a remote control to set it on; her mobile phone was enough. And she did. The TV began to boot requiring her pass-code. She placed her finger there…verified! She saw the date…. Ghana was just four weeks away from hosting the FIFA World Cup finals! She was amazed how fast 2038 had come. The last time she was in Ghana was nearly two years back. The hullabaloo and mumbo jumbo about international football tournaments and stadiums and judgment debts, to her, seemed like something that had come to stay. This time, it was not Alfred Agebshie Woyome and the Water Ville colossus and caucuses. She could not remember how the case involving Woyome ended but now it was one Alhaji Sani Gbengbentus. Whatever way.
Her phone rang. It was Cyril Ramaphosa, her immediate predecessor: the UN Chief Negotiator. He was happy with the way Vera handled a diplomatic issue in Warsaw; the Russian Prime Minster praised her for being tactically quiet in their meeting. However, Vienna accused her of mispronouncing a name. What a people? Ramaphosa went ahead to school her now how to handle names in Greece. A whole lesson of linguistics and sociolinguistics… she could only remember that Greece was once using Katharevousa and Demotic …and that the former was the language of scripture…. but the latter, a vulgar code, like the pidgin English of West Africa, took over as the lingua franca and language of official communication and government business, and he ranted on and on. A misplaced literature review.
She went to unpack and had a quick bath. She returned to the television to catch a glimpse of the trending pictures. Should she rather go to Facebook? Nope! Accra Sports Stadium. An international friendly between Ghana and the US. The two presidents were sitting side by side. Ghana’s first female president. Vera did not vote the last time she was in Ghana, she recalled….
The match was in its dying minutes. Accra Sports Stadium, indeed a futuristic sports stadium with cutting edge technology and facilities. She recounted how the opposition and pressure groups nearly prevented the government from executing that project some 17 years earlier. It was fun seeing so beautiful a stadium on TV but it’s more beautiful knowing you contributed to its erection through tax, and most beautiful because it’s in your home country. Now, there were more of such stadiums in Africa so it did not look too ambitious, save that Ghana’s futuristic stadium was still the reference point in the whole of sub-Sahara Africa. Everything the Daily Graphic reported earlier was now a reality. The roof provided electricity for the stadium because it was all solar panels. Its 4,000 parking spaces were all underground. And many more.
In commentary box was Matthew Williams, a FIFA accredited football blogger who was invited by the two commentators to share his thoughts. Matthew was a chattered economist who was consulting for the United Nations on emerging economies and was serving as a permanent member on the AngloGold Worldwide board. He was quoted by the BBC telling the European Union to get a less busy consultant. Vera remembered Matthew very well; he was still as slim as before save that he had now acquired some hereditary masculine features that dotted his upper lip and jawline. He was employed by the United Nations just after completing university, because everyone knew what Matthew Williams meant to the United Nations.
The cameras now picked the goalkeeper, Mubarak Jaye pounce on another loose ball a few yards from the center circle. He was advancing… the whole stadium stood but was not still; they went agog, cheering their national hero, the lone goal hero for the day. He moved to the left, still in possession, having survived two crunching tackles that were controversially deemed permissible. Refereeing allowed play to continue. He now entered the 18 yard box of the Americans, dribbled the ball past all three defenders in a quick succession, one after the other; Faucet, the man in the number 5 shirt was the last man to beat. He indeed beat him…
She now let up the volume on the TV set to listen to commentary.
“Mubarak Jaye! A shot! Oh, my goodness. The woodwork denies him. The ball takes a rebound, he shoots again; the US goalkeeper has a very intuitive sense of anticipation making the whole thing look like Jaye playing straight to his waiting clenched fists which did the parrying. The ball locates Macmillan, captain for the side. Advancing, Macmillan finds Brown on the far left. Brown sends a long one to Newton in the center circle; heads go up, Newton wins it. Brown now moves to midfield and receives another pass from Newton. US still in possession. Jaye is now trying hard to reach his goal post but goes down. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Ghana goalkeeper is down. Meanwhile, play continues. Jaye seems to be in excruciating pain. What a day! Play continues. Will Ghana survive this?
“Brown still on the move. He moves past Jeddy Brobbey, captain for the side. Here comes Okanta. Okanta. Okanta to counter the attacker, tries dispossessing Brown, but no, the Americans are advancing. Brown finds Ayeola on the edge of the touchline halfway inside the Ghanaian half. Ayeola, the Nigerian born US player, an African against Africans in Africa for the US. Ayeola, a brilliant chap who switched his nationality at a very tender age. He finds his assistant captain, Anderson. But it looks like there is too much pace on it. A tussle. Anderson brakes the ball, controls it.”
Meanwhile, Jaye was still on the turf reeling and gnashing. The RFID SIM on his person said he suffered a mild muscle pull and would be up in few seconds. All that information was displayed on the screen.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Ghanaian side now have a good run for their pride. A keeperless goalpost. Ghanaian defenders have now packed themselves into the goal post anticipating the worst for the night,… and I can see two strikers and a midfielder….no breathing space. I can see the two brothers, the Smith-Yankey bothers- Victor and Emil. Emil is a qualified medical specialist who lectures in St George’s Medical School in the United Kingdom. When Victor, his brother, was asked by journalists what his profession was he told them it was complicated. Victor Smith, the only African footballer who never answers questions directly. Now it’s a question of national pride. Macmillan now in possession. A shot! Heads go up; Jeddy puts his hand to it before it enters the net, a typical Luis Surez style… something done against Ghana in South Africa. Ladies and Gentlemen. You can hear the crowd. Referee whistles for a foul, and flashes the red card at Jeddy Brobbey, the saviour of the nation! What a hero! He has sacrificed himself, conceding a penalty kick, hoping Mubarak saves that spot kick. As you can see, the whole stadium is agog for one man, Jeddy Brobbey, captain for the side.”
Vera is tensed. Indeed, Jeddy made his exit, but not without a long hug from two officials: Calisstus Sullo and Beatrice Ampo. The Technical Manager, Professor Felicia Sackey, the professor of Economics turned football coach also hugged Jeddy as the cameras followed him on his exit through the quasi- vomitorium of the stadium. The coach, Professor Sackey effected a quick change. Vera remembered very well this professor from school. A friendly disciplinarian whose policies changed the face of college education. And not far from the presidential stand was Mr. Issac Boah-Kyei, the man known in political circles as “Berekum Man” who was now the Deputy Minister for Sports. And Nicole, the girl with a difficult surname! Eugene, the boy with the sonorous voice.
Vera thought she knew all these high ranking officials; they indeed looked familiar. And there was Mr. Assan-Tay, the patient Mathematics teacher. And all. She later learnt that the coach was indeed her Principal at college, now the first female team manager to have ever coached a national male team. A woman with great vision and mental fortitude, tact, diplomacy and the adrenaline to birth the impossible result. During their pre-tournament campaign with Professor Sackey in charge, the team played 8 matches and lost none: 6 wins and 2 draws. They drew with Brazil in Brasilia even.
Vera’s phone beeped: her next assignment was in Antananarivo in Madagascar to settle a dispute between Ravalomanana’s former minster and an Iranian diplomat related to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That’s the nature of her job. She recalled Ahmadinejad, the strong man who once threatened to wipe Israel off the map.
Vera began linking the dots between herself and the personalities in her shot when play resumed. The kick was to be taken. She shut her eyes and steeled her senses, deafened her ears at first and subsequently blocked them. She allowed some time to pass and then opened her senses only to see the referee call for the kick to be retaken. She could not take it so she went to the washroom. When she returned, the magic wall was showing a replay of the kick. Mubarak Jaye saved the penalty kick!
“Ladies and Gentlemen”, she resumed watching and listening, “we’re less than two minutes from the end of this game, injury time added… Mubarak is the man of the match. Mubarak takes a long goal kick and finds William Enoka in the center circle. William taps the ball, looks around and elegantly rolls it with the sole of his orange-green Nike boots, in a waggish sway; he finds Victor Smith on the left flank, Victor finds Emil, his brother. Emil now in control of midfield, turns round a second marker, a dribble of a third, can he? He’s brought down,… and referee whistles for a foul. This is halfway inside the area of America. Can we make another one on the 92 minute? I can see Okanta and Enoka behind the ball. To the far right, the two closest friends, Banahene and Dogbe are in a tête-a-tête on how to score another goal. They are like Muntari and Essien in this quarter of the 21st century.”
Close to the VVIP stand was seated that quiet-looking English teacher from her former school; Vera was surprised he was still in a white shirt over a pair of khaki trousers, a combination he always wore as if it was a medical doctor’s prescription. It later came to light that he was a hermit who founded a multi-million transnational printing and proofreading company. He worked only for those who could afford his services in dollars. It was indeed his company that did all the surface printing, inscription and labeling jobs in the new stadium. She wouldn’t have believed how rich they claimed he was if she had not caught him at a Dzorwulu gas station driving a newly registered metallic green Mercedes Benz sedan, still wearing his white shirt over a pair of khaki trousers. That was the last time she visited Ghana.
Vera’s phone rang, she went to the drawing room to receive this call from the UN Secretary General, the first female UN Secretary General ever, coming from Turkey. By the time she returned, the game was over. All players were carried shoulder high. Some unruly youth went to the coach, attempting to carry her shoulder high in the heat of the euphoria, but the professor had not changed a bit. She was in control of her natural self and just told them in her characteristic calm, motherly tone, “I’m a lady, please”.
The word lady resonated in the chambers of Vera’s memory; it had spiral reverberating effects on her. She knew that was an apt description of her role model. She smiled and smiled again when she felt a tap that startled her. Vera roused herself only to see her roommate standing over her saying, “Lady, it’s 4:30”.
She rubbed her eyes and saw the online article staring at her “Ghana plans on hosting the 2038 FIFA world cup finals.” That was when she realized she was catching a glimpse of the second quarter of the 21st century.