It’s a hot afternoon here in Lomé, but the breeze from the ocean is invigorating. I am watching a beach soccer game between Zabaoth Academy and Arsenito FC. Going to the beach to watch a game is new to me, but something new is what we look for whenever we travel.
Although I am not affiliated with neither team, I picked a side before kick-off. Neutrality kills the vibe. I chose to support Zabaoth Academy because the color scheme of this team’s uniforms matches the flag of the land of 1,000 hills. Let’s go Zabaoth, let’s go!
Some spectators, myself included, are in a bar while others are hanging on a couple of fishing boats. Yes, fans seated on my side are watching the game from the comfort of their local pub at Togo Star Beach.
I am probably the only one in the crowd who is not familiar with both teams, but I feel integrated into the community of Zabaoth fans. I am dancing to the tune of the team wearing yellow, blue and green. The connection I have with Zabaothians is undeniable.
As the match picks up steam, hawkers of different merchandises are doing their best to persuade me to buy stuff I don’t even need. The more I ignore them, the harder they try to attract my attention and distract me from the game.
I may not be familiar with players participating in the showdown, but I can tell how they behave in real life. I have already identified whiners and spoiled brats. It’s easy to find out who is selfish, hot-tempered or entitled both on and off the pitch.
The midfielder of my team is calm, composed and collected. He seems to be the voice of reason whenever a dangerously tackled player is tempted, by the devil, to throw a punch in retaliation.
When it comes to leadership, Arsenito’s goalkeeper is in a class of his own. He is the captain of his squad and the glue that holds it together. Despite his exemplary leadership traits, he is having a hard time talking sense into one of his teammates. The said teammate is a flopper who pretends to be hurt, and grimacing in pain, every time someone touches him. He spends more time faking injuries and throwing tantrums than playing.
I like the referee. He knows how to exercise his authority. He maintains order while putting his foot down and reminding everyone that he is in charge. Likewise, he enforces the rules and shuts down all forms of intimidation from rowdy fans and loaded sponsors throwing their weights around.
My team attacks relentlessly throughout the game, but a combination of bad luck and the heroic performance of Arsenito’s goalkeeper keeps us scoreless until the final whistle is blown. Final score: 1 - 0 in favor of the boys in black.