Back in my days at uni in Nigeria, I knew this guy we all called Prof (of course that wasn’t his real name), and he owned one of those game centers where you’d go, pay what I think was ₦25 per game, and play soccer on a PlayStation 2 at the time. Now this was so long ago, the soccer game we all preferred playing was PES (Pro Evolution Soccer), not FIFA. And every once in a while (maybe not once in a while), me and my friends would go to his place and spend time
that should have been used studying & money we didn’t have and we’d just play for hours on end. You know me, always seeking an escape. Some of the fondest, funnest memories I have of my time at Nsukka came from Prof’s place, and I developed many good, lasting friendships (some of which I still have today) in that small room just after Odim Gate.
Now while we were all cool outside of the game center, as with anything guys do, we were also highly competitive. Call me petty, but I’m not so sure I could be friends with people who were always beating me at PES (I’m kidding). So for the 10 minutes spent on each game, our friendship was suspended. I wanted to win, and I wanted to win badly. In fact, the more humiliating the scoreline, the better I felt. When the game was over, I could stop and tell you “oh you should have done such & such,” but that was because I had nothing else to lose at that point. And if I had lost, don’t you dare gloat on the way home. My mom would kill me if she knew how many of her calls I ignored because I had a PlayStation 2 controller in my hand.
Now this is actual reason for this post: Earlier today, I had a flashback to one of the many games I played there (seriously, I sincerely believe I might have single-handedly made Prof rich). I remember playing against one of my closest friends (till this day) and sometime during the game, I got a free-kick. Now unlike the FIFA games today, it used to be A LOT harder to score a direct free-kick in PES back then. So when I scored that one, I was over the moon as you’d expect. But what stunned me was that he was actually happier than I was. A lot happier.
See, I feel and have always felt I was the better player of the two of us, but there was no question he was way better than me at free-kicks. If I scored 1 in 40, he scored 1 in 10. And he wanted to win as much as I did (okay, maybe a little less). So I had just scored what was his specialty against him, possibly to win the game, and all I remember is him putting his controller down, and screaming. He was cheering so loud, people who were outside poked their heads in & he greeted every one of them with “No, no, Uché show am the highlight abeg. Ah ahn. How!?! Bad guy! See free-kick!!!”
I don’t know why that left such a huge impression on me. It’s a small silly thing, and I’m sure he doesn’t even remember it. But I had scored HIM, I had “done better” than he had, and he was genuinely celebrating me more than I was celebrating myself. I think it was at that moment I knew my friends were… different.
So here’s to them… Thank you.