Diary of a mad journo: A strike by name

By Nduka Orjinmo

So what are striking workers doing at their place of work?

This is one question perhaps only players of Sharks Football Club will be able to answer as rumuors of strike by the players following a back log of allowances owed them was belied by the presence of a full strength squad at the training session of the club at the Sharks stadium in Port Harcourt.

However, this is where it gets interesting as though present in their full training gears, the players lounged in the Port Harcourt sunshine, boots unlaced and training bibs intact in the kit man's bag.

Coach Imama Amapakabo and Kennedy Boboye would also not be denied the sunbathe-pity, don’t they receive plenty of it when they play in the North?-as they too turned up for training but rolled on the artificial turf of the stadium, training here not intended but lounging.

While a few first team players mixed up with the feeder side on hand to kick balls playfully-other than fortune Chukwudi who seriously worked on his appalling crosses-the rest huddled in cliques of threes and fours discussing.

I sought out a clique, and it was not hard to tell who the kingpin was. He sat in the middle, surrounded by three players all naked from the waist up, sweat dripping down their chests.

This man was the Capone, a man behind the scene, the de facto captain. From the way he sat, you would know he had a royal lineage-I suspect he comes from a family with planting prowess, I would say yam probably.

“The players are on strike he said, we come for training but we don’t train. We just discuss and laugh and dismiss for the day.”

“But emmm, I would love to have you on record”, and with that I quickly brought out my midget and fastened its end towards his mouth. But alas, his two men of his clique stepped forward in lightning fashion, iron chested and all, and plucked my innocent recorder off the air. For once, I thought they were going to crush it under their heels.

“Let him be, roared the voice of the Capone, give him back the bloody thing.”
Thank you sir, I retorted, snatching my poor midget and stepping away. I cast one last glance behind to see him lifting a green bottle to his lips, his face lightning in joy.

Bored of old men rolling on the turf and the sun scorching me dry and thankful for the preservation of my midget and wanting to get away quickly, I sought out coach Imama Amapakabo and before he had time to take off his sun-glasses, I asked him if it was true his players are on strike.

"Strike?" he asked. “Well, we are not on strike. As you can see, these are the players here. Do striking players come to training?"

“Well”, I told him, “rumuors are that the players do come to training, but only in name of presence. They in fact kick no ball as I have noticed,” seeing that I stood there for a while.

He shot me a mean look and in a voice not so unlike Mikel Obi said "well, you know, the league just went on break, so there is no need for vigorous training. What we have come for is a sit out, to help team bonding. Some of the players as you can see are working on the ball, trying to correct their deficiencies. So boy, there is no meat in that rumuor."

So I asked him, if you are on break why come to the field? Why not stay at home or meet in more serene environment for bonding?

"We are a football club, and the field is our environment. So what better environment than this? We will resume training nine days before the league resumes". “Good day boyo.”

Sorry coach, are you saying that the club is not being owed a penny?

“We have been paid our salaries up to date, but we are being owed just a handful of match bonuses, which our sponsors have assured that they will pay"

Before I could ask another question, he put his sun shade back on, shunted me out with its dim glasses and looked unlike a coach but an official of the state department. He brought out a phone, connected his headset, and before diving to the ground belly first, threw up his left leg in an Azonto dance.

Bewildered, I spun on my heels and marched on. But why would striking players come to training in the first place? Why would a coach summon his players on the field but have no training?

Confused I moved on, several questions were spinning in my head. I had stood in the sun for too long.
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