|Imama Amakapabo, Ayo Ibidapo and I at the Lagos Airport|
We had to watch the Olympic Games group game between Nigeria and Sweden and as soon as it ended at 1 am on Monday so we made a choice between sleeping and staying awake.
We were told we had to be at the airport at 4am but we decided to sleep anyway and wake up at 3am. That’s a two hour session of shut eye.
Watching Nigeria play Sweden was a massive project anyway as we had to battle sleep to see the game through.
Nobert Okolie did not even watch the game. He woke up with a start every time I reacted to something I was seeing to also exclaim like he was watching anyway.
However, we saw that one through.
Ayo Ibidapo, Nobert Okolie and I were about the first to arrive at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos and then the other began to turn up.
Check in and boarding were no issues and at 7am we were airborne to Casablanca.
Threat to my life
In Abuja, whilst applying for visas, I met coach of Rangers, Imama Amapakabo who told me it would be good to have me in Spain so we could sit and talk at night.
When a Port Harcourt boy tells you he wants to sit and talk with you at night, you know you will be drinking things, evil things.
I did not want to drink o. So I knew my survival strategy would be to avoid Imama Amapakabo all through our time here, but I think he would turn out to be the least of my problems.
Four hour wait in Casablanca
We landed in Casablanca (not that one in Port Harcourt) at about 11am and our connecting flight to Madrid would be at 3:45 pm and then we began to mingle to kill time.
I paired up with Imama Amapakabo (that Port Harcourt boy again), Ayo Ibidapo and Amobi Ezeaku (the young Team Manager of Rangers International).
First things first you have to know about Amobi is that he can talk boredom to death. A very lively person who always has something to say about every situation.
I brought out a book and started reading while Imama was fiddling with his phone, apparently tweeting and enjoying himself.
He even showed me a video or two on twitter whilst I wondered how he did it. Was he roaming data? Then he must be a “Big Boy” because I had turned off my data roaming so I do not get bankrupt before I return to Nigeria but “ashame” no gree me ask Imama.
Apparently he sensed my predicament and asked, “You know there’s free wifi here, do you?”
Chai! I screamed out. And I’ve been reading this book since? I actually told Imama off for not telling me on time and hooked up. I told him how much I hated him for enjoying free wifi while I read a book.
In his defence he said he thought I was enjoying the book so much that I did not care about wifi. Who doesn’t care about free wifi?
LMC chairman, Shehu Dikko, former chairman, Nduka Irabor, Rivers United General Manager, Okey Kpalikwu and Barrister Chris Green joined us as we were about to leave for the boarding gates.
We saw a sports shop selling, of course, jerseys and stuff and Shehu Dikko said, “If any club chairman buys a foreign jersey, he will be sanctioned.”
Of course that was a joke but we got the picture.
Okey Kpalikwu asked if there was any League law like that and Nduka Irabor said the law had just been created right there at the airport.
My only joy about that conversation was that I now had an excuse for those people who asked me to buy Barcelona, Madrid and Sevilla jerseys. I can’t do that or else I will be sanctioned.
When I come back, I will give you Kano Pillars, Sunshine Stars and Ikorodu United jerseys.
Yes! Thank you Shehu Dikko and Nduka Irabor for rescuing me on this one.
Another threat to my life
As we were boarding, Chief Nduka Irabor nudged me and said he had to go to a duty free shop to buy some high end drinks because of the Port Harcourt boys on the trip.
When I asked who the Port Harcourt boys were, he said it was me, Imama Amapakabor and Chris Green. Chai! High end drinks? Okay na. How could I dodge him sef?
It was a less than two hour flight from Casablanca to Madrid and on landing, General Manager of Warri Wolves, Moses Etu made a snide comment, “I thought they said Ronaldo was very popular here. I thought I’d see his big picture handing down the walls?”
I answered by suggesting that may not have been the only airport in Madrid so maybe he has his picture hanging down in the other one.
But Etu was bent on getting at Ronaldo and continued to talk about it.
To get our bags, we had to get on a train from one part of the airport to another and as we waited for the bags to come, Imama Amapakabo and I shared some Port Harcourt stories while Ayo Ibidapo listened in amazement at the “war films” we acted in Port Harcourt between 2002 and 2011.
The reception party outside
Now, if for any reason you thought this LaLiga tour was one hurriedly arranged racket, then you are very wrong.
On our exit from the arrival lounge there was a whole team of staff from the La Liga office waiting to attend to us.
It seemed a very big event for them here in Spain and I got wondering why we didn’t talk about it as much in Nigeria.
There were two luxury buses on ground to take us to the Madrid train station enroute Valencia and at least ten La Liga staff guiding us along the way.
We got on the train. I was in coach 11 alongside Nduka Irabor, Shehu Dikko, Chris Green, Moses Etu, Mike Idoko, Fred Edoreh, Imama Amapakabo and some others and as soon as the train moved, Chief Irabor brought a bottle of whiskey (Double Black) and offered me a whiff.
I politely said no, thank you. He then offered me a beer and again, I said no thank you. Chaii! Chief looked at me and exclaimed, “You are a fake Port Harcourt boy. Or are you trying to deceive us that you are a cool guy?”
I could only just smile as the likes of Fred Edoreh, Moses Etu, Imama Amapakabo and chief Irabor himself got their groove on.
Sitting next to me was Barrister Chris Green who immediately brought out his Ipad to play a game of scrabble. Me too, I had an Ipad so I brought it out and was watching episodes of Being Liverpool. Chai! Brendan Rodgers sef.
The rail trip was for two hours and then two buses were on ground to take us to where would be our home for the next couple of days- NH Hotels.
There was also a TV press crew on ground who held interview sessions with some players, the head coach and the LMC chairman, Shehu Dikko.
Funny thing was that, on arrival in Valencia, our room keys were given to us on the bus.
We got to the hotel, had dinner, or something that looked like it then went to sleep. I was so tired I couldn’t even play one hand of Football Manager or type this diary.