Life is a game of Abaatey

football players in Africa on a bare pitch

Sometimes, you are in the middle, brother of mine.

Sometimes, life puts you in the middle of the most outrageous of predicaments, and it is easy to lose sight of what really is at stake: your survival. And survival is something the good old days taught us.

There was this game we called abaaten/abaatey. This game involved a ring or players kicking the ball between them while another group, one or more players depending on the circumstances, tries hard to intercept the ball. Once he manages to touch the ball, the player whose pass was intercepted gets to be in the middle. The rules differ from time to time.

One rule was the curse of the nutmeg; if the one in the middle had the ball passed through his legs, he had to intercept the ball on two separate occasions before it was his turn to rest. Another rule was that the one in the middle had to actually control the ball before he could be allowed to get out of trouble. And so there was no place for fortuitous clearances or deflections in this version of the game. This meant your every action needed to be deliberate.

This is what forms the basis of that tiki taka perfected by Guardiola’s sides. It would be folly to think that because you have merely touched the ball, the opponent, somehow, has to concede possession. You had to not only intercept, but also make sure you turn over possession to your teammates. With the ball coming at full speed, it was incumbent on you the player to make the right choice and add the right weight and curl on it to move it out of the reach of your opponent.

Which is kind of what life makes of us.

Every trouble comes at us like a curved leather. Spinning and bouncing, it comes full of diabolical intentions of its own. One Touch and Ghana Telecom, once the pride and monopoly of the state, now have to play keepy uppy with MTN and Tigo. That lady you have been drooling over is there for only as long as your first glimpses of her. Ignoring your instincts and wasting time on perfecting your lyrics will lead you into a deep hole of regrets.

Abaatey is a humbler of greater men. It teaches you humility in the face of greater foes, and this lesson, once learnt, makes navigation in life all the more beautiful, and easy, and straight up cozy. In the game of football, abaatey taught you how to press the opponent and force them into making errors. In real life, abaaten teaches you dedication and perseverance. It taught you teamwork. It taught you the wisdom of chasing what was in sight; keeping your eyes on the ball even as the opposition screams obscenities at you. If you got tired too soon in the game of abaaten, you were bound to lose sight of the good things in life.

And, because abaaten was a curiously-built game to torment your life, you were sometimes required to not only stop the men in the middle from getting the ball, but touching it just once. Yeah, One Touch here again. There was no room for your perfected cobra kick or rainbow flick. This was not a game of skirts where more plaits meant heightened sophistication. Abaaten, laced with the hefty does of One Touch, was one of simple decisions, even if they were potentially dangerous. This version of the game required deep thought. Taking life as it came at you. Giving a pass in the easiest direction, like water moving around a rock rather than climbing it.

I tell you the good old days were beautiful. They were full of life lessons that should lead us in this choked space we call earth. Whatever fun you find in this deadly world is only a masturbation on lurid thoughts. The real bits of a happy life were found in the cunning display of a round leather in a game of football.

In a way adhering to the rules of One Touch would have saved me from these sufferings. A man is supposed to take life just as it comes to him. It is suffiecient for him to know that his life is only once spent, and so whenever he gets a shot at it, he should never lose sight of the journey ahead.

But I failed to heed this warning. I had lived in the past. Now I live in the present with the future still ahead of me. But the fool that I am, I have chosen to go back and have another look at the past that will never return. I have decided to make another play where only one sufficed, and now look at me, drowned in thoughts like a cushion drenched in soapy water. I am wet and I am cold, and in my glare there is naught but the haze of foamy tears!



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