I don’t need to say good morning, it is a good morning already. Scratch that. It’s not just a good morning, it’s a special morning which is why we have a special writer for today’s blog.
Mr Solace Chukwu won the deal of writing today’s blog regardless of the result and when it was 3-0 against us on the night, he didn’t even back down. His thoughts below.
Penalty shoot-outs are like horror movies, and to understand why people enjoy the genre is to grasp the appeal of football’s ultimate tie-breaker. Both teams line up on half-way, in varying degrees of panic and anguish, and on cue squirt out a lamb for the slaughter. He begins that long treacherous walk down the bare stretch of turf, knees vibrating, palms sweaty, mind racing.
His aim is clear, his target is wide, his adversary has two more appendages available than he can use. There are an infinite number of possibilities, physics-wise, for how the ball can be hit and at what velocity. Does any of that matter now? No. Those many options suddenly blur and melt into one another, reducing to six only: low right, high right, low centre, high centre, low left, high left.
Then again, the adversary is at the centre, and his wingspan as he raises his hands takes up the entire height of the goal. OK, maybe low centre and high centre are not so great: you can’t after all aim for what you cannot see. The lamb remembers: someone once said ‘low and hard is best’, so that’s one way to go – low left… Power or placement? Wait, what is the man between the sticks thinking? Has the lamb given away any clues?
Has he cocked his head in a certain direction during the walk? During the run-up? Oh God, did the gloved man in black see him glance quickly at where he intends to hit the ball? Did he notice? He must have, he’s smiling now. Wait, maybe a last-minute change will fool him. Yes, that’s it. He thinks he knows, he thinks he’s figured it out, but by God, the lamb will have the last laugh. He’s going low right now…
We sit at home, and we watch this entire wordless interaction play out, dread slowly building, hearts-in-mouths, none of the fates are decided. It cannot be healthy, but that despair – look how he’s walking, surely he’s about to miss, surely! – and the release as the ball hits the back of the net, are components of the world’s most legal high, one for which there is no prohibition.
There were only seven kicks apiece in the Olympic Stadium in Sousse, but watching them was like aging at an accelerated rate. Quite how Enyimba, with a three-goal lead from the first leg, got to that point, is a matter that will be discussed subsequently. Certainly when Mfon Udoh, the CAF Champions League top scorer, produced a laughably weak penalty, and Christian Pyagbara’s effort was also saved, it seemed even the stars in their courses were against the Elephants.
Chima Akas, Kelly Kester and Dare Ojo would all score, before captain of the side Chinedu Udoji, with a chance to win it, put his kick over the top. It fell to Peter Onyekachi, on as a second-half substitute, to put away the winning penalty: if he never does another thing in the blue shirt of Enyimba, he has earned a pension for life–I kid, I kid.
In the end, much like 12 years ago in Abuja, it was an Enyimba goalkeeper made the difference.
Into the lucrative CAF Champions League Group Stages we march, people with our welcome pack of 130 Million Naira.
Enyimba fan Mr Solace Chukwu writes for the Club official website and well as http://www.goal.com.