08 Jul The Trophy – Episode 3
The intruder was still pacing in the sitting room . . . They could hear the footsteps. Just then, Femi looked over to where he’d kept his laptop . . . Mysteriously, it wasn’t there anymore . . . The intruder had stolen his laptop and left with it, he knew immediately. A severe pain developed in his heart. That was one of his most precious possessions
“We caught a guy when patrolling your street yester night,” Sergeant Mike narrated. “He was with the laptop, we arrested him and found out that the laptop wasn’t his.
The whistle went and kick off! The Hawks maintained the tactic Coach Chuks had prescribed but it was very difficult to do that. It took a lot of time to get themselves and St. Thomas FC guys weren’t so easy as they’d expected . . . They were able to successfully counter the Hawks’ tactics and by half time had scored three precious goals . . . It appeared Hawks FC were the underdogs now . . . They weren’t ready to lose. You too, you could feel the tension they felt . . . How could they win in few minutes? A terrible pressure permeated their brains and fear rocked in their hearts. Is this how they’d lose shamefully to the underdogs today?
The Hawks were completely demoralized. St. Thomas FC had literally taken over, playing a completely half-field game, forcing the Hawks to playing just a defensive game. Coach Chuks stood in utter despair as he folded his arms and watched painfully as they were losing. Their hopes were crashing unfortunately. That’s football for you, he comforted himself as he got ready to receive the worst. But deep down inside, he still prayed for a miracle for the Hawks to win. It was 74th minute now and St. Thomas FC was still leading 4-2.
Just then, Moshood, the key Central defender for the Hawks, launched a shot swiftly into the other half of the field as they played. Femi, the Hawks top striker, saw it and immediately ran vigorously to overtake the St. Thomas FC defenders. Counterattack! He ran with all his strength and immediately caught up with the ball while St. Thomas defenders pursued him vehemently but he ran further and hurriedly passed the ball to Pete who was accompanying him on the left flank as he ran. Quickly, they got to St. Thomas FC’s box-18 now. Their keeper hopped forward in an attempt to close up and block any shot they fired. Pete gave back a short through-pass to Femi who was directly in front of the goalpost now. Femi didn’t waste time. He fired the shot the moment the ball reached his leg. Goal! Every member of the Hawks FC roared exuberantly and very joyously as they were immediately jumping on Femi who was celebrating the goal. They felt so happy, the scores were 4-3 luckily now.
“Great work, guys, great work! C’mon, we can still net one more!” A delighted Coach Chuks encouraged them as the players went back to the field immediately. Their morale had increased now, hopes resuscitated. They wouldn’t let this match slip past them like that. The match resumed and St. Thomas guys quickly brought the ball close to the goal of the Hawks and tried looking for an open space to score again but all the Hawks teammates had piled at their post not even minding their former formation again. Coach Chuks quickly had them resort to a rueful 5-3-2. Sejiro who played number 4 joined the defence while Femi and Christian alone who could run very swiftly maintained the offensive as they adopted a long-ball passing style. This tactic could balance the game, he was optimistic.
More time was slipping but by 85th minute, the keeper launched the ball far into the pitch and the Hawks were immediately on the counter again. Christian, the Hawks’ number 7, approached the post rapidly in a bid to score another goal and got so close but unfortunately, a defender caught up with him and tackled him, sending him crashing onto the ground even bruising him. The ref blew the whistle instantly and pointed at the spot.
Penalty! All the teammates roared with joy again as they saw their chance to equalise the match. Right-footed Pete was very good in taking penalties and he gave a sly smile as he stood face to face with the keeper rather lost in the big post. He hopped forward and launched the ball to the top-right corner.
Goal! The Hawks couldn’t contain their joy anymore. Miraculously they’d equalised the game. St. Thomas guys were immediately dejected and brought under an enormous pressure. All the way from a two-goal lead!
The Hawks were confident of an extra time now since they’d equalised the game. 4-4, the scores. But just before the final whistle was blown, the Hawks had a corner kick set piece again against St. Thomas FC and a glancing header from Williams sent the ball immediately into the net one more time. It was like magic. The entire pitch practically scattered the moment the Hawks scored the fifth goal. All the way from two goals down, they’d launched three goals more in a space of 18 minutes. The final whistle was blown soon and the Hawks rejoiced heavily with the scores as 4-5 in their favour. It was unbelievable. They’d successfully won the match in an amazing way and were proceeding into semi-final: to play against Desperado Athletic, a very strong and brutal team though. Femi felt his spirit fired up within him. His hope was still achievable. If there was nothing else he got from that match, he strongly learnt something: impossibility is practically relative, effectual for only a certain moment. Miracles do happen, boy!
* * * * *
The cold from the air-conditioners in the mall nearly froze Pete who’d won only an armless top over knickers with sneakers that afternoon. He was with Femi and his sister, Itunu, and they’d visited Maryland mall again not far from their houses, about to purchase some items. Gaming devices was the top on their list—state-of-the-art PS 4. And Pete was the one in-charge of that though, while Femi and Itunu who’d accompanied him purchased household edible items. This was a new week; Sunday afternoon.
While purchasing items and discussing, Femi immediately reached to his pocket and brought out his vibrating phone. There was an incoming call from Sergeant Mike—the Cop that had been involved in recovering his stolen laptop for him and who was also investigating the intruder’s case and Ehimi’s death.
“Got some information, Femi,” he told him from the other end of the line. “Thinking you can come over to the Station right away.” Femi did. Pete and Itunu accompanied him also of course even with the items they’d just purchased. The next one hour would be one of the most intriguing of their lives.
“Well we know who killed Ehimi, your friend,” Sergeant Mike told them as they looked intently at him with expectant ears practically stunned but delighted.
“Who is the murderer, Sergeant?” Femi managed to get himself and ask.
“Take a look at these,” Sergeant Mike threw two photographs on the table in front of them. One showed the front portrait of the strange ferocious-looking murderer while the other one showed his side view. “That’s the intruding murderer, guys. A seriously eccentric drug addict, just thirty-four,” Sergeant Mike told them. “He has been involved in robbery, drug trafficking and killed a pocket of times. He was once a major holder in your team’s rival, the Tornadoes, and so enormously took it on himself personally to kill or terrorize some Hawks’ key players just to guarantee his former team the victory always. Was the one who broke into your apartment the other day, Femi.”
“My Lord!” Femi breathed surprisedly hearing Sergeant Mike tell all those things.
“But you guys are safe from him now,” Sergeant Mike told them. “He’s been arrested yet and would be charged on basis of murder, robbery.” The words sunk graciously into Femi’s heart. Since the intruder had broken into their home, he’d always been afraid at nights and expecting terrible things. But at least he was grateful now. He couldn’t let his life get terminated at the expense of one wicked eccentric intruder. It didn’t make any sense. How could someone kill another person all because of a match? Femi couldn’t wait to inform Coach Chuks about everything . . . at least now they had the hope of beating the Tornadoes successfully if they met and also grabbing the Trophy. None would terrorize the players again, he was sure.
The next day, Femi and Pete had training session at the field where they met with the other teammates including Coach Chuks, getting prepared to face Desperado Athletic. After routine warm-up with the aerobics, they moved on quickly to advanced match technique drills. The Desperadoes were very fast with taller players and Coach Chuks was looking for a better way to make his players faster and more skilful. A rigorous and technical training session ensued and Coach Chuks later derived his counter strategies to win the Desperadoes and not lose out in this semi-final. They needed to win this.
* * * * *
It was past three on Friday and Femi was leaving school for the field where they were about to face the Desperadoes. Although Fridays were lecture-free for him, he’d had to rush over to school for an impromptu assignment submission that afternoon. Now, he had to rush back as quickly as possible before the match started by four O’clock otherwise he would miss it. Amazingly, he caught up with Felicia who was returning home too by that time. At different times that week, they’d gone to school and returned home together. At least they were neighbours who also attended the same school. They were getting really close and were now finding interest in each other.
“I thought you didn’t have lectures on Friday.” A surprised Felicia said seeing Femi again leaving school that day. She wore a tan top and was looking very lively with a flashing smile.
“Yeah,” Femi smiled. “Just had an important assignment to submit this afternoon and I’ve got to return quickly before my match begins.”
“Cool. Guess I’m free this afternoon though,” she told him. “Why not follow you to watch you guys then—just as we agreed?”
“Oh, we could go right away,” Femi replied with a sense of haste in his body. As quickly as possible, they had to get to the field at Maryland and he really wished they could get a jet. He was the Captain and his punctuality was really needed for the teammates, although he’d informed Coach Chuks about the situation. Swift BRT buses were their best option now and soon, they hopped into one quickly heading for Maryland.
“Seems like your team can’t do much without you,” Felicia told him—in the bus now.
“Well, sort of. Actually I need to win something in the tournament because I need it urgently,” Femi replied.
“I need to be the highest goal scorer in the tournament. Words are out that 200k would be awarded to whoever wins that title. So I need to play at every time possible in order to score goals too and top my record,” Femi briefed her. “And I need it so urgently,” he added.
“Wow!” Felicia breathed. “That’s cool though. What do you really need it for?”
“Well,” Femi sighed immediately putting his face on his palm as depression overtook him. “My mum.” He mumbled. He remembered her case.
“Oh—” Felicia was shocked seeing him with such expression. She immediately remembered the day he came to their apartment and discussed issue of some money for his mum with her dad. She had heard him tell her dad of it but wasn’t really certain of what it was. She also knew his mum wasn’t ever around. What could be wrong with his mum? She felt so dearly for him. She had never known about his mum even though they lived close to each other. She was feeling bad.
“What’s happened to your mum, Femi?” She asked passionately.
Femi tried swallowing his Adam’s apple. “Cancer. She has cancer,” he whispered very heartbroken. “I need the money for her surgery otherwise . . . she has just few weeks to live.” He was trying to hold back the tears.
Felicia felt the excruciating pain enormously. Slowly, she put her frail arms around him as she sat closer to him. “It’s gon’ be well, dear,” she pacified him. “Don’t worry.”
He nodded his head slowly. “I know. I know,” he told her. “And even if she dies . . . at least I’m certain she’d rest in heaven. She won’t lose her life. God won’t lose her,” he said assertively.
The words got into Felicia easily. She marvelled so much at the confidence with which Femi spoke and the unusual peace which seemed to saturate him. How could someone be so confident even when about to lose a loved one? She didn’t have that, she knew. She had been raised up to live her life by herself with cognition and reason and not with things about God. How come Femi was so different?
“Can I tell you something, Femi?” She asked. “I don’t know how to say this but I . . . I like you a lot,” she admitted sincerely. “I like you for who you are, for being yourself, everywhere, at all times. You’ve made me realise that it’s not all about one’s looks or how good one is in something or how skilful he is . . .” Her heart beat frenziedly as she was trying so hardly to bring out the words from her heart and put her nervousness behind her. “You’ve made me realise that it’s about being one’s self and standing for the true values he believes in always. Thanks.” She put her head softly on his shoulder.
Femi looked at her face for a moment with his ears perked up. “Thank you, Felicia,” He replied crisply quite short of words though. She’d no doubt grabbed a special spot in his heart. He was liking her.
“Permit me to do a favour, Femi,” she said. “I’d talk to my dad about the money. I would, and I’m very certain he can still help you . . . help us . . . with the money for your mum. Don’t worry.”
Femi was really stunned hearing that. “I’m grateful, Felicia,” he admitted with a very gladdened heart. “Thanks.” His hope about her dad, Mr. Johnson, was lost. But thank God she was assuring him she would talk to him about the issue again. He was glad. No doubt, she had really changed since he met her. Previously, she minded only things pertaining to herself, didn’t really care for anyone but showed her ego always. But now, she’d seen the sincerity and simplicity of living in his life. And it was redirecting her own life. Her attitude metamorphosed literally. Soon, the duo reached Maryland and alighted from the bus. The field wasn’t far away so they got there on time: by 3:40pm. The Hawks teammates were glad to see Femi available that afternoon again and Felicia with an impeccable beauty. Pete was very glad to see her too who was ready to cheer them.
By 4:00pm, the match kicked off. Coach Chuks had his boys adopt a wide 3-5-2 tactic as they strategized to play and distribute the ball along the wings and finish with a low through-pass. Desperadoes were very tall with great speed and marking ability so playing the game centre-field wasn’t really a good option. Ugo and Williams who replaced Timi again maintained the extreme RM and LM respectively while Pete, Sejiro and a capable Fred took the centre midfield. Femi and Christian were the top strikers: a double 9. At least none among the players had injury. Coach Chuks was glad.
The match was quite fierce with the Desperadoes winning most of the possession but the Hawks were very versatile with every opportunity for goal they had, making the most of it. By 40th minute unbelievably, the Hawks had scored 2 goals to nothing from the Desperadoes! Femi helped launch the first goal with an impressive volley. Christian gave the second goal—from a fourteen-yard distance. Second half resumed and Ugo netted another goal—although Femi’s second goal was counted as an offside goal by the ref and so cancelled. The best the Desperadoes could do was reply with just a goal as the Hawks had practically won the possession, not giving the Desperadoes any chance again. They’d expected the match to be very tough but it was practically below their expectation. The tactic Coach Chuks provided seemed to throw the Desperadoes off balance and by final whistle time, the Hawks were rushing into the field to celebrate their unbelievable victory. The scores were 3-1. The gladness on their faces was astounding: they were proceeding to the finals but to meet the deadly Tornadoes again unfortunately.
It would indeed be a Grand-finale match: the two great champions that had always met every year would be meeting at the final again. But the Hawks were much poised to grab the Trophy this time around. Thanks to Coach Chuks ingenious tactics. That evening, Femi and Pete also returned home with Felicia very joyful. Thank God for a lovely friend like Felicia, Femi thought. She’d felt his pain and had promised to inform her dad about his mum’s situation again—giving them hope for her life again. They’d planned to visit her again in the hospital the next day. But not everything, very unfortunately, could work out the way it was planned.
* * * * *
It was Wednesday evening, the next week, by six O’clock and Femi was carrying out a personal work-out—just jogging along a solitary road close to their G. Cappa Estate. A lot of people didn’t live around that place—it was just bush and vegetation that made up the surrounding area—so he felt moved to use that place. As he jogged down the quite sloppy and damaged road, he could see from a distance a dog running to various directions in a disturbed manner, barking vehemently and howling. It was quite strange so he kept on jogging till he got close to the dog. Soon, he looked ahead and discovered the dog appeared to look like Ken, Felicia’s dog—which he’d seen in her house the previous day. What could be wrong? Why was it running, barking and howlingand not at home? He was quite shocked. Just then, he reached where the dog was and stopped to examine it. It was also a white Labrador breed but it looked very frightened and as though it needed help. He was very certain it was Ken.
“Hey, Ken, what’s the matter?” Femi spoke to the dog and tried stroking the back but it darted to a different place as it kept on barking. Femi was very puzzled and confused and so decided to follow Ken to where it was heading. Surprisingly, it was heading into the bush at the other side of the road. It entered inside and Femi did too following it very closely as they kept on moving deeper into the scattered bush for few metres. Just then, Ken in front stopped running abruptly and stood at a spot. Right in front of them was a car that had somersaulted, completely wrecked in a fatal accident. A severe smoke oozed from the car and Femi had to cover his face with his palms immediately. He was terribly shocked and was panting seeing the ghastly motor accident in front of him wondering how it happened. The car had somersaulted from the roadside during the accident.
Quickly, he ran to the vehicle and looked inside through the broken windscreen to rescue whoever was inside. There appeared to be two people inside who were trapped and were struggling for their lives. He bent down and entered in through the broken windscreen. Just then, he discovered that the victims inside the vehicle were unfortunately Mr. Johnson and Felicia. A debilitating shock pervaded his nerves instantly and fear pounded in his heart. Good heavens! Were they still okay? He felt so dearly for them. And how come the accident had happened? He had only seen Felicia early in the morning that day and didn’t even know she and her dad had just left their apartment in their car.
“Felicia,” he called out to her immediately tapping her also. “Are you okay Felicia?” He was in a terrible pressure and was literally panicking. There was no reply from Felicia and she looked unconscious so he tapped her father quickly. “Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson are you okay?”
“Help my daughter,” Mr. Johnson who was still stuck in his seat and was bleeding mumbled gently. “I’m okay . . . call an emergency ambulance quickly.” Femi did immediately and was assured one would be sent to the crash site in few minutes.
Femi tapped Felicia again and soon she revived consciousness, opening her eyes, although her forehead and chest were literally bleeding. “Are you okay, Felicia?” Femi asked her again in a shrilling voice, practically whipped with fear.
“No, I’m not,” she cried. “I feel I’m going, Femi . . . I’m afraid to go. Help me.” The tears increased coursing down her cheeks as severe pain was rocking her body.
Femi’s brain was pervaded with a horrifying confusion. What could he do for her? “I can’t lose you, Felicia, not now!” He exclaimed as the tears surged in his eyes too. He could pray for her at least, he knew, and also lead her to the Lord. This time was the best. “Pray as I do, Felicia,” he told her quickly.
“Okay . . . Femi.” Her breath was becoming very heavy and short.
“Sweet Jesus,” Femi began. “I’m asking You to be the Lord of my life . . . Please accept me now ‘cos I need You. Forgive my wrongdoings . . . Thanks for a new life with You. Amen.” Femi prayed while Felicia repeated after him as much as she could with the little strength left in her.
“Thanks, Femi,” she told him immediately wiping tears from her eyes. “I can feel calm in my heart . . . Thanks for the joy and faith you gave me. I had your love . . . At least ‘God won’t lose me’ now too.” She smiled as the tears kept on pouring.
“It’s okay, Felicia. The ambulance would be here soon,” he smiled too.
“I’m not sure I can, Femi,” she gasped. “I’ll always remember you, dear . . .” she smiled again as she spoke gently. “I’m so sorry, Femi . . . love you dad.” Just then, her sight began to dim as she gasped more.
“Stay with me, Felicia!” Femi cried as he held her face in his hand, wiping the blood trickling down her forehead. “Stay with me please!” He cried again but she breathed a soft breath gently. “Felicia! No, don’t go!” But she wasn’t replying again. Femi literally bit his fingers as tears increased in his face. It couldn’t be at all! Was he dreaming? He must have been, no way! Not then! How could it be? What exactly was happening? His panic increased, the blood rushed and pounded in his head and his heart must have been beating at 170 per minute.
Just then, he heard a loud siren echoing behind. Quickly, he wiped his face and got out of the wrecked car. There was an ambulance already, right there at the crash site and Femi waved his hands to them while the safety officials quickly got down to help rescue the victims inside the car. Carefully, they brought out the stuck victims: Mr. Johnson who could walk by himself and Felicia who showed no consciousness or life, carried on a stretcher, both into the ambulance. Femi was trying to comfort himself but he couldn’t especially seeing how Felicia was being carried in a stretcher. The tears were so much from his eyes. Was she really dead? Just like that?
The safety officials and Mr. Johnson appreciated Femi dearly for being around at the nick of time and calling for help in such emergency. “How did you get to know of the accident?” Mr. Johnson asked Femi.
“I found your dog, Ken, barking and howling on the roadside and it led me here,” Femi replied.
“No way, boy. Ken is dead already and was in the car with us during the accident,” Mr. Johnson briefed shockingly as he entered into the ambulance which took off to the hospital quickly.
How could that be? Femi was stunned. He was sure he’d seen Ken that led him to the crash site. Quickly he moved over to the wrecked car and looked inside again to confirm. Shockingly, he saw Ken inside, but dead already and in the pool of its own blood. What was going on? The dog he’d seen earlier was in no way Ken, he was sure. He looked over to the spot outside the car where he’d seen the dog stop which led him to the crash site. There was nothing there again. Now he was very certain. That dog must have been Heaven-sent. Strange events had taken place swiftly in space of mere minutes—things he’d never known or expected. Is this what life entailed? What a catastrophe! Tears surged more from his eyes, he couldn’t control himself.
He remembered Felicia. Was she gone just like that? Or could the health officials make her conscious again. She told him in his words, “God won’t lose me”. There’d been days when she walked away and did terrible things, too much to carry, nothing left to say, been weak and lost, desperately needing forgiveness. But then a beauty grew in the driving rain, and an oil of gladness in the time of pain. It was Grace. Grace. It was resonating in his ears, resounding in his heart.
It was Grace. For Felicia.
* * * * *
Episode Four: The Grand-finale and final episode coming up this Friday. Was Felicia really dead just like that? Or could she still survive? What caused the accident? Femi was practically debilitated as he bore a heavy grief. Could this catastrophe affect their upcoming final match again against the Tornadoes? Don’t miss next Episode!
Send your predictions of what would happen in the next episode in the comment section below!!!
We’re releasing the E-Book of The Trophy comprising of all episodes this weekend also. You’d really love it. Stay tuned.