Ever wondered what it feels like to earn £80,000 per week? Yeah, wouldn’t it feel good to be in Michael Essien’s shoes earning such a stupendous amount of money for kicking around a ball on grass in front of 50,000 people every week?
As I have found, the only fun part of being Michael Essien is in spending the money. And that could have its drawbacks as the “drunk driving” events of the last few days have shown. It then begs the question; what does one spend all that money on?
The most difficult part of being Michael Essien is that of stepping into his shoes and getting on the field of play. Watching a football match on TV or in the stands might give one the greatest pleasure on earth. But not so for the players involved. I wanted to experience what it felt like to play soccer again last weekend so I decided to go out and play with the lads. The last time I played competitive football was in 2004 and it was in paramilitary camp. Imagine how rusty and out of shape I would be.
By out of shape I don’t mean fat, because I’m slim and built in the right places (thanks to 60 push ups and 40 sit ups every morning). But that wouldn’t keep one running 20km on a football pitch.
So we head to a pitch in the back woods of Dzorwulu. That’s when I realized that there’s no recreational park for young people at Airport Residential where I reside. A twenty minute trek got me all panting. We arrive at the pitch and I change clothes and put on playing shoes. I hop onto the dust pitch flexing my long legs all over. My mate gets in between the posts and I play a couple of long balls to him. I score some.
Then the team’s coach (a lad in his early 20s dressed in a white t-shirt and blue jeans) gathers everyone around him. He tells us to jog round the pitch. We run around the dusty pitch about half the size of a regular pitch. I do one lap and my chests start to heave like my heart’s about to pop out of its cage. I stop and decide to walk the next lap. After a couple of stretch exercises, the coach divides us into two teams and gives us instructions.
“No high balls”, he says.
We start to play. I run around a little without getting the ball. When I finally do, I quickly pass it back to a team mate. Not long after we concede a goal. I had lost the ball to an opponent in midfield. I’m shamed.
Game resumes. After about thirty minutes, my feet start to hurt inside the shoes. I manage for another 20 minutes. The match finally ends. I run to take off my shoes. I am bruised. I ask for water from my mate who sat under a tree watching my experiment. No water. I struggle to get out of my playing clothes. We head home. I shower.
Sunday morning I feel like a log of wood lying on the bed. I struggle to get up, have my bath and go to church. A mate comes by later asking for me to come to the pitch. I decline. I say I’d rather watch the game showing on TV. He laughs seeing how serious I am.
I remember Essien. I think of £80,000 per week. Hmmm. You do your job man. I wouldn’t want to be you. I know how much it hurts walking in those shoes.
Graduate of University of Lagos and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. Chief Editor, Goal.com Nigeria edition. Former Online Editor and West African Correspondent based in Ghana for TELL Magazine, Lagos. Alumnus International Institute of Journalism (INWENT), Berlin; Reuters Foundation and Agence France Presse (AFP) Foundation. Photographs published in USAToday, BBC Focus on Africa magazine, AllAfrica.com, The Guardian, ThisDay, The Punch, Showbiz and Daily Graphic (Ghana). Photos exhibited in Krakow, Poland. Nominee Journalist of the year at The Future Awards, Nigeria 2010.