We (a group of students and sports officials) had a road trip to Togo – a small country on the west of Nigeria sharing borders with Benin Republic. It was a fun filled experience but we had some frustrating moments at the Nigerian border – Seme. We were kept for over four hours and finally denied passage due to some passport policies. We headed to the second border at idiroko to try our luck. I wasn’t impressed with the level of organization at the Nigerian border (seme) which was chaotic and filled with touts roaming around the environment. The roads around the area were filled with potholes which made it look very untidy.
It took about three hours to get to idiroko from seme where we had another share of frustration and delay.
Our convoy was three federal government buses carrying under fifteen and thirteen football athletes for a competition. I volunteered to be part of the organization of this event which led to my travel to Togo.
Finally, we scaled through the border after moving back-and-forth with the immigration officers. The next border was for Benin Republic and we spent little time clearing our papers. It was amazing to see how organized they were. We spent close to another six hours traveling through Benin Republic and heading to Togo. It was indeed a road trip to Togo. I observed the motorcycle lanes which was separated from that for cars and also the police who are good at blowing a whistle at the slightest offense by a driver. We had some challenges communicating as it was a Francophone country – we knew only English. One of us had little knowledge of French so it eased the burden for us.
We arrived at Togo early hours of the next day after crossing their borders seamlessly and lodged in our hotel rooms. The competition started at noon. Five countries were represented: Nigeria, Benin Republic, Niger, Sao Tome and Togo who were the host.
This kind of football is unique with special rules. It aims at teaching the players teamwork and tolerance. Before the game starts, Team A and Team B agree on two rules: one from each team. Team A can propose “before we score, we’ll make three passes for the goal to be valid” while Team B can say “for us to score, all our players must be out of our half” Both teams have to make sure they obey both rules for their goals to be valid if not the goals will be nullified. Some interesting things about this game are;
1. No referee during the match. The players use their judgment to award a foul when it is made and also cooperate with each other.
2. Each team decides on the kind of celebration they’ll do when they score, and they teach their opponents. Why? Because any team that scores, both teams celebrate together in the middle of the pitch. E.g Uniport U 13 said they will ‘dab’ when they score and when they did against Togo, the Togolese players joined them to ‘dab’ in the middle of the pitch.
3. If a player is injured or fouled, players from both teams, show care by pulling the player up or massaging the player’s leg where necessary.
4. If a girl scores, it is counted as two points.
5. A Team can win 1-0 and still lose the match because, at the end of the game, both teams rate each other on a scale of 0-2 on teamwork, tolerance, obedience to rules e.t.c while an official calculates the total score to decide the winner.
Nigeria’s U13 (Port Harcourt) team won the cup in their category and I was proud of them because they represented the futblonet center of the University of Portharcourt Sports Institute from my alma matta – University of Portharcourt.
During the competition, we had a little tour around the country and also went to their market. I met a Nigerian at the Market named Onuoha who shared some wonderful insights about Togo. Onuoha hails from Abia state and speaks Togo’s native language. He said (revised by me),
“Security is tight, they don’t steal, and electric power is constant.If I go to my house, I know there we’ll be light.
They value their own native language than French.
The poor and wealthy stay together
Look at all these big shops they are owned by Nigerians, they bring their goods here.
They didn’t like Nigerians because they believe Nigerians are criminals. Not until Nigerian movies were translated into their language, they believed all those killings were real. The aftermath of the translation changed the perspective they had about Nigeria a bit. They don’t have night, anytime you decide to sleep, you can as the environment is always safe. You can go to prison for the slightest offense, they will first keep you for three days and if no one comes for you… “
Then he asked me, “how was your experience at Nigeria’s border compared to Benin and Togo (even with the FG plate number)?” I guess you already Know.
It was really an awesome time in Togo and I hope to visit again.But for now, my best travel around Africa is to Rwanda. Nigeria will get better.