Perhaps I am getting old, or I am too busy with HM duties, but until Monday, I did not know that the 2022 World Cup was ongoing, and in Qatar of all places. It started on Monday with Alex talking about how the Sunday game had transpired.
“I was very sure Qatar would beat Ecuador since they are the hosts, but they were beaten decisively,” he said.
I asked what tournament he was speaking about and I was told it was the Fifa World Cup.
“Didn’t we have the World Cup just the other day?” I asked “And isn’t the World Cup usually not in June/July? You must have been watching an Asian or South American cup.”
Alex gave me the reasons why the cup is in November-December, and not the traditional June-July.
That evening, I passed by Hitler’s for a quick swallow before going home. I found my home teeming with people: Tito, Nyayo Rasto – name them – were waiting for me to open the door. I switched on the TV to find the England bombing Iran with goals.
I did not talk much as I watched, for I knew Rasto would expect me to serve them food or drinks. There was nothing to be served anyway. And even if there was, they had come for football, not food.
As you would expect, Rasto was so dismissive of the players and kept saying that real football used to exist in former years
“Did you ever watch Joe Masiga, Mahmoud Abbas, Wilberforce Mulamba, Josephat Murila and Mickey Weche? Those were the real international players, not these jokes of today!” He said. “If they were so good, did we ever qualify for the World Cup?” Asked Tito.
“They did but we never watched them play as there was no electricity and TVs were not available,” said Rasto.
Tito told him that Kenya had never been to the World Cup but Rasto disputed this, saying that Tito was too young to know anything.
It was very late when they left, after the Wales-USA match in which I dozed 80 per cent of the time.
Earlier, I had bought some chips at the shopping centre and as soon as everyone had left, Brandon, our new head boy, warmed the chips for our supper.
The next day, school morning went on as usual. But things changed towards lunch time when Kuya and Sapphire arrived. The two had not been in school on Monday but I did not ask them why. I wanted them to commit more mistakes so I could confront them with enough evidence.
“Today is the day Messi is going to show the world what he is made of,” said Kuya. “I wonder who paired Saudi Arabia with Argentina, for Argentina will win with over five goals, with Messi scoring at least three goals.”
I told him the World Cup is never predictable; that even small teams have a chance.
“You do not know anything. Kama uko serious, let us bet Sh300,” he challenged me.
“What time is the game?” I asked, assuming it would be in the evening.
“The match is very early,” said Alex. “It actually starts at 1pm.” Kuya switched on the TV. It was a few minutes to 1pm. Indeed, there was pre match analysis of the Saudi Arabia-Argentina game and the debate was mainly about how many goals Saudi would concede.
Had Kuya switched on the TV before we had the discussion, I would not have allowed him, but because I had even placed a bet on this game, I also joined in watching the match. Indeed, it was the Fifa World Cup and Saudi Arabia had not come to joke but to play. They were giving as much as they were receiving.
All the eyes were on Messi, with Kuya shouting his name every time he touched the ball.
“Messi will score as many as he wants today. Do you know even any of the Saudi players? Even Gor Mahia is better,” said Kuya. “We can’t even talk about Ingwe here.”
When Argentina went ahead via a Messi penalty, Kuya and Shapire wildly celebrated, with Kuya asking that I pay the bet immediately. He even attempted to increase it to Sh500.
“Relax, football is 90 minutes,” I said, even though I was pessimistic that Saudi had a chance.
By the time the second half started, it was time for afternoon classes. But everyone had forgotten about classes and we were watching the match. Before the start of the match, the staffroom had been split down the middle with Saphire, Sella, and Madam Ruth on Kuya’s side, while Alex, Nzomo and Mr Atika were on my side. Lena supported no one. But as time went by, more teachers moved to Kuya’s side, especially after the goal and after an Argentina goal was ruled offside. Then the unimaginable happened: Saudi Arabia equalised.
“Hawa wamechokoza nyuki,” said Kuya laughing out loudly. “This will end 10-1, just see what Mesi will do!”
Messi did no wonders. In fact, Saudi Arabia scored a second, and despite the efforts of Argentine players, the match ended that way. Only Alex and I celebrated while the rest of the teachers looked subdued. I immediately asked Kuya to pay me my Sh300 but he refused.
“How many Argentina goals were rejected?” Kuya asked. He then claimed that the weather in Qatar was favourable to Saudi Arabia. “Argentina is a cold country; the players are not used to such heat. I cannot pay since there was no fairness at all.”
He went on: “And even if it was a fair game, I am sure TSC does not allow staffroom betting, we would be setting a bad precedent. Imagine if students hear the acting HM betting!”
That is what I needed. I immediately ordered the TV switched off and directed that the World Cup matches can only be watched after 5pm.
“We are a school, not a soccer stadium!” I said. Kuya’s protestations fell on deaf ears.