Monday, 10 July 2017

India vs Ghana: 99 - 1 and the Legend of the Milo Guy

The draw for the group stages of Under 17 world cup in India is done and Ghana is in group with the host nation India! You know what that means, right? Revenge time! You really aren’t Ghanaian enough if you don’t know the very real football match between Ghana and India that was played on a date now lost in history.

I first heard the story when I was about seven years old. This man in my neighborhood who everyone called Uncle, swore he had witnessed the match himself. Ok, ok, let me just tell the story of how it happened.

I’m still not sure what the tournament was or if it was just a friendly tour by the Indian national team but from what I hear, they played Nigeria too, with a similar result.

Different people have different version of how the Indian team entered the pitch. The two notable versions are:

1. The referee came onto the pitch and placed a bottle in the center circle and like Genies, the Indian players jumped out of the bottle one at a time. This should probably have been a sign for the Ghanaian team to abandon the match but for some reason which I don’t understand, they stayed.

2. The players came out of the referee’s pocket. Players kept jumping out of his pocket like those magic satchels you see in cartoons. If there was ever a game where you could be certain of the ref’s bias, it was this one.

Indian Players arriving on the pitch

So confident was the Indian team in their abilities that they said if Ghana managed to score even one goal, the Ghanaian team would be declared winners. This Indian team was on an unbeaten run with the longest run of clean-sheets the likes of which had never been seen before and probably never will. 

The ref blew the whistle and from the onset, it was obvious something was wrong, the Ghanaian players were seen either avoiding the ball or rolling on the floor in agony right after kicking it. According to the players, any time the tried to kick the ball it would turn into a metal pot (dadesÉ›n). The Ghanaian goalie also claimed that any time the ball came in his direction, it would turn into a fully grown Lion rushing at him. Of course, the spectators couldn’t see any of this and the ref claimed he didn’t. I highly doubt the ref’s version, the players jumped out of his pocket (or bottle) for God’s sake. He was probably in on all this dark magic.

Anyway, due to these “technical hitches”, the India team went on to score goal after goal after goal. Being Indian, you just know they danced for quite a while after each goal. The score line started to get embarrassing (understatement of the millennium). By the 85th minutes, the Indian team had scored 90 goals (that’s not a typo) and by the 89th minute they had scored 99 goals.

Somehow, within the space of 90 minutes, they had scored 99 goals, each goal mostly probably followed by minutes of dancing, much to the embarrassment of the whole of Ghana. The stadium, like a cemetery, is death silent as the fourth official raises his board to show four minutes of added time. Added time for what?

The Indian players satisfied with the humiliation they’ve rained on the Ghanaian team can’t be bothered to score a hundredth goal and keep passing the ball around. The Ghanaian players are meanwhile still avoiding the ball. One Ghanaian player, Nfum, goes to the touch line and after a talk with the medical team is seen strapping his foot with rolls of bandage.

Ninety second minute, a heavily strapped Nfum rushes one of the Indian defenders as they were passing the ball just outside the 18 yard box, steals the ball and unleashes a powerful left footed shot. Bones, could be heard cracking as his left foot made contact with the ball. The Indian goalie, caught by surprise, does not react fast enough and the ball rolls into the goal post.

Ninety fourth minute, Scoreline 99 – 1. The whole stadium bursts into rapturous shouting, Ghana, Ghana, Ghana!! Meanwhile, Nfum, is writhing on the ground, in agony. The paramedic rush onto the pitch to help him. Back then, sport medicine wasn’t a big thing and the paramedic only had ice bags. Nfum is carted off the pitch and the ref blows the whistle for the end of the match.

As agreed before the match, the Indian team concedes defeat by virtue of the one goal Nfum scored. A few days later, on the news, the whole nation gets the heartbreaking news that Nfum passed away from complications from his injury.

In honour of his sacrifice, the myth and legend that Nfum has now become has his picture put on the can of Ghana’s favorite breakfast drink, Milo, till this day.

FIFA, tired of seeing the ridiculous scorelines in India’s matches, bans them from all international tournaments. A ban which was only recently overturned.

This is the very real, totally believable and not at all ridiculous story of how Nfum came to be on the Milo can for his bravery and why until now India has not played in any international matches.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend; Nfum
(his under 17 days)