Wednesday 12 September 2012

Thought Picnic: Never Say Never

A patriotic rip-off
Fourteen years ago during the World Cup in France, we engaged the services of a Nigerian agent to facilitate travel, tickets and accommodation to watch Nigeria play Bulgaria at Parc des Princes in Paris. It was Nigeria’s second match after our shock defeat of Spain which then had the legendary Luis Enrique as their playmaker.
We probably paid through the nose for that service, I paid for my cousin and I and it was just a shade short of a GBP 1,000 – it did not matter, we were going to have patriotic fun like we’ve never done before.
Just late enough
We set off from London on the long bus journey, taking the Chunnel Tunnel that left many of us literally seasick because there was no horizon or frame of reference for our movement even though we knew were moving.
We got to the stadium just after the national anthems but just in time to watch the kick-off, the moment was electric. I cannot say I once saw where the ball was on the field but when we scored in the first-half we had the game in hand and our hearts in our mouths until the end of that game.
Sadly, I failed to record memories of that event because my camera gave up the ghost within the first 10 minutes of the game starting and by the end, I had lost my voice.
No stars here
That was just the beginning of our odyssey; we got back on the bus to go our hotel where we were to have a Nigerian food splayed out in celebration and jollity – it never happened, we got lost for over 2 hours searching for the hotel, we were literally worn out.
Then we got to the hotel and it was difficult to find words to describe the fact that our countryman business people in the quest to maximise their profits had landed us in a place too cheap for the humblest person not to be haughty.
The rooms had bunk beds I had not seen since I left secondary school almost 20 years before, the shower room was a squeeze that literally had the toilet for the drain and amongst us were professionals and some who had travelled all the way from Nigeria only to be greeted with contempt, insult, injury and disdainful abuse – it was atrocious.
We are done with this
We were at a place called Fontenay-sous-Bois [French], just to the east of Paris in what could not have the grade of a 1* hotel at best.
Three of us decided we were not going to stand for this, called a taxi and drove into the centre of Paris where we found better lodgings, service and access to the city proper with a lesson that I learnt too well for a long time.
I swore never to do business with a Nigerian again and cancelled the plan to attend the match between Nigeria and Paraguay in Toulouse.
Will I ever?
Besides that, I would never have thought I would ever for any reason find myself in Fontenay-sous-Bois again after that unfortunate experience, but today, I find myself in an office in the middle of that small town that made me remember that old nursery rhyme.
Doctor Foster,
Went to Gloucester,
In a shower of rain.
He fell in a puddle,
Right up to his middle,
And never went there again.
I might have sworn to never ever but now I know never ever to say never again.

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