It is that time of the year, schools are closed and all boys are back in the village, except for the ‘born tao’, who would be breezing in later in December to terrorise the hapless village boys with sheng. You will agree with me on a lighter note that the of polythene menace became more pronounced when boys started playing balls bought from supermarkets and not making their own or simply abandoned the game all together for computer gadgets and mobile phones.
Growing up, cane cutter and his gang had a way of keeping themselves away from bad activities; unless of cause bad activities also included stealing mangoes from Paskalia’s farm. Thus the ‘Juala’ ball during holidays pitting my village boys against each other or my village against boys from the neighboring village would come in handy as we looked after the cows in the fields.
There is nothing more nostalgic like images of some pot bellied lads roaming the village with their dogs some called Kiyombi, Simba, Gadafi, Rhodesia and Sadam, hunting for birds which by with catapults, chasing after squirrels, bush hare or just kicking around some balls made from discarded clothes and polythene papers. After a long day around, we would be taking the cows back home while blowing our crookedly crafted hands while some are chewing sugar cane; that is if the gods’ were on our side and the cows never sneaked home before us to cause rampage in the sorghum farms.
Just like the 21st Fifa rules, we had our own albeit they were never written anywhere; still we mastered them. I hope after reading these rules, you would be laughing all the way to the bathroom.
Every open space could be a playing field.
The fat kid was always the goalkeeper.
The owner of the ball decides who plays.
It was always Otis owning the ball. Somehow my ball kept appearing from the ‘orepe’ fig tree behind our house. I came to learn later it was Otis who snitched them so that he kept dominating the village.
The owner of the ball plays on the side which doesn’t remove the shirts or t-shirts; it was a privilege to be on the side that put the shirts on.
A must: The owner of the ball captains both teams.
Penalties were awarded only if the injured player curses a lot. Talking of injuries, cuts were dealt with by a quick first aid of rubbing dust on the bleeding spot.
If you were the goalkeeper, you could change the goal post from where the ball enters to the opposite side and claim no goal or remove all the sticks when the striker was approaching.
No matter how many goals you scored, the winner will be determined by the last team to score.
No referee and linesman, everyone is a referee; you could run with the ball even behind the goal post, then come back and score and the goal stood.
There were no such things as corners, throw-ins, free kicks or offsides; the closer you are to opposite goalkeeper the easier it was to score.
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If you don't participate in repairing the ball you were given a match ban, so we were keen to be part of the repair team.
If you're picked last you're a loser. The guy who was never picked was to fetch the ball when it got stuck under the car (this is when cane cutter was living with the aunt in Manyattta Kisumu) or under the tunnel or over ‘Shosh’ Paskalia’s fence, of course Paskslia had ready abuses to hurl over the fence.
The guy who was never picked was also to be the one looking after the cows lest they stray as we played, so he could play in the next match.
When the owner of the ball gets annoyed, game over. Otis had a short temper so we made sure he was always in a good mood, by bringing him boiled potatoes or making sure we passed the ball to him more often than the others in the same team.
The goal sticks did not have a cross bar. So long as the ball passed in between the two sticks, it was counted, never mind the height, it was a goal.
You were allowed to change the goalkeeper incase of a penalty.
The match ended only when everyone was tired in normal circumstances or when we realised the cows are gone.
When the owner of the ball was called home, it would be the end because he leaves with the ball.
The losing team especially from the other village is to be chased back across the river with dogs in pursuit.
Looking back, I cannot help but laugh over them.