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A street-poet and a football star

Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 21:24 UK time, Tuesday, 8 June 2010

I met Garba Maxime at the border between Ghana and Togo, where he makes his living. Because he speaks both French and English, as well as several local languages (he graduated from the Ghanaian Institute of Languages), he helps people to fill in immigration forms and sort out formalities. So he is lucky, he earns some 5000 CFA (roughly 10 dollars) a day to feed his family of four people.

That is his daytime job. In the nights he's writing his second novel, which is called "Nabukku or African Justice". The novel tells the story of a family ruined by the local custom of going to an idol, when something is stolen from you. The oracle's words are misinterpreted by people and the consequences are tragic.

His first novel "Rejected", which exists only in manuscript, in Garba's accurate scribbles, is also discussing the issues of traditional African life and modernity, and reassesses those old traditions. It's a story of village life - with violence and corruption, shame and stigmatising.

I met Garba once again in the evening, in the bar of our hotel Ibis, before he headed off to his home at the outskirts of Lome. I asked him to read some poems and they are here. But all of a sudden he wrote a poem for us and here's it in English translation:

Scattered here and there,
in this luxurious place, where they are,
some eat, others drink.
Cradled by a fresh breeze,
peaceful is this night and here am I
with them...

I leave to you to interpret the poem, but I felt very sad that night. I'll write about Togo in comparison with other neighbouring countries, but I felt somehow that I've arrived in modern Uzbekistan.

Olufade.jpgNext morning I went deliberately after a success story. Adekanmi Olufade is a football star - he captains the Togolese national team and plays in Belgium for the AA Gent club. Three years ago he opened a Regional Academy of football in Lome and it runs as a business venture. Olufade coaches the local young talent, and along with technique and tactics of football they also learn all the subtleties of European and international soccer. The best four of his apprentices have already made their way to the clubs like Anderlecht, Charlesroi and Kasim-Pasa. The Regional Academy earns money both by selling the young players and also partly from the players themselves furthering development of the Academy and its facilities.

Olufade has got all necessary accessories of the football megastar - an impressive mansion, a luxurious four wheel drive car and even a beautiful Belgian WAG, but yet his biggest passion is football and - with no reference to oracles - he predicts that this time we'll see an African team in the final of the World Cup... Even if it doesn't happen this time, he is working towards it.

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