The real-life tales of a football writer
My team, Manchester La Fianna, won our final group game 4-0 last Saturday, our record of P11 W9 L2 easily good enough to qualify for the next stage to decide the Barcelona International Football League (BIFL) champions in June.
And on Tuesday, Prince Osito (see Messi, the Prince and Mr Pink) trained with us. Turns out, he actually is a real prince – his dad is the king of his village in Nigeria. That means he could become the first royalty to play for Manchester – although we briefly had an English lad who looked like Prince William and was so posh that I told people his grandma was 'the Queen of England'. All the South Americans, Africans, North Americans and Europeans realised I was blagging, but a Cockney defender fell for it.
I watched Prince Osito closely to see if he could play. I’d heard he was with Betis B, but I’ve heard too many players big themselves up. One told me last year that he had played for a Danish first division team and had come to Spain to join Espanyol “but they were full".
Unfortunately for him, he didn’t realise I was a football journalist. Even so, he must have been really thick, because all I did was a Google search which revealed that the Danish first division club he mentioned had average crowds of 6,000 and a slick website. And he wasn’t anywhere to be seen on it. In training, it was clear to see that he’d never played professional football. The more modest lads tend to be the best players.
The Prince, thankfully, could play. He was friendly too, and after training I asked him if was interested in turning out for us.
“Of course!” he replied. “But I have to do a show some Saturdays.”
“I’m a reggae singer,” he said, producing his latest cd from his kitbag and handing it over, “have a listen.”
Back to Google which found the video for his ‘Ganja Farmer’ song, filmed at various seedy locations around Barcelona. You can spot the bus station and Vallbona, one of the poorest overspill estates located between a cemetery, three rail lines and a 19 lane road intersection carrying traffic north to France. I know that because we play some of our games there, on a dusty pitch with shocking floodlights powered by fairy candles.
The Prince told me his story as we walked to the metro. He came to Europe to pursue his dream of playing football and ended up with the B team of Real Betis, in the footsteps of Finidi George, another boy from his hometown of Port Harcourt.
George, formerly of Ajax, went onto Mallorca and Ipswich, while the Prince came to Barcelona reckoning his “tough (football) exodus deeply marked his music and identity”.
As we’ve no game this weekend, I’ll see him next week. In the meantime, I’m going to watch two Manchester derbies: Droylsden v Altrincham in the Conference and United v City in the global Premiership.
Then it's back to Barcelona for a Valentine’s Day interview with Ronaldinho! He promised that the next time I interviewed him it would be in English. If that happens then I’m a Prince.
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