A Surprise Birthday Party and the Love for Soccer

Johnson Babalola
July 9, 2023

My friend’s wife had planned the surprise birthday for her husband well … or so she thought. It was a simple plan that she was convinced would work.

She had paid for a beautiful event hall and had invited about fifty close friends of the family and extended family members. The plan was to invite the husband to A’s birthday party. A was a good friend of the husband and they shared the same birthday. Ahead of the day, the wife had told my friend about the invitation to A’s party, and he agreed to attend. He even told the wife he was looking forward to it.

Then came the day. Food had arrived. All sorts of Nigerian delicacies: the internationally recognized jollof rice; the colourful fried rice; the ever-soothing puff-puff and the supportive meat pie; the high class pounded yam wearing its white blazer and the accompanying efo riro; the famous fried plantain aka dodo; the healthy beans and its unhealthy cousin, fried stew garnished with assorted meats submerged in inviting oil and many more. The food servers were on standby. Then the guests who had come from far and near, were all seated having parked their cars far from the venue to avoid any suspicion.  The plan was to be seated at 4.30pm. Then my friend would be ushered into the room at 5pm with a “happy birthday ” song.  The one-man band was playing some good music from the 80s while the photographer, was set to capture every minute of the event.

Then at 4.45pm, my friend’s wife called me: “your friend is refusing to leave home because he wants to watch a premier league soccer game. That will take him to 6pm. Please talk to him.” Ah! Not today bro, I muted under my breath. So, I spoke with my friend and tried every trick to get him out of the house. He was adamant he wanted to watch the game.

Then it was 5.15pm. We got other friends to speak with him. He was still adamant, adding that he did not want to be stressed because of someone else’s birthday party. At this time, we decided to inform him that the party was planned for him, and that guests had been waiting for an hour. It was meant to be a surprise for him, he was told. He started apologizing, took a quick shower and made his way to the venue within 30 minutes. Meanwhile, all the behind the scene drama was not known to the guests who were mostly busy discussing local and international politics, family, and other issues. There were enough drinks and good background music to keep them entertained. We informed them the birthday boy was late due to some last-minute developments.

Then my friend arrived at the venue of the event. As he entered the room, he became emotional. Even though it was no longer a surprise that the party was held for him, he was surprised by the extent of the planning that had gone into organizing the party, the numbers of the guests present and their patience.  He was sure surprised to see some of his childhood friends from outside of the country present. Some, he had not seen in thirty years. He apologized for his insensitivity and for allowing his love for soccer to blind him from his immediate environment, thus ruining the “surprise” party. To him though, the best surprise was the love shown by all the guests present.  For most of the guests, however, the loudest applause was for the wife, who did all the planning and remained calm, understanding, and supportive of the husband even when he was uncooperative. In situations when things appear not to be working as planned, we should do our best to remain calm, talk to trusted individuals for support, and be focused on finding solutions, that may sometimes not be perfect.

It was a beautiful evening.

Johnson Babalola, a Canada and Nigeria based lawyer, leadership consultant, storyteller and corporate emcee, is a public affairs analyst. Follow him for discussions on real life issues that affect us all.

You can obtain a copy of his newly released book, REJECTED on Amazon, FriesenPress, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Apple Books, Nook Store etc.