Athletes Profiles

MY PASSION FOR SCRABBLE

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I am DORCAS EKABA INNOCENT – Female SCRABBLE Champion and Secretary Bayelsa State Scrabble Association; 2012 Lagos National Sports Festival, Governor Godswill Akpabio Scrabble Classic, Edo 2020 National Sports Festival and Asaba 2022 National Sports Festival.

At the National Sports Festival EKO 2012 held in Lagos, scrabble was listed amongst other sports. Bayelsa State was well represented in the game and I also participated. I won a bronze medal. Some other players won in different categories, bringing all medal haul to 2 Gold’s and 2 Bronzes.

In 2014, I was preparing for the Godswill Akpabio Scrabble Classics at Uyo. This was a platform for me to meet past and present world champions, old and new players and a while lot more experiences. About this same time my mum was sick. On the eve of my journey to Uyo, on the 24th of September, 2014, I checked on her.

MY BRONZE MEDAL

I encouraged her and spent some time with her. I told her I was going for a scrabble championship and that she should be strong. I remember those words she said to me; “Go my daughter, you will definitely win”. These were, unknown to me, her last words to me. It was a prayer, a declaration and a blessing. I couldn’t stay back, but she was really down. I had prepared for the championship, so I left hoping to return to see her.

The competition was very tough from day one. I remember some of our amazon players; Success Suleiman, Juliana Imbiakpa, Cynthia Maxwell, Vera Zini Quickpen, Helen Orji of blessed memory, Naomi ThankGod, to mention a few. I can visualize the President of the Nigeria Scrabble Federation (NSF), Toke Aka and Faruq Baba-Ina of the Technical committee, busy in full gear, making sure that the scrabble classic was a success. By God’s grace I did marvelously well, bringing me to table one.

Friday, 26th of September, 2014 was my birthday. I was celebrated by our team. I felt loved. It was a family away from home. They wished me more wins and many other blessings. As the competition progressed, their wishes were quick to manifest, I won all but one game. The one game I lost was to Suleiman Success. I, however, still remained in table one.

DORCAS WITH TEAM EKO 2012

My coach (Mr. Bibowei Harrison Lambert) that Saturday morning 27th September 2014 had collected (seized) my phone. His reasons were constructively genuine. He said he doesn’t want me to be distracted, and that I needed all the concentration to win. That was the day I got to table one.

I didn’t know that, that very morning, a call had reached him, my coach, telling him my mum had passed-on and that he should take my phone so no one could get the news across to me. Indeed if that news had reached me, I don’t think I would have been able to play that day.

In the evening, that day, I requested for my phone. I wanted to call my people at home especially my husband (Mr. Innocent) and lovely kids (Merit & Marvelous) to tell them I was in table one. I was excited. It was a stressful day but the enthusiasm expelled the stress. My coach had no other reason to keep custody of my phone. I had made it to table one, thanks to him, I was not distracted. He reluctantly handed my phone to me. When I put on the phone, a message from my sister entered. I opened and read it. That was it. The heartbreak. The pain. The grief. It was so strong. “Mumsy has gone”. My teammates and officials already knew that morning. They just kept mute and cheered me while I played. When I saw the text message and broke down, they gathered round me, held me, cried with me, cleaned my tears and consoled me. I was unconsolably. I lost my beloved mum to the cold hands of dead on the 27th September 2014. The next day, 28th of September, was the grand finale.

By the time I had let out the strongest waves of the pain and was calm, weeping, my coach came and encouraged me. I remember something he said that really calmed me down. He said, “I understand and feel your pains. But the truths are, one your mum is dead and she’s not coming back. Two, you have scaled through today and you are on table one. You don’t have power over the former, but you can control the later. Whether we go to Bayelsa State today or tomorrow, you will still meet your mum dead.

So, Dorcas, you just have to put yourself together and keep the pain and mourning till later, let’s win this trophy. It will be Two – Zero, to have lost your mother and still lose the trophy. Let the trophy be your consolation. Let’s enter Bayelsa State with this trophy. We will have enough time to sorrow and mourn, but can you just, for the team’s sake, win this trophy. We feel your pain, but if you can console us with the trophy, it will go a long way”. I actually have paraphrased in that quote. But that was the summary of his consolation message to me. What he said really got to me. It was the blunt truth. “I can’t change the state of my mom, but I can change and control my mood to win the game the next day”. I also remembered my mom’s last words to me “Go, you will win”.

The news of my mum’s demise had gone viral. Other athletes at the venue had also rallied round, consoling me. Calls came in from the scrabble family back home, in Yenagoa, consoling and encouraging me. The stakes on the icing was high. I was on table one. Loosing any game at that point could jeopardize my chances of winning the first position which I had worked and studied so hard for.

 TROPHY

“Oh Lord, please help me” were my silent prayers as tears flowed from my eyes down to my chin.

The next day, the final round started; the tension was high. It was like an injured sprinter set on the track to compete with a healthy sprinter of high repute. My coach, Bibowei Lambert, and the entire team were scared about the possibility of me losing the trophy. I was the last hope for Team Bayelsa if we will return home with a prize from the Godswill Akpabio Scrabble Classics.

I managed and played, tears pouring down as I placed my tiles, shuffle, picked from the bag and thought. It was a mind game played by one whose mind was disturbed and soul was wounded. Amidst sobs, God favored me. Two more games to the end of the game, I was Gibsonised and declared winner! It was all over! I won the 2014 female opens category at the Governor Godswill Akpabio Scrabble Classics.

Godswill Akpabio Scrabble Classics

I didn’t know how to celebrate. It was a double win for my teammates as I was handed the trophy. I managed to force a smile amidst heaviness and tears. My mum was not there to celebrate with me. Who do I take this trophy home to? The woman that gave me hope and supported me when I was repeatedly told that a woman’s education ends in the kitchen. It was her wisdom that made me agreed to learn typing which in turn gave me a job that paid my school fees, as an undergraduate, and toured me round the country. I wished she saw me become a scrabble champion. It was painful. But such is life.

Keep resting mum, till we meet again.

Written by : DORCAS EKABA INNOCENT

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Being passionate about sports, I specialize in creating exceptional sports interfaces. This platform serves as a medium where I share sports articles, aiming to enhance your appreciation and love for the game.
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