Glory and The Golden Eaglets!

by SOC Okenwa

Last Sunday of all days saw my absence from the church service here! As the secretary of the church administrative committee I was not expected to be absent from the church service for whatever reason unless I am out of town. But here I was Sunday torn between patriotism and Godliness and the former seized me; the FIFA-organized under-17 world cup final match between Nigeria and Spain was slated for 10 am GMT. When my pastor called me after the church service around 2pm GMT friends were still in my house celebrating with me with deafening victorious joyful noises! The man of God expressed his felicitations concluding rightfully that he knew the match must have been the major reason for my absence from service to which I answered in the affirmative.

As the “Arise Oh Compatriots” national anthem was played inside the main bowl of Seoul Stadium nostalgia gripped me. I felt like a true Nigerian and forgot momentarily the failings of our leaders. I was proud to be a Nigerian in the Diaspora despite the shame our past leaders has immersed one with. As the boys sang the anthem my mind flashed back to my school days when we sang the national anthem every morning pledging our loyalty and love to our motherland. That was in the good old days before the ‘undertakers’ and barbarians led by ‘Maradona’, the late ‘Khalifa’, and lately ‘Baba’ took over seeking to ‘bury’ a people and their country when death was not yet an option.

The Nigerian Golden Eaglets football team made history last Sunday as they lifted the FIFA under 17 world cup in far away Seoul South Korea! Against Spain in the finals the boys displayed their best soccer skills and ran away with victory in the ensuing penalty shoot-out after 120 minutes pulsating gruelling encounter. It was indeed a victory well deserved. A well-groomed team that went into the competition with a vision for ultimate victory bulldozing their way past teams from Haiti, Japan, France, Argentina and Germany nothing short of the trophy would have compensated their efforts and perseverance.

The great international soccer triumph reminds one of same feats of 1985, 1993 and Atlanta 96 Olympics where the Kanu Nwankwo magic propelled Nigeria to victory against soccer power nations like Argentina, Brazil. The under-17 trophy has come home twice but this one is remarkable in the sense that the Haruna Yakubu-captained side were the very best losing no match and showing off the talent and skills that are not common in other climes. The Yemi Tella-tutored boys according to Ben Iroha, the assistant coach, “are hungry for the trophy” and nothing would have quenched that desperate thirst to ‘drink’ from the prized cup than total victory.

As the nations cup, Ghana 2008, draws closer the Super Eagles, the national side, must put their acts together to bring home the trophy that has eluded us for so long a time. I think we deserve the trophy more than any other nation because we have the materials, the great football skills to deliver the TKO to our opponents. Our major undoing in competitions of this kind remains lack of organisation and focus. With the NFA brawling over estacode and power it is appropriate to conclude that the men in positions of trust at the Glass House are soccer contractors and misfits whose main objective is self-aggrandisement.

After Ghana 2008 there is the South Africa 2010 World Cup coming up. Since no African nation or team has captured the big prize South Africa presents a golden opportunity for the Super Eagles to break the African world cup jinx. If any African nation should win the World Cup then Nigeria with huge human and material resources should be the one. The talents are there, the fiscal resources are there also to take care of the talented nurturing them towards winning laurels for the fatherland. But the problem lies squarely on our misplaced priorities. Square pegs in round holes in positions that demand rigorous decisions are the bane of our sports in general. ‘Mumu’ today Lulu tomorrow! Sorry, Lulu today ‘Mumu’ tomorrow!!

Few weeks from now the World Heavyweight Boxing championship will be decided between Nigeria‘s Samuel Peters and the Russian Champion in the US. The “Nigerian Nightmare” is poised for victory but he needs every support and encouragement from the authorities for him to excel. He should be given every support to succeed where the likes of Joe Lasisi had failed. Peters, given his pugilism pedigree, has what it takes to snatch victory from the tough-talking Russian who is not a walk-over from every stretch of imagination.

Now that Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and his band of dream killers are out of the way in our march towards greatness it is to be expected that more laurels will come our way. President Yar’Adua is a squash champion! Or a potential one! He even challenged those speculating over his ill-health to a game of squash; unfortunately no one was man enough to take up that challenge! As a sports-loving president with Goodluck by his side Nigerians should expect more trophies and global feats. Obasanjo was bad news for our embattled nation and he still is!

Celebrating the Golden Eaglets and the glory they have brought to our dear nation reminds us all, as a wonderful nation under God, of our potentials, the possibilities, the opportunities still waiting to be explored for our greatness. Our land is rich in oil and gas deposits; brains that are hot are available, those seeking fame and fortune — the ambitious– are not in short supply. So all it takes for this mad house to explode and take her rightful place in the comity of nations is just organization. The world will bow and tremble the very moment the emaciated giant recovers from the bouts of mortal fiscal blows inflicted on it by the immediate past misrulers.

For me this sweet soccer victory against Spain should be dedicated to the memory of late Osamuyia Aikpitanhi, the young Nigerian lad killed by the Spanish security officials while being deported aboard an Iberia Lagos-bound flight from Madrid. At least this soccer superiority will go a long way to remind them of our know-how, our technical prowess away from ‘419’, drug running and other crimes Nigerian. Nigeria is a potential Super Power!

Long live the great dream of a potentially great nation! Long live the new era of democracy in its unadulterated form. Nigeria we hail thee!! Arise O Compatriots!!!

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