The world would focus its beam on Africa from the 11th of June to the 11th of July, when the much awaited Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) world cup would begin in the land of Nelson Mandela- South Africa.
Cultures would mix, several languages would be spoken and millions of people would stay glued to their television as the much loved sports fiesta kicks off. Thirty two teams who are representatives from all the continents would compete and showcase their soccer artistry, in duels that would be won by technical and tactical discipline, team work as well as mental strength.
The power of sports as a unification factor cannot be over emphasized. In Nigeria, a sports loving and soccer crazy country, the expectation is high and the soccer aficionados have left no one in doubt that they are geared to feast on the games whose aroma can already be perceived world over.
At the newsstands, offices, beer parlours, clubs, motor parks and schools you see them, arguing at the top of their voices as with the veins on their necks glistering and sticking out as if they want to get out of the skin to play football. Someone who is not familiar with such seems would wonder if there is prize at stake for the one with the most convincing analysis.
“Whether you call him Lagerfront or Lagerfront, he can do no magic. He is just doing abracadabra.”
“Haba, why not give him a chance. You never can tell.”
“Tell what, my friend? That Messi would be merciless with us or that our boys would disgrace us on our own soil? Biko leave that thing.”
“Look, Lagerback and our players have kept on saying that it is not all about Messi. Even Aiyegbeni said so in the papers.”
“Aiye who? Look, you just want to annoy me. What has that former gardener contributed to our team? He is so heavy that he can’t even run.”
“Aaah! He bangs in goals in his clubside. Don’t forget he scored against North Korea in the friendly.”
“My friend, that is not enough reason. If you judge players just through three friendly matches, you would be in for a big surprise”
“A pleasant one?”
“Please do not just spoil my day. Pleasant? Ngwanu, make we dey look. As for me, I have adopted the siddon dey look approach of the late Bola Ige. I have zeroed my mind, so that I won’t have any headache or heartache when our boys would be whipped by Argentina and sent packing in the first round.”
“I do not think so. I have hope in the oyibo. They have a different approach to the game.”
“Different approach my foot. Like Berti Vogts abi? And Lagerback even failed to qualify Sweden for South Africa 2010”
“Oh! Leave that. He took Sweden to the last two world cups and he beat Argentina and Nigeria in Japan/Korea 2002”
“O yes, just as Berti Vogts won the 1996 Euro Championship with Germany. My papa get video before no mean say e get am now. Your people in NFF keep going for people that live on their past glory. The guardian spirits of Shuaibu Amodu will haunt NFF and the team.”
“Easy easy o! how do you mean?”
“Amodu was given a semi final target at the last Nations Cup and he reached it, yet he was sacked. I tell you if NFF does not give Amodu a public apology before our first game, there would be wahala.”
“Okota Okariri, you better watch your mouth. Amodu showed he lacked a deep knowledge of the game.”
“You want oyibo. Onye ocha you would be surprised Lagernowhere abi Lagerback will perform worse than Onigbinde.”
“No way, not when the boys have been given all they need.”
“The same way they were given all they needed when Vogts was in charge.”
“Look, look, these men. I have been listening to you two for a while and you both do not seem to understand that Nigeria performs best when the team is in disarray.”
“Hahahaha. I laugh. Nwokem, listen to yourself.”
“Yes, our boys almost staged a strike action for unpaid match bonuses and after much pleading by NFA officials they went out and beat highly rated Spain in France ’98. Before Atlanta ’96 Olympics there was so much katakata in their camp. They were also similar incidents in USA ’94.
“And you make me laugh even more. Hahahaha”
‘’Just liketheir African nation’s cup history. Do not forget the Christian Chukwu team that won the golden bronze in 2004. We lost out in a penalty shootout which was just a luck factor at the semi finals. The team was so unorganized, players were owed by NFA and the disciplinarian military sports minister suspended three players including your Yakubu Aiyegbeni after an uninspiring first game which they lost. They won subsequent games. In fact Super Eagles lost to Denmark in the second round of France ’98 because after their surprise qualification to the second round, the camp became so peaceful and some kind of over confidence came in. The lost the fear and katakata factor and so they lost. So the element of unpreparedness may work for them in South Africa.”
“You do have a point, man.”
“I agree, but it would work best if the apologise to Amodu.”
“Yes, when they should have remembered that Prophet T.B. Joshua predicted we would go to the world cup when Amodu was in charge.”
“Na true o! Meanwhile, has the prophet said anything about the world cup?”
“I do not think so but I read in the papers that he was invited by FIFA.”
“To do what? Is he now a coach or would he predict the winner to them?”
“My brother, I do not know, but I think they may need him alongside CIA, FBI, MOSAD and South African security operatives to forestall any calamity, like the Al-Qaeda threat. You know he sees the unseen.”
“You two, you better watch your mouth or you commit blasphemy. The Prophet has contributed a lot in raising youngsters who eventually became footballing talents with great prospects.”
“I no talk again o! I better be sure.”
“Okota Okariri, me too. With the element of unpreparedness, and the prophet’s presence, I am still very hopeful.”
“To your tents O Isreal. Me, I have just zeroed my mind so that I would still enjoy the world cup after our exit.”