180 Minutes of Football!

It’s 5pm local time in Nigeria. Drums are rolling, waists are moving and the people are obviously happy! That had nothing to do with politics, economic revival or religion — it’s simply football. I’m not keen about football, and know next to nothing about matches, players and how much they are paid — but I watched 180 minutes of breath-taking football yesterday.

It was Nigeria’s day with rivals, Tunisia (on the football field, that is). Two years ago (I’m made to know), we lost to this same team at some crucial point during the same football tournament. And yesterday was another opportunity to “finally put the history of African football to rest as far as Nigeria and Tunisia were concerned”. I couldn’t believe my ears when some noise rang through the streets after about 6 minutes into the match — Nigeria had scored! Trust PHCN (Nigerians know them like the back of thie hands), I had to find an alternative source for power supply, and then settled with the match.

With my heart in my mouth, I endured the two halves of the match — especially when the Tunisians had put in a second goal! I was, however, too glad to see Vincent Enyeama save the penalty taken by that Tunisian guy (my very good friends, Tope and Ayo can help you with the player’s name :)). The extra time ended and there were no goals. My friend (who’d been seeing the macth with me at home) left the living room — not bold enough to see the penalty shoot-out. Suddenly, I saw Enyeama smiling… so I called out and said, “don’t miss history that’s about to be made, I think we’ll win”. Of course, I was scared stiff and needed someone to see the macth with me (I have a way of being a little more calm when someone else is there to receive my and slaps while watching football — now you know why football is not good for my heart :)).

The first came from the captain, Joseph Yobo (got the name!). Ande, ande, ande (as a popular commentator would say)… we missed the first oportunity. By the time Enyeama saved the third penalty of the match and we were on the same score level with Tunisia, my hopes were high. Nigerians were tensed. You could feel silence walk through the street as random shouts rent the air, “God! Help us!”, “is this the end?”, “well, we tried”, were audible from God-knows-where. Then, the moment of the match. Kanu was invited to play Nigeria’s last penalty and he obviously wasn’t ready to take such huge risk. He did, and he scored (somebody say Papilo!) And the man of the macth (though CAF thought it was Mikel Obi who deserved that title) stepped up to do his thing. A visibly hungry Tunisian stepped up to the ball… ande, ande, ande he caught the ball! Nigeria was through the the semi-finals!

I wasn’t sure of how to celebrate, so I went out and took pictures — enjoying every bit of the “celebration”. That I’m blogging about football surprises me, but if nothing else works in Nigeria, football does! Nigeria rocks! And guess what, the same spirit that makes every Nigerian stay glued to a Nigerian match and wish for the best, will line the fabrics of the New Nigeria! Go on eagles, bring home the trophy… tell the world that giants may fall asleep, but this one is waking up! Up Eagles, up technical crew, up fans’ club, up Nigeria! I doff my hat for Vincent Enyeama.

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