Published On: Sun, Jul 1st, 2018

World Cup: Why I wanted Nigeria to lose

By UCHE CHRIS

 

Not a few people would frown at this obviously unpatriotic declaration. They would argue that you do not disown your mother no matter her worst dispositions. Nigeria may not have presented the best team at the ongoing Mundial but it behooves all Nigerians to support the team. Good point, but this matter is different. Beside patriotism, what else is our aspiration to be amongst the best teams in the world?

Super Eagles a training session

It is not just about participation or supporting the team that is the issue; for most Nigerians to belief and hope that the team can actually win the world cup, in spite of their inferior quality and standard is what really rankles.  This inclination exemplifies how we run our country, namely, that regardless of what we do or fail to do we deserve to succeed or be the best.

Well, the real world is not that way; it rewards only excellence and merit. Unless you are the best, you can’t be among the best. The system, unlike what we have in Nigeria, and even Africa, is so effective it definitively sift out the chaff from the grains. Nigeria, nay Africa need to learn a few lessons from the games to ensure that they improve on their lackluster performance. This is their worst outing.

Of the five African teams in the competition, only Morocco technically rank among the best; yet they suffered the same perennial ineptitude that ensures that no African team has ever got beyond the quarter final. Their match against Spain, the European power house elevated their football status in the world; yet they failed. Cameroun, Ghana and Senegal, which have reached that stage could have gone all the way but were undone by their tactical indiscipline and professional incompetence.

Look at the performance of African teams in this Russia ’18 and all their weaknesses come to the fore; even Senegal which had the best chance of moving forward came unstuck. Of all the 96 matches played in the group stage, only African teams failed to hold on to very advantageous positions just before the final whistle; some even lost out in added time. It was scandalous and shows why an African team may never reach the final in a long time.

Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia all produced this ignoble record. Even Senegal, touted as the best among them, failed to hold on to a double lead against Japan and when they needed just a draw like Nigeria to qualify, and having several scoring opportunities, eventually crashed out. Also, Nigeria had more scoring chances than Argentina and still lost.

All this suggests that our football development is still tendentious and lags global trends. The question we must ask ourselves is, which of the 16 qualifying teams can we displace on merit? The answer is obvious; none. Fellow drops-outs such as Serbia, Costa Rica and South Korea would take Nigeria to the cleaners.

But this is not to deny the performance of the teams, especially Nigeria and Senegal. Given the poor state of things in the country and the youthful nature of the team – in fact the youngest in the competition – they really tried; only that their best is below the competition mark. As our coach Rohr said, “the team is for the future because it is young and lacks experience”; perhaps in Qatar their true quality will manifest – but it depends on what we do.

However, it is not for these reasons – technical, tactical and professional – that I wanted the team to return home early. It is generally believed, and even officially acknowledged, that football is the only unifying factor in Nigeria. This is obviously an indictment of our nationhood and all that is wrong with it. There is no other country such can be said of.

How could a mere sporting activity involving just eleven young men become the glue that binds us together? How could anyone in his right senses take such a derogation of truth as complimentary and positive beats imagination? That the euphoria of a 90 minutes game is strong enough to sustain a country is one of the wonders of our existence. It is sad and sickening.

Just imagine the jostling by our political leaders, including President Buhari, to congratulate the Super Eagles for beating Iceland 2-0; a country of over 180 million celebrating a soccer victory over another that is less than half a million. Victory Indeed! It shows our lack of self esteem and descent into mediocrity.

One wonders what would have happened had the team overcome Argentina and qualified for the second round; perhaps government may have declared a holiday to allow Nigerians celebrate.

My reason for not supporting the team is the focus it was taking away from the survival and development challenges facing the nation; for no country could be as gullible and self deceiving as we are.

Imagine the Nigeria match against Argentina dominating the news media and public discussion on the day over 86 Nigerians were massacre in Jos, Plateau state by a band of terrorists? Such an event elsewhere would have called for a day of national mourning; but for us, it was business as usual. It was not only shameful but dishonourable and unconscionable.

Nigerians seem to be intoxicated on the elixir of the games and oblivious of their problems as the competition lasted. The country is living precarious on the edge of political violence and ethnic cleansing, yet our leaders have time and enough justification to bother with football. Our nation is descending into anarchy and genocide and the political leadership does not consider it serious enough to address the nation and take decisive measure to tackle the threat.

Those players have kiths and kin in Nigeria. How would they feel hearing the news that their relations were being massacred in their sleep, and that the government congratulating them does not lift a finger to address the challenge. It is absurd.

In the midst of this, we are celebrating football that does not add or advance our nationhood nor resolve the critical issues confronting us. Graduates are staying five to 10 years jobless while we are ready to pay a few people $20,000 (N7 million) for a 90 minutes activity. No worker, including professors, judges, perm secs, generals etc earns that amount in naira equivalent in a full month. Such is our warped value and reward system.

We must be serious about things happening in the country or our foolishness will continue. Our leaders have used these frivolities enough to deceive us. We must begin to interrogate our existence and practices.

 

 

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