What happened? Was it a curse? Was it sabotage? My friend, we need to know from you". Those were questions that have bombarded me since the Eagles made their exit from the first World Cup in Africa. Many people especially Journalists and the people of South Africa would not let anybody rest once they notice you are a Nigerian.
For the foreign media, we have to know ourselves through interactions either from the media centre or the media tribune or from the mixed zones where we meet in the course of getting stories for our different organisaions. I know that many Nigerians by now have come to terms with the sour performance of the Eagles but out here, mentions are still being made to the early exit of the Eagles.
One British Journalists said that he has never seen such a miss in the whole of his 39 years of writing sports and covering many international competitions. He was referring to Yakubu's miss. In the 66th minute of Tuesday's final group match against South Korea, trailing 2-1 and needing a win to have a shot at advancing, striker Yakubu was set up with an absolutely perfect opportunity right in front of the goal. With the keeper sprawled out beside him and a wide open net waiting to be fed the ball, Yakubu tried to flick the pass in for the astonishingly easy score and he put it wide off the post. He missed.
I still don't think it was possible, but he missed. Well, he did hit a water bottle, but that doesn't count for anything. Since then, I have not rested for the silly mistake of Yak. He has made me to be answering questions that I don't know. Nigerians and Africans, too, have been attributing the miss to Native Doctors, or a spell. One said boldly that it was not for nothing that he missed the chance. I am not an authority in such mundane trivial things of 'tying' the players' legs as is being suggested here. Some claimed that some native doctors were
ferried to South Africa from Nigeria by Nigerians to ensure that Sani Lulu and his group of traveling members in the NFA do not use the glory of the World Cup by the Eagles to climb back to the glass house. Others have insinuated that it is retribution. That the Eagles and NFA and indeed Nigerians reaped what they sowed by kicking out Amodu Shuaibu from his post after suffering to qualify Nigeria for the World Cup.
I learnt that Amodu was at the World Cup but did not set my eyes on him. I thanked God that I did not see him because I would not have faced him for an interview. Yes! How could I have done that or what question could I have asked him knowing his temper.
I didn't want to be like Onochie Anibeze who faced the wrath of Emmanuel Okala after Rangers International were defeated by the then Leventis United. Rangers had played the match of their lives and controlled every aspect of the match. Rain suddenly started falling and a harmless shot, the type that Goalkeeper Robert Green of the Three Lions of England conceded against USA was fired by Leventis.
The goalkeeper bent to hold the ball and it slipped into the net for the only goal of the match. Rangers officials and players wept. And as a cub reporter Onochie went straight with his tape recorder to Okala and asked, "Coach what would you attribute to the defeat? Okala in his giant size seized Onochie by the collar of his shirt and lifted him up, retorting in Ibo. "ina attribute, ifuro rain? It means, "Are you attributing, didn't you see rain? By the time he hauled Onochie down, he had a stiff neck. I still remember that incident as if it happened yesterday.
And I thanked God that I did not see Amodu because I wouldn't have avoided the urge to ask him questions. Why that happened in those years, now mistakes by keepers and strikers are being attributed to the Jabulani; the official ball of the World Cup in South Africa.
Players who shoot wide pass the blame on the jabulani while goalkeepers who fumbled point at the Jabulani. Yakubu has not said anything on his infamous miss but don't be surprised that one day he would either blame the jabulani or agree that external forces misdirected the ball from the yawning net. I still wonder why the Nigerian Television Authority stopped one kiddies program called Tales by moonlight. Such excuses or blames on external forces or spiritual attacks, frankly, are nothing but tales by moonlight. Even though that Friday Nwankwo Kuja a.k.a Ambassador swore that many people cursed the FA members and some of the players because of their greed and cheating innocent people.
Funny, funny identity!
I don't know if you still remember one of the classics done by Oliver de Coque? The late high life musician who lifted the burden of Nigerians with his music. If you do, then, you must know about funny, funny identity. Part of the track says, "sometimes when I dress, I dress like boyoyo, sometimes when I dress, I dress like Chief of Kings. I been get beer-beer, my beer bear is from nature, music is my talent, that's my identity.
Eh weeee, mama mo, funny, funny identity". Our Entertainment Editor, Ogbonna Amadi still has it as his ring tone in his phone. But the funny, funny identity of the world cup is coming from the President of the Nigerian Supporters Club, worldwide, Dr Rafiu Ladipo. Ladipo is designed with tribal marks on his face. He wouldn't have allowed his parents to mutilate his face if he had the choice. If you know our Photo Editor, Joseph Akintola, then, you know what I am talking about. He too has s designer's mark on his face.
But then, such marks were the identity of the Yorubas, Once you see any man or woman with marks you know where he or she is coming from. But while in Primary School, we had a Yoruba boy called Ebenezer. He too was heavily designed with tribal marks. He was huge and feared by all. We were told that he fought with a Lion and killed the king of the jungle with his bare hands. That it was during the battle that he got the marks. And since then, he had learnt to be humble by genuflecting while greeting people.
I didn't know if he knew about the tales but enjoyed it when people carried out his orders. Things have changed. I would have wished that they still draw marks on their faces especially my friends who are so fine and deprive me from things. If they had marks(tribal or from the Lion), I would have been the king of the jungle in their midst. Anyway! Dr Ladipo told me that he would be going back to Nigeria since the Eagles have been kicked out of the World Cup.
He would have loved to stay in this beautiful country till the end of the world cup. But his tribal marks give him away as a Nigerian. People ask him annoying questions on what he is still doing around after their team lost. He bemoaned his tribal marks and said that if he had fine face like me, he would have stayed back.
We all laughed, Then I took a closer look on his face and wanted to count the number of lines on his face. He was talking and always moving his head. I lost count.
At a stage I started getting dizzy following his head. It made me remember during our WAEC exam how one boy who got an expo wrote the answers on the ceiling fan. The questions were OBJ(I don't mean our former farmer President). He would read question one, and looked up to see if the answer was a, b or c and he would circle it. But a vigilant teacher who was watching him went and switched on the fan. As the fan was rotating, our friend was rotating his
head to get his answer. He complained that he was cold but majority of the students said that they were sweating, unaware of what was happening. He continued moving his head to the rotation of the fan until he slumped. There was commotion in the hall. We thought he was suffering from epilepsy until the Teacher poured water on him and revived him. Then, he switched off the fan and showed us all his writings on the blades of the fan. That man is a Medical Doctor, now.
Obubra World Cup trophy for Eagles
I have been privileged to see, touch and take pictures with the World Cup trophy many times. My first time was in 1998 with our former Editor, Frank Aigbogun, Advert Manager, Flora Achibong and Corporate Affairs Manager, Victor Omoregie. Vanguard had a partner with Coca-Cola and FIFA recognized Vanguard for their coverage of the World Cup and honoured us with the trophy.
I am better than many African players who only see the prized trophy on TVs and newspapers. I was surprised when I went to down town in South Africa, Market Street in Johannesburg and saw that it was a mini Nigeria. I saw Nwanyi Obosi Restaurant where you can eat Nigerian meals away from Nigeria.
It was a typical Nigerian street where people shout and do business in our many dialects. The Police also parade and keep an eye on them. I was shocked when I was ushered into the office of the Chairman of South African Supporters Club(Nigeria), Osita Tony Okeke.
There was this giant World Cup trophy with Dr Rafiu Ladipo. He said that he was taking it back to Nigeria since the Eagles could not win anything. We laughed. My memory flashed back to a time when Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria, YSFON, were enmeshed in a similar scandal. A team from Obubra in Cross River went to represent Nigeria in a Gothia competition in Norway or Denmark.
The Nigerian team got to the venue when the competition was over due to late arrival emanating from flight connections and late approval of money for the tourney.
Instead of coming home empty handed, the officials bought a giant trophy and ;presented to Government on arrival posing as the winners of the competition. Receptions were held for them and red carpet rolled out for the 'winners'. Government graciously dolled out money for their efforts. There was no internet and making a call abroad then was like a cow passing through the eye of the needle. Both the players and officials kept a sealed lip and savoured all the praises and the gifts. The lid was blown open and they all went into hiding. I still remember Ikeddy Isiguzo's headline titled 'Obubra Brouhaha'. Some of the officials were banned from holding office but they are walking the streets free and even directing our affairs in sports. I reminded Ladipo about the scandal. If he brings the trophy, I know it would end up in his office as a souvenir. The world is not only a global village but Nigerians are aware and watched the proceedings on TV.
Sylva's fake Rand dilemma
At times, size matters. If not for the size of our photographer Sylva Eleanya, he would be cooling off in Prison by now. Sylva had taken a cab on assignment and gave the driver 500 rand and waited for his change. The driver inserted the money in one of the machines to pay his toll and vomit the change. But instead of pouring out the change, the money triggered alarm. The driver also raised alarm and accused Sylva of being one of the Nigerians involved in printing and circulating fake 500 Rand in South Africa.
Before you could say jack, hefty police men doubling Sylva's size emerged. Sylva explained that he was here covering the World Cup and presented his accreditation. He informed that the money was given to him from where he changed his American dollars. While they listened, Sylva was the one now shouting that they were embarrassing him. A senior officer came and settled them and told Sylva not to change his money at black markets, again.
He explained that they had stopped using the 500 rand because of fakes but that dubious people are still printing the fakes to miss it up with the genuine ones. Sylva alerted me and I was speechless. Imagine where Sylva would be thrown into prison without heater in this freezing cold.
Even in the heater, he still complains of cold and drinks hot tea like 'Abubakar'. For a man who eats eba and akpu in the morning in Nigeria to be drinking tea in South Africa to be put behind bars, that would have been double wahala for dead body according to Fela. I prayed and covered him with the blood of Jesus.
You'll be deaf after the World Cup
My South African friend, Dorothy has predicted that I would be deaf after covering he World Cup. I know she is nowhere near a born again or to be possessed by the holy spirit to get the gift of prophesy. She can only be possessed by bad spirit or the spirits that are consumed to fight the cold. I asked why she was wishing me bad luck after being nice and friendly to her? She apologized but was not sorry. She said that the rate at which I was working and go to the stadium would make me deaf because of the noise of the vuvuzela. The vuvuzela has come to stay despite the condemnation from different quarters. As many teams and their fans head home after the first round, you still see them strapping the vuvuzela on their backs as souvenirs. When I return and you call and I don't answer, you would forgive me and know the reason.
United by history, divided by victory
Before the start of the World Cup, not many pundits gave the Black Stars of Ghana any chance of surviving the first round. All hopes of carrying Africa's cross in the World Cup was placed on the shoulders of Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria and South Africa. But the Black Stars are the ones shining so bright and receiving all the plaudits from Africa. During the match against the Yanks of USA, it was the USA that defeated the USA. United States of Africa beat the United States of America. Its good riddance to America. At least, security would be relaxed. No team in the world Cup have been so protected in the air or on land than the Yanks.
Nigerians who are in South Africa are supporting Ghana but not with all their might. Even as they grumble over the dismal performance of their team, they reason that Ghana would not allow Nigeria to be if they past the quarter finals. If they survive Uruguay because of the number of suspensions of their players, Ghana might perhaps become the first African team to get the final. Their strength lies in the fact of youthfulness. The Ghanaian team are made up of young players and six of them are from the local league. Needless to say anything about our Super Chickens