8 June 2014

Africa: The Football Madness Begins

Photo: Cameroononline
Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba


The madness is about to begin - in Brazil. Brazil, the nation of carnivals and funfair. This, to them, is another carnival without a carnival queen. Thirty-two countries have spent millions to prepare a select group of men to go to Brazil and do what you would expect children to do in the playground. They would run after an inflated rubber, kick it to their teammates in a passing game until they kick it past the goalkeeper for a goal.

The unfortunate thing about the fiesta is that on every occasion, millions who desperately need exercise would watch twenty-tired men who desperately need rest on television. Some of the watchers would die from heart attack when their teams lose and some would go back home peevish and vent their anger on others. Some would cry themselves to sleep. Some would bet and lose money. It is all part of the madness.

It is bizarre fact that these gentlemen who may go through life without inventing anything of value are almost all millionaires. Okay Pele and Johan Cruff are perhaps the only footballers who invented something. Pele invented the bicycle kick and Cruff invented the Cruff turn in football. A swift unexpected turn with the ball that leaves your opponent surging forward while you cut another path for yourself. Both inventions have no value beyond football.

Nigeria is crazy about football. In the General Ibrahim Babangida days, someone wrote that the way we were going, as a football-mad nation, that soon whenever Ibrahim Babangida would introduce himself, people would ask him, "are you related to Tijani Babangida the former Super Eagles winger?" We are almost there!

Football has become a global brand and the world cup is the world's biggest and most watched sports tournament - more watched than the Olympic Games. Football is the world's favourite sport and by far. But it has not been able to break into some societies like the United States. United States would field a team in the competition but back at home only some Spanish Americans, and a few other nationalities would pay attention.

America has their "gods" - Basketball, Rugby and American Football. More can be said for these sports than our football. They have more ennobling attributes. Take American Football, a game that involves men who look like cartoon characters, clad in an helmets chasing down a ball, picking it up and bulldozing their way through a sea of humanity trying to stop them. It has nothing to do with the feet but it is called American Football because Americans cannot tell the difference between forelimbs and hind legs.

But it has an ennobling attribute. If I were an American Football player, it would come to play in one of my favourite imaginative pastimes. Rescuing the Chibok girls. And American Football player who happens upon the girls could just pick one up and zoom off in the forest with the Boko Haram in hot pursuit. Of course he would have to run zig zag like they do in the field of play and avoid the whistling bullets of enraged Boko Haram.

Secondly it could also teach a purse-snatcher how to snatch a purse in Oshodi and run through the sea of humanity, ramming into some to clear his path, throwing the purse in the air and catching it on the run etc. Not that purse-snatching should be encouraged (it is a very dangerous kind of trade), but then we have to look at both sides of the coin.

Basketball is just okay by me. It teaches you how to throw a banana peel out of the window of a moving bus into the street trash can, and not hit the sweaty, irritable traffic warden at the junction. To hit the traffic warden with a banana peel, could lead to your being sued for attempted murder of a public officer.

So what is endearing about football? My friend Tom told me that as a House Master in a Secondary School, he employed the most rigorous training for his house to win the soccer event. They had a string of successes because he hired the best coach around for the job. Eventually they won the competition. But the problem began after that, because they went on a kicking spree. They kicked the girls. They kicked the chairs. They kicked the fruits. They kicked everything. The principal of the school had to direct that they should be debriefed and made to understand that simply because you knew how to kick football, did not mean that everything was football.

The Super Eagles have already landed in Brazil. Try as much as I can, I have not been able to cure myself of the football bug. Even old soldier, Jumbo, is in trouble with his wife over football. His wife has not caught it and may not watch it much - lucky woman. She thinks Jumbo is becoming slow around the house and not as active as he was before. She insisted Jumbo should go for a medical examination to find out whether he was okay.

Jumbo went and after the doctor finished examining him, he asked the doctor, "What in plain, simple language is wrong with me?"

The doctor said, "In plain language, you are just lazy."

Jumbo thanked him and asked him, "Can you please find a medical term for that so that I would have what to tell my wife when I get home?"

The doctor thought about it. Jumbo fished a bundle of notes to help his thinking and said "Doctor I am willing to pay for the medical term."

The doctor brightened up, "You are suffering from inhibited motor response lethargy."

Jumbo got back home to his wife and told the wife that he was suffering from "IMRL."

"What is IMRL?" his wife asked, "I have not heard of it before."

"Inhibited motor response lethargy," he produced some aspirins he bought on the way home, "the doctor said I should take this, watch the world cup for relaxation and try some push-ups when you are asleep."

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