One of the traits the typical Nigerian (and to a larger extent, Africans) adores is humility. We talk about it—actually, we pontificate about it—a lot. We are obsessed with people who appear to have means or recognition yet are self-effacing. And when we come across those who do not care to be particularly modest, we are gutted by their arrogance. We can never fathom why anyone would not deign to make light of their genius or success. It’s entertaining to watch, really. More so when one remembers that Nigerians aren’t exactly famous for a being docile, meek bunch who are contained in their ways.
Football fans are some of the most interesting people in the world. They are witty, hilarious and more often than not would go the extra mile to support their teams. It’s not surprising, really. The beautiful game is the biggest sport in the world, it attracts the largest number of supporters, it’s a global business that rakes in millions of pounds on a regular. Therefore, its fans are allowed to be extra. I used to watch football occasionally when I was a kid – whenever Nigeria played. However, I became more interested in the game in the late 90s. I also started supporting Manchester United in 2005. In the almost 13 years I have considered myself a sold out fan of the sport, I have observed a couple of characteristics that define the typical football fan.
Familiarity breeds contempt. We tend to despise and underrate that which is readily available to us. This is the summary of the history of new world heavy weight champion Anthony Joshua with Nigeria, his parent’s country of birth. Since the young man gained more prominence following his latest and biggest title win yet, after defeating Ukranian, Vladimir Klistchko, there has been some debate about his country of origin, and who really has the right to claim him. It is befuddling and amusing, as one would have assumed the answer was a no-brainer. Joshua is British born. He is a citizen of Britain, and represents the country every time he steps into the ring. But how did this needless debate even come about in the first place?
“Sadly football is a business with a short memory”- Luigi Riccardi
Claudio Ranieri, the 65- year old, Italian manager who led lowly Leicester City Football Club to an unprecedented English Premiership title win last season was given the boot last Thursday. The Foxes have been a shadow of the team they were last season, no doubt. But very few suspected that their hero, who surpassed all expectations and made history with a team of average players could get the axe so soon. Just nine months later…just 292 days after lifting the coveted trophy, memories were trashed to the bin, and a benefactor was fired in a most unceremonious manner. If that isn’t the height of disloyalty and betrayal then I don’t know what is.
Hello everyone! So, today, apart from the regular essays I post here. I decided to share a piece of my fiction. “The Traffic Warden and I” is a flash fiction story I wrote a while ago, and decided to submit as an entry for the 2017 Etisalat Short Story Prize. Do enjoy the read, and…
It’s exhausting to be black at this time, perhaps more than ever before. In the past week two black Americans were shot and killed by the same set of people who were supposed to be protecting them. In the last couple of years hundreds of unarmed black people lost their lives to police brutality. A worrisome trend that necessitated the creation of the black lives matter movement. Racism is the hydra-headed monster that has plagued the black race since time immemorial, and while one hopes that this monster would be slain once and for all, recent events point to the contrary. Truth be told, the prognosis looks gloomy.
“Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real”– Jesse Williams
I had a fairly difficult time titling this piece. I played around with “The Stars Also Cry,” thought that wasn’t quite good enough and changed it to “Geniuses Also Cry,” and had opted for that until I had some sort of eureka moment and finally settled for the current title which I consider more apt. I may have been wrong, so feel free to work with whatever title resonates better with you. With that out of the way, the Copa America finals which culminated in the seventh consecutive defeat in major international tournaments for the Argentina national team, and a fourth consecutive loss at the finals for the magical football genius called Lionel Messi in the colours of his home country was one loss too many. It had become perennial thorn in the flesh of a man whom many regard as the best footballer to ever play the round leather game. He couldn’t take it anymore. He had had enough. Consequently, he announced his retirement from international football immediately.
A fall reminiscent of “Humpty Dumpty,” the character in the old English nursery rhyme. An ignominious exit. That was the sad and abrupt end of the erstwhile enviable love affair between maverick Portuguese football manager, Jose Mourinho and West London football club, Chelsea. For many Chelsea fans and football enthusiasts, the news that the Mr Controversial of the beautiful game had been given the boot came as a bit of shock regardless of the clear handwriting on the wall. It was still hard to believe, even though virtually everyone knew he had had it coming for a couple of months now. Simply because it was Jose Mourinho! Arguably the best coach in the world, and unarguably one of the top three coaches in world football. Alas, it was true. The footballing world’s non-conformist had been fired for the second time by the same club, making history as the first manager to suffer such a misfortune.
It is no longer news that the self-proclaimed “Special One” has been having some not-so-special moments as the coach of the defending champions, Chelsea since the beginning of the 2015/16 English Premier League season. The blues have won two, drawn two, and lost four of the eight games they have played so far this season. A shock to many and their worst start to a premier league season in 37 years! Jose Mourinho’s seven-minute rambling to one question was reminiscent of a man clutching at straws out of desperation. He cut the figure of one afraid of getting the boot after his second coming to a club he clearly loves so much. It looked almost likely that the Chelsea boss would be on his way out of Stamford bridge, and effectively become the third manager to bite the dust after the sacking of Dick Advocaat of Sunderland and Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool.
I would gush about how “my boys” had a fantastic game and complain repeatedly whenever they had a bad game or fell short of expectations, and my friend who couldn’t care less about all the fuss about football in general and the premier league specifically would subtly ask me how they were my boys or if they were even aware of my existence, but I would brush her comments off as the ignorant views of the uninitiated – that is the effect football has on me and millions of other Nigerians and indeed football enthusiasts all around the world! It is so refreshing to be able to get away from all the controversies and uncertainties that have trailed events since the run up to the elections and after then, the endless debates and arguments among rival political parties and their voltrons, the recurring headache induced by relentless Boko Haram, the National Assembly brouhaha, the endless drama on social media and several other issues that spring up every day in this troubled world of ours. Football, the avenue for escapism is here!