Monday, 25 June 2018

FOOTBALL: A Potent Symbol Of Unity And Source Of Pride

| 25 June 2018| George Odok

Friday, 22 June 2018 will go down in history as one of the happiest day in the minds of millions of Nigerians world-wide. 

The day is remarkable because the Super Eagles made a stunning win of 2-0 over Iceland in the ongoing 2018 World Cup in Russia, where the attention of the World is currently drawn to, haven been beaten 2-0 by Croatia in the opening game. 

On that faithful day, millions of Nigerians across the world were glued to their television screens, watching with keen interests and hoping for goals. 

Gracefully, Ahmed Musa, the messier of the match, got a brace in the second half of the game, thereby throwing millions of Super Eagles fans into a frenzy celebration that would last for a very long time. 

While the celebration was going across the world, beer parlours were filled with soccer loving fans who were drinking, eating, dancing and hugging each other in the mood of celebration.

Nothing unites like football. While the football fiesta lasts, our differences were forgotten, our religious and political divide were kept aside, while sworn enemies hugged themselves in celebration of goals.

While we continue watching the game, our disdain for our leaders were pushed to a corner. Even those who throw bombs may not remember where their cache is. That is the power of football.

Interestingly, one of Nigeria's telecommunications service provider, MTN, gave out a one minute free call to all her numerous customers in celebration of the moment, this gesture has never happened before in Nigeria.

There was nothing the international community did not do to stop the fighting during the Nigerian civil war. But with the arrival of the Brazilian football legend Pele to Nigeria in 1969, there was a three-day ceasefire. The Nigerian government and the Republic of Biafra agreed a truce so that Pele's team, Santos, could play two exhibition matches against teams in Nigeria. Such is the power of football.

It is not only in Nigeria that this game unites. We will recall that in Ivory Coast there was a civil war that wracked the once stable country following a military coup in 1999, and the power tussle that followed re-awaked ethnic divisions. 

Before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the country was already divided in two – one part was controlled by rebel army, another half was controlled by government forces. With the qualification of the Ivorian team to the competition, the Elephants became a symbol that united all the warring parties.

The ball is round, so is our world. Indeed our world can be a better place. Let us enjoy this beautiful game, a game with the power like no other to unite and still hope the Super Eagles do us proud by bringing the elusive trophy home. 

And however it turns out, in all we do, let the thought of the round leather game always nudge us to treat our fellow humans well, let us always make sure the mantle of love remains worn in our churches, our mosques, our offices, our market places and everywhere we meet. 

As the Super Eagles confront Argentina on Tuesday, let it be our collective prayer that the winning spirit remain with us to triumph against them. The Super Eagles team has been starved of gold medals for too many years, we hope that our shining appearance in Russia will grant us a trophy home. 

Soar higher Super Eagles.