World Cup 2010 – Lessons (un) Learned

A moment of rashness by a certain Sani Kaita will go down as the defining moment of Nigeria’s World Cup – when the tenuous grip of one hundred and fifty million people was savagely hacked off. At that time Nigeria was 1-0 up – thanks to a somewhat fortuitous goal – and had largely being untroubled by the Greeks who had been pedestrian all through. The rest, as they say, is history and Greece went on to win to put Nigeria’s world cup dreams effectively on hold for four more years.

They say hindsight is 20/20; allow me to revel in my new found ‘perfect’ vision.

  • Us Nigerians are overwhelmingly optimistic: Considering the Nations Cup performance was a few notches removed from abysmal, and Lars Lagerback was only appointed in February, just where we got the belief that we would do well leaves me concerned. Either as a nation we are collectively delusional or we have that rare gift of unshakable faith!
  • Football is still a powerful force: If the status updates, avatars and comments of my Nigerian friends on Facebook and Twitter are a credible measure of how football mad we are, we are up there with the very best. Loads of my friends had Nigerian players as avatars, and status updates solely related to football. The plus side is that suddenly, outpourings of solidarity became the norm rather than the exception, as against the usual disparaging comments I get to see from Nigerians on Nigeria. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as saying football keeps the nation together, it can be argued that it is a universal language that binds us all into a coherent whole.
  • We lack true quality: The national football team was once able to call on the football prowess of the likes of Celestine Babayaro, Daniel Amokachi, Taribo West, Jay-jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Emmanuel Amunike and others in recent history. These were all blokes who played their football at the highest level- winning accolades and titles along the way. Looking at the current squad, I have to say I don’t see the real quality. Victor Enyeama, the goal keeper aside, the team was largely pedestrian, but then maybe it was the ball, or altitude, or any number of other excuses which are bound to come up!
  • We do not learn our lessons: Bringing Lars Lagerback in as manager was a new low (or high as some would argue) in the curious game of musical chairs that is the Nigerian football team manager’s position. Time and time again, after 1994, we have opted to chop and change managers without consideration for their preferred playing styles or more tellingly, their track record for bringing through youth players. One of the lot even had the effrontery to attempt to manage the team from his base in Germany, if my memory serves me right. Yet again as a nation we have failed to plan, and as the axiom goes, we have planned to fail.
  • We are still a country clinging to ethnic stereotypes: I hope for the sake of the future this isn’t true, but the outpouring of rage at Sani Kaita had a decidedly ethnic bent. Strong words were spilled, especially on his Facebook page, the bulk of which referred to him as ‘Malo’, a reference to his Northern origins.  It would appear, sadly, that Web 2.0 generation or not, we are willing to allow someone’s state of origin come into the play. He messed up- end of story. By no means should his ethnicity come into the picture.

Oh well, this time though, we have the excuse of the ball, and the altitude, and… whatever else we can lay our finger on!