Nigerians are more united in football

Football is not just a game played on the pitch. It is a bridge that connects people of different ethnicities together. For lovers of the game, the joy of it knows no bound. They watch at all cost even when it is played at odd hours. Those who cannot afford to watch at home opt for viewing centers. That is even the sweetest place to watch it. The intensity it creates, the emotions and the show of unity among fans are some of the qualities that make soccer more beautiful.

Are you a Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal fan? Wait till your team is playing against Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona and so on. That time, a brother who is rival fan becomes the enemy and a total stranger who supports same team becomes blood. It does not matter who one is, the victory of the team must be celebrated by all and the opponent’s fan get to enjoy the friendly banters.

Everyday, the media space especially the social media are covered with issues that question the unity of Nigeria. It is either religious controversies or ethnic bigotries. Muslims attack Christians and Southerners fight Northerners. The youths are so quick to raise guns and machetes against others due to lack of spirit of oneness. This unnecessary hatred has eaten deep into the system and has ripped the country of it necessary development.

But when it comes to football, the story is a different ball game. The entire Nigerians show spirit of comradeship each time the national teams are on assignment. According to former President Muhammadu Buhari, “Our hearts beat as one anytime our teams are playing a football match”. This is not far from the truth.

Though the 2022 World Cup playoff match between Nigeria and Ghana ended in disappointment, Nigerians trooped out en masse to the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja to rally support for the Super Eagles in what was tagged the ‘Jollof Derby’. In that game, there was nothing like Biafra or Hausa. The goal was to witness the Black Stars of Ghana defeated and to see Nigeria at the World Cup. Too bad we didn’t qualify.

Now it’s time for the Super Falcons and it is still the same spirit and same energy. The girls are in Australia to represent Nigeria at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup. A video recently surfaced online where the girls beautifully sang and danced in both Ibo and Yoruba. The sight was such a beauty to behold. It didn’t look like they came from a country where so many people are clamouring for secession. It didn’t look like they came from a country which harbors so much hate and tribalism. They are from different tribes and religions, but committed to the same goal of serving their fatherland.

Their first match was against Canada and it was played at 3:30am. But the hour didn’t deter Nigerians from supporting. They robbed themselves of sleep and stood firm in solidarity as they held their hearts in their hands praying fervently for victory. And of course the girls didn’t disappoint as they gave a gallant display. If only this show of love and support can still exist without football.

It is true that the country is battling myriad of problems with most of them being bad leadership. To conquer all these issues, the unity of the people is sacrosanct. It is said united we stand but divided we fall. May the girls succeed in Australia and may God bless Nigeria.

Adama Umar Ayuba,