THE cheery news that the Super Eagles of Nigeria against all odds, have been crowned the new king of African Soccer with their victory over Burkina Faso in the finals of the 2013 African Cup of Nations, has been heard in all the football regions of the world.
Here at home, the echos of the sweet victory will be heard in every nook and cranny because of its meaning and significance. The reason is not far-fetched. In one single stride, the Super Eagles have taken Nigeria 19 years out of soccer wilderness to limelight. What a feat!
For us in Nigeria, football is the greatest national passion and a tremendous unifying factor, a bridge over our numerous divisive forces as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. This is why football elicits the interest of most Nigerians, young or old, big or small.
As we bask in the euphoria of the heroic victory therefore, it is important that we spare sometime to distil and reflect on the lessons inherent in the entire episode, particularly the resilience of Coach Steven Keshi and his faithful soccer ambassadors.
Throughout the entire course of the championship, including the preparatory stage, Keshi became a Philosopher and Preacher of sorts on some virtues implicit in life such as strength of character and positive mental attitude. It was like a dialogue of the deaf as nobody seemed to be listening to his admonitions but he was unrelenting.
Interestingly, the Super Eagles and their handlers we celebrate and eulogize today, were yesterday caricatured, derided and called names. Nobody gave them an outside chance of even qualifying from their group let alone winning the cup. They were harangued and variously described as “Super Chickens”, “Featherless Eagles” and “Wingless Eagles”, etc.
The one that amused me most was the cartoon of a little boy who went to court to seek a court injunction to live neither with his mother or his father. Asked why by the presiding judge, the boy said it was because the mother and father beat him every so often. Asked further who then he would like to live with? The boy answered, the Super Eagles because they beat nobody. Can you imagine!
Thank you King Eagles for freeing us from the suffocating grip of negativism and cynicism. We are really grateful to you for a gift so precious, something to love and cherish and something different from the misery and despair we feel from the daily dose of stolen billions, armed robberies, kidnapping and other myriad of social malaise. What is more, you and your dedicated handlers refused to be distracted by the barbed and irritating criticisms of pundits and analysts. Rather, these criticisms fired your spirit which has produced the result and handsome dividend we are celebrating today.
It will be recalled that these pundits, for whatever reasons, dissipated so much energy in drawing parallel between you and your fore-bearers who won the African Nations Cup 19 years ago and hastily concluded that you were inferior to them. To begin with, there is no rational basis for the comparison. You are just starting and half of your players are debutants.
There is no need to mention names as these impatient pundits know themselves. Today, some of them are singing a swan song. In fact, some have been bold enough to apologise for their hasty predictions, while only a few still remain defiant and unrepentant. That is neither here or there. It can’t change anything now but suffice it to say that in the battle of wits, the Super Eagles and their handlers are the winners. They fought many battles on and outside the field of play and won all of them.
For the Super Eagles, it has been a triumph of determination over cynicism. While the rest of us wallowed in despair, the King Eagles and their handlers waxed stronger in faith and spirit. Their avowed intent was to win the Nations Cup. Happily, they have achieved their supreme objective and nobody can deny them the glory which richly belongs to them and by extension, to all Nigerians both detractors and supporters.
What is really important now is for all of us to emulate the worthy examples of our glorious soccer ambassadors. This is reminiscent of John Kennedy’s inaugural address as President of the United States in which he passionately enjoined his people not to think of what America can do for them but what they can do for their country. It is important also to stress that people imbued with sense of character like Steven Keshi has demonstrated, are like possessed creatures, men and women in the thrall of belief so powerful that they ignore all else, including criticisms, however barbed and discouraging. This is similitude of what Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world”. Yes indeed!
Negative thinking limits the potentials of what we can do. Think positive, believe, have faith. What is more, be patient, be diligent and you will overcome. The danger is that if the impression of what we are, is reduced by shallow or demeaning images, that impoverishment pursists for a long time if not nipped in the bud.
Happily, the “Big Boss”, Steven Keshi has shown us how to nip negative thinking in the bud through sheer strength of character and unshakeable determination. I salute your courage and the dedication of your young soccer ambassadors. You are winners by every consideration.
It is plausible to allude our cynic impotence, discouragement and despair to the myriad of social problems we have endured over the years and having stayed for so long in bad situations, we feel that good times are gone for ever. No! Keshi and his all conquering boys have proved that with faith and determination, trials and tribulations can be overcome.
As a distinguished speaker once said “history is not yet done with its exploration of what it means to be human especially the image of our limits and possibilities.
On this note, all Nigerians are invited not only to hail the heroism of the King Eagles but to share in their optimism that our lost glory will soon return in all facets of our national life.
That is to imply that the Super Eagles’ victory is capable of ushering in a new era in Nigeria. In this wise, the Federal Government’s transformation agenda this time around, should go beyond rhetorics. Our newly crowned kings of African soccer have shown the way.