It is not for nothing that English soccer commands the biggest following throughout the world. It is the stiffest competition, such that it also attracts the aspiration of footballers from all parts of the world. That in itself compels support for at least one of the first six teams on English league table. For the past 30 years, Liverpool team hardly missed ranking among the first six. In the process, Liverpool, in the same period, had won European Champions League (or its preceding equivalent) more than four times. the last being 2019, after losing in the final of the same competition to Real Madrid in 2018.
Such is the consistency of the Liverpool team. Hence, its big support in Nigeria. Yet, the same Liverpool, since the inaugural series of English Premier League competition 30 years ago, has never won the trophy. Imagine a team dominant in Europe but weak in the major competition on the home front. In 2019, Liverpool narrowly, and only narrowly, missed the Premier League trophy to close rival, Manchester City. Then came the current season. Liverpool took a soaraway lead with a gap of 25 points over the nearest rival, Manchester City. It appeared banker-sure for Liverpool to add to its shelf the only trophy so far eluding the club, English Premier League cup
Towards that hope, Liverpool was unbeaten in all competitions at home and abroad. Most unexpectedly came the first fall to, ironically, the team at the bottom of the Premier League facing relegation, Watford, by a wide marging of three goals to nothing. Cold gripped the entire city of Liverpool and the teeming followers all over the world as their expected record of invincibility in the Premier League crashed. Dominos followed. Athletico Madrid worsened Liverpool’s woes with a one goal defeat in the last sixteen of the current European Champions’ League duel in Spain.
Usually, that would not be alarming as the defeated side, in most cases relies on the return match (this time in Liverpool) to inflict a revenge to move to the quarter-finals. To create a big doubt was struggling Chelsea, which sent Liverpool crashing out of the domestic FA cup competition with two goals. Three successive defeats for Liverpool in domestic and European competitions? More humiliating was the return match in the European Champion’s League cup competition against Athletico Madrid played at Liverpool stadium. Liverpool’s hope of avenging the one goal loss in the first leg in Madrid was lost as the visitors inflicted a sensational 3-2 defeat to earn an overall 4-2 aggregate. Thus out went Liverpool from two major competitions, leaving the team’s hope on the only trophy so far eluding the north English soccer warriors, the domestic Premier League cup.
It can only be hoped that the coronavirus ravaging the world will not be unkindest cut for Liverpool and its supporters all over the world, especilly in Nigeria. Among the precautionary measures taken in Britain was the suspension of the English Premier League competition, amid speculation that, depending on prospects of containing coronavirus, there may be no guarantee of completing the competition. With such uncertainty, Nigerian supporters of Liverpool are prayer warriors.
So tenuous a global village
From global village to complete disintegration. The world could only watch as one country after another cut off from erstwhile universality, or withdrew into desperation for sole survival. Within weeks, the mirage of One World ceased, leaving each country to itself and itself alone. Thanks to a strange virus of mass destruction, which, at first, seemed to treat African countries as immune. By the time reality dawned on Nigeria, the response was near panic, if not stampede.
In that situation,the higher the status of a patient (not necessarily a victim), the more the alarm and, in Nigeria’s case, the mischievous excitement. That was the lot of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. Fortunately, within 24 hours, Kyari found himself in good company as the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, was similarly diagnosed to have caught the coronavirus. The indication? In this worldwide ravaging virus, there is neither guilt nor innocence. Anybody is vulnerable.
By the way, in this atmosphere of anything goes in denigrating Nigeria, a patriot emerged to give accurate account on the country’s situation. Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor of Health Watch appeared on a half-hour discussion programme on Al Jazeera televiion on Wedenesday. Against the lurid colour in which the country had been painted so far on coronavirus, it was impossible to believe that Dr. Nsofor was a Nigerian. Throughout the half-hour discussion programme, Nsofor, with details, acknowledged and appreciated the tremendous efforts of federal and especially Lagos State government(s) in tackling the coronavirus menace. That was unique patriotism, compared to the impression that not much was being done in Nigeria to contain the virus. The real disquiet of Dr. Nsofor was the stand of about 20 per cent of 1,000 Nigerians polled. These were religious fundamentalists who responded that as “….as a child of God, no virus can affect me. That is not my portion.”
Really? We shall see. Those responsible for this foolish position are pastors and imams indocrinating their gullible fellow citizens on bogus salvation. Little wonder when federal and Lagos State governments banned social and religious gatherings, specifically church and mosque services, the hierarchy of both groups felt bitter over their financial losses from offering by their adherents. Furthermore, whatever the havoc of coronavirus, the good side must not also be overlooked. While religious leaders always intimidate their largely ignorant followers to obey laws, the restrictions coronavirus forced on society exposed Nigerian religious leaders as law-breakers in defying government ban on religious gathering. Police had to disperse such unlawful gatherings around Ogun State.
In an entirely different aspect, the coronavirus threat in Nigeria, which, among others forced authorities to limit or even ban religious gatherings, has compelled a temporary truce on a major Anglican church in Lagos, which, for the past many years, had been split into factions over leadership succession. Public interest on this unprecedented showdown is whether the row will resume anytime ban on religious gathering is lifted in Lagos.
Depemding on which part of the world, the coronavirus crisis has so far created confusion, untimely deaths, sporting excitement and war hysteria. In Nigeria, desperation for solution to the virus exposed differences between health ministry and the agency in charge of controlling drug industry. United States came up with the idea of chloroquine to combat coronavirus. Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health felt it was too hasty to buy into that idea. But NAFDAC, in charge of drug control, gave approval for manufacturers to commence production of chloroquine. Good intention by both sides but any impression of differences could and should have been avoided.
Still in Nigeria. The ban by government on open sporting activities, among others, to avoid infection of enthusiasts by coronavirus, compelled football clubs to release their players for some holiday. Unfortunately, Rangers Football Club of Enugu, in the process, recorded tragedy as two of their players travelling by road to Lagos were involved in a fatal accident. Their friend also travelling with them increased the deceased to three.
Undoubtedly, describing coronavirus as some kind of war, which must not be lost, there were speculations in sections of British media that Prime Minister Boris Johnson might release troops to secure British air space. That would be serious. But British home affairs security (MI5) could be trusted to have their facts. So far, nothing has happened or if such has happened the information is not for public consumption yet. By the way, United States President Donald Trump was the first to declare coronavirus as a war, which must be neutralised. And, of course, Britain goes where America goes.
While coronavirus was fatally snatching victims in hundreds virtually every day in Italy, France, South Korea, China, United States and, lately, Britain, a French resident, Elisha Nochomovitz, humoured the grieving world by choosing his seven metre-long balcony for a marathon race of over 26 miles, recording a time of six hours, forty-eight minutes. Onlookers around could not ignore him. The race took place in Balma, a suburb of southern city of Toulouse, as the dead were being buried mostly in Paris, the French capital.
What threat could coronavirus pose to the whole world? Nobody could ever turn the American city of New York or even the British capital city of London into ghost towns. America’s famous entertainer Frank Sinatra would vouch for that. Even if alive, Sinatra would have been forced off the streets and completely indoors. New York, a ghost town? There is no resistance, even if Sinatra turns in his grave. Deserted streets in London? Coronavirus reigns as heir to the throne, Prince Charles disappears indoors.
Kind-hearted former Vice-President Atiku Abubarkar, has donated N50 million for the relief of Nigerians suffering because of drop in oil prices and subsequent devaluation of the naira. The following protest is on behalf of only 10 Nigerians. Fifty million naira was the same amount the Turaki donated to only one man, his former boss Olusegun Obasanjo in the run-up to the 2019 presidential election to secure his support for Atiku Abubakar’s bid. At that time, N50 million fetched over one hundred and forty thousand dollars. Today, the same amount he donated would fetch barely one hundred and thirty thousand dollars. All Nigerians, including Obasanjo, buy from the same market. Turaki Adamawa should, therefore, have donated for the relief of at least 10 poor Nigerians, about ten times fifty million naira. Aso Rock must also ensure that any idea of offering relief donation of ten thousand naira to each of suffering Nigerians would not be construed as bribing voters in the forthcoming governorship elections in Ondo and Edo states.