The Games of the XXXI Olympiad are already in full swing and the first sets of medals were awarded on Saturday. If there were medals for pre games performances, especially in sports disorganisation, Nigeria would have been the obvious gold medallist.
The country had gathered global attention and the scheduled match with Japan in the Group B of the men’s football tournament was at the brink of becoming the first ever walk over in an Olympic football tournament.
Just at the nick of time, the Nigerian side arrived Manaus and in spite of possible jet lag, performed a near miracle of scoring five goals. It was almost in the same circumstance that the Super Eagles arrived Belo Horizonte, Brazil just few hours to their FIFA Confederation Cup duel with Tahiti three years ago.
Sadly, undue pressure was brought to bear on the players and the technical crew.
Surprisingly, the minister of sports, to whom all accusing fingers were pointed at, was the first to issue a congratulatory message. An apology for the ordeal suffered by the Nigerian players would have been the most appropriate first step before any congratulatory message.
In the disorganised manner of running (ruining is more appropriate) our sports, Mikel Obi, who most of the time will be thousands of kilometres away from the team, was made the general captain.
As Team Nigeria’s captain, he was to lead the Nigerian contingent at the march past. How feasible would that have been even if the soccer team had arrived Brazil on time?
Would he have been expected to feature in Saturday morning (Nigerian time) march past at the opening ceremony after playing a match four hours of flying time away from Rio and also return to feature in Sunday night’s second match against Sweden? A more pragmatic person is obviously needed to run the affairs of the sports ministry.
Segun Toriola, who was overlooked, became an Olympic icon getting rare airtime mention and interview on the CNN almost every time the Olympic Games were featured hours before and after the Opening Ceremony.
The march past by the Team Nigeria at the opening ceremony also offered a sour grape. It is well known that the opening ceremony offers avenue to market our culture. It is on record that the present board of the NOC and the Sports Ministry opted to market sports kit manufacturers who probably got free advertisement.
It thus appears that our participation at this year’s was a mere crash programme. We eagerly await the results after the closing ceremony.
PAPACY AND FOOTBALL: A STRIKING CONNECTION
Recently, the Pontiff, Pope Francis, who is believed to be a football fan, reportedly named fellow Argentine, Lionel Messi as his all-time best footballer. He rated the Barcelona star ahead of retired Pele and Maradona.
I respect his choice. But my eternal hero will always be Pele. What has come out of the Pope’s comment apart from the revelation that he is a football fan is that football is an integral part of humanity. Little wonder then that the late BBC football correspondent, Bryon Butler, postulated that the earth was created in the shape of football.
Even the papacy recognises this. The last three popes have one link or the other to football. I was at the Vatican, while covering Italia ’90 World Cup when the entire Irish team visited.
Pope John Paul II received the team which the previous day had beaten Romania 5-4 via penalty shootout. The Pope, who obviously watched the match, at least on television, took special attention on Pat Bonner, the Irish goalkeeper who was the hero that saved a penalty kick.
“I used to be a goalkeeper when I was young”, he remarked. Little then did one realise that before Pope John Paul II became His Holiness, he was “His Goaliness”!
The next pope, Benedict XVI, a German, assumed position the year before his native country hosted the World Cup 2006. His other connection to football was that he resigned his position the day after Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013. His native country, Germany also failed to win the World Cup the year after he became Pope.
Pope Francis, the Argentine, also ascended the position on the eve 2014 World Cup. Like it happened to Germany in 2006, the Pope’s country, Argentina also lost the World Cup. Could this be a coincidence?