Victoria Ngozi Ikeano
The “world’s greatest sports fiesta”, Federation of International Football Association (FIFA)-organised World Cup, will be rounded off this weekend with the finals slated for Sunday, July 15 in the Russian capital, Moscow. This writer had sometime last year when Nigeria’s Super Eagles qualified for this year’s finals, intimated that mothers were not at all amused by the frenzy and excitement with which generality of Nigerians were looking forward eagerly to the start of the quadrennial tournament.
I had stated that mums on the contrary, were putting on their thinking caps and trying to conjure how they would cope with the distractions that the World Cup, not least Nigeria’s participation, would cause for Junior as well as the attendant headaches she would suffer from shouts of ‘g o a l’ whenever a team scores, particularly favoured teams. Mothers’ lamentations stemmed from their experience of the last World Cup when matches were played into the wee hours of the morning (Nigerian time), thus greatly affecting Junior’s academic and domestic/household works due to insufficient sleep.
In that piece titled, ‘’Lamentation over World Cup frenzy”, I wrote, “Amidst the pervasive excitement and noise engendered by the quadrennial tournament, mothers stand aloof, unimpressed. Indeed left to them they wish that international football is banished altogether. For, with the commencement of the World Cup comes another round of Junior’s hide and seek game that often wears her out. Junior and the other young boys are likely to have their attention directed wholly to happenings on the field of play in faraway Russia rather than to their academic, domestic and other household duties. This for Mama Junior and other mothers/guardians in her shoes is a burden.
“What is more, the World Cup will be setting in just when mothers will be heaving a sign of relief that the European football season is ending. During the long European season which spans August to May, it was a tug of war sort of, between Junior and his mum. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Junior will sneak out of the house after lunch to go watch soccer matches at viewing centres. He and his friends would not return until late in the evenings. It is even worse for games that were played on weekdays, usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
On such occasions, he comes home late at nights when other family members have gone to bed. Locking him out does not seem to deter him. Flogging and denial of food does little to change his ways either. At best when the punishment appears unbearable he would stay indoors on a match day. On such days, he would wear a permanent frown on his face and grudgingly attend to errands and domestic chores allotted him.
“By the next day, he is back to his old ways, off to viewing centres. It is as though he is addicted to football. It is a habit boys pick from their fathers who themselves are soccer fanatics. So you can well imagine Mama Junior and other mothers’ sadness at the Russia 2018 World Cup. She and others in her shoes are scratching their heads, putting on their thinking caps on how they can wade through this 30 days of intensive football, especially against the background that the 2014 competition in Brazil though relayed by all local television stations, was played from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.”
Well, there is some difference in this year’s World Cup. In the first place the group games (three matches per day) were played at 2p.m; 5p.m and 7p.m., while the Round of 16 and quarter final matches were played at 3p.m and 7p.m; semi-final matches at 7p.m and the final at 4p.m. This means that at the latest the last match was over by 9p.m or before 10p.m. where they stretched to extra time and penalties. And due partly to the beatings they received for not waking up on time during the last World Cup and the fact that they are looking forward to the next day’s matches, Junior and his siblings go to bed soon after the last match of the day. They wake up at the appropriate time in the morning and attend to their domestic duties attentively in order to please their parents before jetting off to school.
Another factor that played in favour of Mama Junior and all the other mothers this time around is that the competition started during the Sallah break, Friday June 15 and Monday June 18 having been declared public holidays in Nigeria. Also the World Cup fell at a period when the school calendar was being rounded off starting with revisions and then end of session exams. Indeed starting with this weekend, the schools will be having their end of session parties. So, there is no intensive academic work as such at this time while the World Cup timings provided them opportunity to read their books after school in the afternoons before the matches begin.
Overall, I can report that Russia 2018 World Cup is not as stressful for Mama Junior and others in her shoes as was Brazil 2014. For this, they are winners of sorts.
Again, the fact that the Eagles exited at the group stage, winning only one match and losing two meant that the noise was not as loud as in 2014 when they made it to the round of 16, notwithstanding that this time around we had all been primed into thinking that the Super Eagles would make it to the Semi-finals.
Another notable observation of this World Cup is that people could stream it live on their mobile phones and so watch the matches on the go rather than at a stationery place, thanks to our rising internet penetration. There was thus a rise in data purchase. You could even relive some high points and matches via YouTube and other sports apps. Telecommunications firms are a winner here.
On a final note, unlike in 2014, there are now a multiplicity of online and physically visible betting organisations spread in virtually all nooks and crannies of southern and north central parts of Nigeria. However, those who were wooed/lured into staking a bet with borrowed cash or their own money to shore up their finances or hit a jackpot in these trying times are now wearing long frowns because they were way off the mark in their predictions.
Those that the professional bookmakers termed as favourites to win this World Cup have all fallen by the wayside – defending champions Germany, Argentina, Spain, and Portugal, except France. Those they never gave a chance, England, Croatia and Belgium have propped up for the semi-finals. As a result, people are reluctant to bet on which team/country will be crowned winners of Russia 2018 World Cup.