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AFCON diary: The day Ahmed Musa led Super Eagles choir

Photo Credit: Austen Udoh

BY IBEKA OGAZI

Wisdom comes, sometimes from very unlikely places, and I sat at this lounge watching this love-dovey young couple indulging in the most lavish public display of affection (PDA), I quickly learned a few things, one of which was that even in the thick of unhinged romantic emotions, the brain does not entirely stop working.

Our generation has this saying that a woman’s hands around the shoulders of a man trigger the indolence that permits only the testosterones to be active, but watching this couple, I quickly learned that dopamine, the hormone associated with cognition, is not always relegated into idleness.

In the aftermath of the resounding victory of the Super Eagles of Nigeria over the Indomitable (Even Cameroonians are doubting this claim) Lions of Cameroon, I had strolled to a lounge in my neighbourhood for an expected football banter. You know, after the tension that preceded the Nigeria-Cameroon first-round knockout game, I knew that a lot of people would gather at the bars to relive the glorious moment of the night before.

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Call me an eavesdropper if you like, but my attention was drawn to this couple because of the drinks on the table before them. While the man, most likely in his mid-twenties was sipping Life Beer, his lady companion had what clearly looked like a bottle of Goldberg Black. In Nigeria, ladies drinking beer still provokes curiosity and I could not have been an exception.

I sat on a higher table just behind them, and the voyeur in me strayed from the beers they were drinking to a mobile device that appeared to be the object of their attention.

Arms draped across his back, with his jaw buried inextricably in that small bucket by his shoulder blade, I could not help but envy the emotional island this lady appeared to be with his guy.

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Every person who saw this spectacle would first suspect they were entrapped by something erotic – that was what fluttered in my dirty mind anyway. The distant look on the lady’s face conspired to portray someone primed for activities in za oza room!

As if in validation of what my wild imagination was concocting, the young man exhaled heavily with all the trappings of sexual climax, his face turning to his girl in that picturesque romantic eyeball-to-eyeball.

“Babe, he started with that melancholic note in his voice you could measure with a thermometer. “If our politicians be like footballers, dis country go don beta since…”

I was a bit surprised, no, disappointed, that what was the object of their attention was football-related and not porn, but it got me even more anxious all the same.

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“No be small thing boo, the lady responded. “Abeg play that video again, e too make sense.”

Stretching my neck from position, I was able to share the object of their obsession. I had seen the clip earlier in the day, and although I felt the mood of the players, it was the perspective of this couple that soaked me into the things we all believe football and its associated culture of oneness can do to change this country.

After the resounding victory against Cameroon, the triumphant Eagles, on their way out back to their camp broke into songs of praise and victory. I am aware that this has been their culture over the years, and of late, Leicester City striker, Kelechi Iheanacho, the one they call “Senior Man” has been the lead singer.

“This is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made; we will rejoice, we will rejoice, and be glad in it, and be glad in it….” From one song to another, the Eagles sand and clapped, united in the true spirit that is Nigerian.”

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From Jose Peseiro, the coach through the technical and support staff, to all the players, everybody sang, clapped, and chorused to the tunes dictated by Senior Man. The unrhythmic claps and body movements of Coach Peseiro were quite obvious, but this did not mar the genuine mirth and soulful joy that exuded from all over his chubby frame.

While most of the players sang, clapped, and wiggled their bodies while still seated, Captain Ahmed Musa conspicuously maintained a standing position in the short video, leaning on the backrest of a seat while revelling in the glory he just led his country to accomplish over a major football rival.

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During those moments, the players demonstrated how united we could be as a country if only we could set religiosity aside and relate with one another as citizens of a nation of brothers.

In that bus, there was no Muslim, no Christian, no animist, no Sango and Amadioha worshipper, and no atheist. There were just a bunch of proud Nigerians united in the joy of a national accomplishment.

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Tears welled up in my eyes as the full import of that short clip unravelled itself in my heart, and perhaps hypnotized by the charm and sense of nationalism displayed by this young couple, I forgot my brand of beer and indicated to the barman to give me a bottle of Goldberg.

I realised my mistake when the bottle was already before me and the thought of apologizing and asking for a replacement was quickly overshadowed by the thought of marking that “golden moment” of national reawakening with a bottle of something eponymous – a bottle of Goldberg Beer. And whether it was real or it was just my mind playing tricks on me, it tasted quite different that night.

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I took one, then two, as I reflected on the message of nationalism contained in a video clip of less than 60 seconds, which must have been taken harmlessly by someone who did not bother that Nigerians who would watch at home and in the diaspora, would not see him in the frame.

Shortly before making my initial effort at departure, I invited the barman to serve the couple two additional bottles of Life Beer and Goldberg Black each and to warn their evening, I asked that they be given a bowl of fresh fish pepper soup each.

Surprised by the arrival of an order they hadn’t placed they followed the direction of the barman to behold an old man sitting quietly just behind them.

It was the young man who first stood to extend his appreciation, but before he could fully make his turn to where I sat, I was already on my feet.

“Thank you so much,” I told him as he clasped his hands in subdued humility, his face furrowing in mild confusion.

“But we should be the one thanking you sir,” said the lady who had now also stood up.

“Never mind,” I cut in. “I have been listening in on your conversation if you will forgive an old man, and I was gripped by the meaning you helped me see with that Super Eagles video clip. It made me quite emotional, thinking about the opportunities we have missed as a nation because we have failed to rise above ethnic and religious sentiments. So I should be the one thanking you.”

That was how I suspended my homeward journey, as I joined the couple at their table, spending the next two hours for deep conversations on football, youth exclusion, leadership challenges, and even family.



Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.
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