The foregoing phrase was one of my takeaways after watching the UK/Nigeria soccer friendly with my boys at home at the weekend. The pain of watching Super Eagles going down with two-goal deficit during the first half was enough to lull me into slumber during the 15-minute half-time break. Only to be roused suddenly by the shouts of “Daddy!, Daddy!!, Nigeria has scored!!!”
Instantly, sleep fell off my eyes. The gloom in the lounge vanished as we bumped fists in child-like jubilation.
Now ecstatic Josh, 11, elected to fill me in on what brought about Nigeria’s dramatic change of fortune within few minutes into the second half: “The coach changed three players as the second half was starting and the team is now playing well.”
By some strange telepathy, Josh and Ese, 14, had both screamed “Oh!, Daddy, Nigerian team lacked coordination”, almost immediately after the second goal shook our net in the first half. No wonder, twice, Nigerian players headbutted themselves while contesting for the football mid-air.
Then, by the 52nd minute, our renewed excitement would again be frozen when an English player appeared to have been hacked down in Nigeria’s 18-yard box.
Oh Lord!, so this is how the one-goal relief will be wiped off by a penalty kick?
Our relief could only be imagined when the referee ruled out any foul. The crafty lad had faked a fall.
In half jest, half anger, Josh sneered: “They’re masters at diving.”
“Who?” I asked.
“I mean English players are masters at diving inside the penalty box in order to have penalty kick.”
That sweeping generalization by someone I would consider a very little boy really caught me. Such conclusion was undoubtedly informed by a fascination – if not obsession – with the European league. So, this is the sort of mental profiling the kids are making of the nation that once colonized their own fatherland?
Following the crowd’s heckling of fair-skinned Dele Ali while walking off the pitch after being substituted by the English coach, Ese remarked: “They’re booing him that he could have played for Nigeria.”
Dele Ali is of Nigerian descent.
It was clear the booing came from the Nigerian supporters among the spectators.
Hmm, a lesson in patriotism.
Josh is Arsenal fanatic, Ese a Chelsea fan. (Incidentally, they both are active in their school football teams.)
So, the incongruity, the tension between a dad whose own passion is boxing and two sons fiercely devoted to foreign soccer league having to share the same roof can only be imagined every weekend.
Indeed, the world has changed. While growing up, boys of my generation would rather be heard showing off the recitation of textbook theories to the nodding admiration of our fathers.
How dare you openly romanticize soccer before your parent – something denigrated as a distraction and designed only for academic failures.
Even with their access to TV restricted to weekend, I’m always amazed at the authority these kids ooze when commenting on football. So, more out of compromise, what I end up reminding them after eavesdropping on their regular soccer chatter is the need to bring same passion to their studies, drawing attention to some lessons from, say, the England Vs Nigeria match.
One, just like on the field, “lack of coordination” in real life situation will only bring defeat.
Two, the courage to “change bad habits” like the Nigerian coach did to the weak players at the start of the second half could indeed be the game-changer needed for success in life.
For me, it is yet another reminder of a festering cultural imperialism under which our nation appears helpless. Access to cable TV means the boys can watch international matches in better organized environment real-time.
This naturally kills the enthusiasm for football matches at home held under often impossible conditions. I am not ashamed to admit that the boys today know very little about the otherwise iconic Bendel Insurance (even though they see me wearing their jerseys personalized with my name).
How can we change this story?