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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World Cup Diaries #3: 12th June

June 12, 2010 – IF NOT FOR ENYEAMA!!!

Slightly groggy after a big night out......bearing in mind I had been deprived of sleep for much of the preceding 4 days.......I was determined to be bright and positive. Decked in my official Adidas jersey (procured from National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos!), tiny green-white-green flag (we had to fix that anomaly), green scarf, green vuvuzela (it was intoxicating and annoying at the same time)......we headed early towards Ellis Park......which someone had warned me was not the nicest part of town, and that we should be careful.......Great! Just what we needed! We were with two friends, girls, who did not have tickets but were going to try to score tickets at the stadium. Precisely how we were going to get a pair of tickets together, ensure they were legit and not get screwed, I wasn’t sure.....but with a stroke of good luck, some clandestine phonecalls, chasing a fat man in shiny silver trousers and asking him if he was codename ‘Gift’......we were eventually called and told to rendezvous at the (obviously) KFC joint near the stadium. After much bargaining and more phonecalls, the girls got a pair of tickets for the game. Tickets had face value $80 but had to part with ZAR 1200 (about £120) each! Considering they were budgeting for ZAR 1400, everybody left happy! The system works! That’s capitalism for you! Frankly, I thought paying two and a half times the cost of a ticket was ridiculous, but every man has his price......maybe we should have sold ours! NO CHANCE!!!

We did find a (much) bigger flag on a pole and parted with ZAR 60. The complex was filling up and there was much dancing, vuvuzela blowing, chanting and all sorts going on! A lot of Saffas came up to us and declared their support. Africans must stick together, they said! One of us will win this tournament. That was touching! And I promised to keep that spirit throughout the tournament......even with Algeria......who at least do claim Africa usually, unlike the Egyptians, who are the continent’s best team, but really do not consider themselves of the continent. Proud of this solidarity, I was brought right back to earth with a shout of “Down Nigeria” from a South African policewoman.......what the....!?!? What do you respond to that? I decided not to take the bait and blasted my vuvuzela in her ‘general direction’.
After a nervous passage through the turnstiles, the girls emerged and and we could declare their first foray into ticket touting a success!. We bade each other good bye and good luck and went to find our respective seats.

Now, if anyone had asked, I would have told them confidently that with the propensity of Nigerians to travel, and their multitudes in South Africa, a match in Joburg would definitely be classed as a home game for us unless we were playing the Bafana Bafana. Oh....how wrong was I? Ellis Park was awash with blue and white! Banners draped over the stands, lound chanting and jumping, I thought we might as well have been at the Bombanera watching Boca Juniors. I was truly impressed.....not to say that there were no Nigerians. We were plentiful as well, but generally more scattered across the ground. We would make our voices heard.. I shout 'Arise O Compatriots!' At the top of my voice and settled to 90mins of mad vuvuzela blowing, flag waving, chanting, singing and dancing.

The match itself was engrossing from the 1st minute. I was impressed with our discipline and how we did not get overawed or sucked into the tricky Argentine's web. Unfortunately our static defence of the 1st corner, Heinze put the South Americans up with a stunning diving header in only the 6th minute. I know I was not alone in fearing the worst. Six minutes in and we were already a goal behind! Those predicting a rout had started salivating. We truly did have our chances, although Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria's keeper, did single-handedly (literally) keep us in contention on more than two or three occasions. Messi and Tevez and the rest of the star-studded Argie line-up prodded and prodded. The first half was painful to watch at times, but to be fair, it was not so bad. In the stands, we booed the Argies when they came for a corner or committed a foul. Sang 'All we are saying...give us one goal!' to the Eagles, and resisted the temptation to get a decent Mexican wave going. This match was engrossing.

The crowd was delighted at the introduction of Martins and Odemwingie and they proved inspired substitutions. Had they started the game, maybe the story would have ended differently. Had Uche not fumbled so badly with a wide open goal, the story certainly would have been different. I can only imagine what the commentators and press people and indeed 150million plus Nigerians, thought of that. Had it not been for Enyeama, it would have been a very difficult evening..

Well, a 1-0 defeat with a promising display is worthy of some praise. I was wrong. I was so certain we could do it. But the Nigerians in the crowd were not too dejected. A little subdued, but the party atmosphere carried on and everybody went to their respective joints marvelling at a brilliant display by Vincent Enyeama.

Tomorrow Ghana would take to the pitch. The African teams need to do well. The expectations so high!
Well, it's Saturday evening, so off to enjoy more of the Jo'burg wildlife.

Keep the faith and wave your flag!

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