Erie feelings battled against tides of overwhelming emotions.
Disappointment, irritation, lamentation, to mention just a few adjectives all fought for space or prominence on the faces of the hundreds of soccer-crazy fans rooting for a Nigerian victory against Argentina at a viewing center in Ipaja-Ayobo area of Lagos State last week Tuesday, at the ongoing World Cup in Russia.
The boisterousness, hysteria, confidence and occasional boastful ranting and applause that had been on a lower decibel in the wake of Lionel Messi’s half time lead, was increased after Chelsea’
star, Victor Moses drew Nigeria level and swung the pendulum back in favour of the Eagles, as the team aimed for second round qualification.
However, Marcos Rojo’s late winner dealt a big blow to not only the Eagles’ dream, but to the dream of millions of fans. His strike was like a death knell; one that ended life, at least temporarily for the hundreds of fans that had thronged the viewing centre, hoping to see their team soar.
Rojo’s goal was like an apocalypse. Awestruck, and mouths agape, the once-exuberant fans struggled to contain their emotions in the wake of the defeat. Like an open session on the floor of a legislative house, barrages of arguments, counter-arguments, blames and counter-blames sprung up.
A tall dark man sitting in the back row fired the first shot. “Who told the coach to bring in attackers, when we could have brought in defenders to defend when it was still 1-1?”
A short, plump man seated next to me countered, “Is not his fault, we should ask Odion Ighalo why he failed to convert his chances?”
Another man, a mechanic precisely, (as his outfit gave away his identity) echoed the same thing, “Don’t mind them, they are blaming Rohr, instead of Ighalo that missed a one-on-one.” The visibly angry man rained expletives on the former Watford striker.
“No, no! It was a penalty; the ref should have given us. He robbed us of victory,” a young lady, who accompanied her boyfriend, squealed. And so, it went back and forth among the fans like a pendulum until a red-faced guy, standing close to the door temporarily, halted the procession by screaming “It’s all lies. The pig and the cat lied.”
His statement drew lots of laughter, and reactions from the crowd, but the young man didn’t revel in it. He looked serious. He meant what he said.
The reporter observed from a distance and subsequently walked up to have a tête-à-tête with this unique Eagles’ fan.
Our short conversation goes thus…
Reporter: Hello, what is the name?
Mystery fan: I’m Femi
Reporter: Oh, guess you are a passionate fan, I can see from your
Mystery fan: Yes, I am. And I’m disappointed by our exit. Reporter: Strange, other fans blamed Ighalo, the coach’s tactical
decision, but you chose to blame the pig and the cat? Mystery fan: Hmmm, yes I did. Bet is because of how the
octopus predicted the outcome of 2010 World Cup. I just felt we had a chance and the predictions too were kind of encouraging.
Reporter: So you blame the animals for our loss?
Mystery fan: Yes, I blame them. Seriously I used their predictions for staking some games, the Russia vs. Saudi and it worked. So, you can understand my disappointment.
The short conversation did not only reveal the anguish and utter disappointment the fan felt over the Argentine loss, but also opened up the passion and weird things a football fan can cling unto in pursuit of victory.
Femi’s (The name of the mystery guest, which was later revealed in the course of the conversation) frustration clearly amplified this point.
Like millions of soccer-crazy fans, this year’s World Cup is infectious. The feel-good aura oozing out of the Eagles prior to the commencement of the tournament in Russia, thanks to the flawless organization, preparation and branding ingenuity of the Nigerian Football Federation had got passionate Nigerian fans like Femi not only hooked, but also dreaming the ‘dream’.
For the first time in the country’s storied appearances at the quadrennial tournament, there was a real sense of hope and belief that this set of Eagles could really soar and do the unimaginable in Russia. The craving for the aesthetically sumptuous Eagles jerseys by real fans, oppositions and neutrals, both home and abroad proved it could be the ‘year of the Eagles’.
But quite unfortunate, it wasn’t so, and a passionate fan has put the blame on the doorstep of the animal oracles.
Really, is mystic Marcus the pig and Achilles the cat to blame for Eagles’ loss? And a damning no! Was the response of Ex-Nigerian international, Mutiu Adepoju.
Bursting with laughter, one could sense a bit of surprise in the former winger’s tone as he continued: “How can the pig and the cat be faulted for our defeat and exit? Is somehow weird-really I don’t believe in all these mystic predictions.
“Football is played on the pitch and results are always a product of the team’s quality and hard work. Although, element of luck is also a factor ‘we have seen teams that play well lost games, so it has nothing to do with predictions, be it human or animal,” he opined.
Yes! Oddity it is, strange, bizarre but this is football, the world’s most popular sport with huge followership. Anything can happen, the world we live in is odd and as such, the game of football is not an exception.
Remember South Africa 2010, France’s coach, Romein Domenech did the bizarre. He selected Les Blues squad based on horoscope signs and readings of their month of birth, however, he goofed. The French team was rocked by a dressing room rebellion before finally bowing out of the tournament in the group stage.
And for those who might want to sympathize or share Femi’s sentiment, South Africa 2010, where Paul the Octopus residing in a German aquatic room predicted accurately outcomes of matches till the final clash between Spain and Netherlands is a credible point they could hold unto.
Once seen as a side attraction to the global fiesta, the performances of Paul the Octopus (now dead), has somehow created a cult followership and excitement about animal oracles.
It is a tradition that seems to have been gradually integrated into the quadrennial tournament. At this year’s Mundial, there were many candidates vying to replace ‘Paul’ but guess only the micro pig Marcus, and Achilles the cat made the cut or came close to being the ‘real deal’.
The likes of Datou the terrier dog from Hong Kong, Lions
Valentina and Nene from Colombia, Zella the Elephant, resident of a zoo in Stuttgart, Germany and Shaheen the Camel from Dubai didn’t quite get their predictions right and besides, were relatively unknown, as they didn’t really cause a stir like Marcus and Achilles had.
For the latter duo, their history of accurate predictions supposedly won them a fan in Ifeanyi Ejike.
“Really, I felt a little’ bit surprise rather than disappointed. You know, the animal oracle frenzy has always excited me after the Octopus’ accurate predictions at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, so was expecting same this year. And really the pig and the cat had a history of accurate predictions. I read that the former was on point on the shock Brexit vote and also on Donald Trump’s victory, while the latter predicted correctly Russia’s clash with Saudi and Iran’s victory over Morocco.
“(Laughing hysterically) I know some friends that were using
the pig’s and cat’s predictions to stake games. So, you would expect such fans apart from being passionate punters to be upset about the outcome of the Nigeria-Argentina clash,” the graduate and port agent residing in Isolo defended.
Does psychic prediction or prophecy really influence outcomes of a match? Saturday Sunsports asked veteran Eagles’ coach and ex-FIFA and CAF technical adviser, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde and he replied:
“Absolutely not, I don’t believe in all these psychoanalytical stuffs at all. Look, I am a traditionalist to the core no doubt, I know the world we live in is full of oddities, but this is football; a sport determined by tactics, formations, techniques and qualities of the playing staff. To get results you need hard work and if you don’t invest, I’m sorry you can’t reap.”
When reminded that a certain Octopus named Paul got it right in 2010, the high chief simply replied, “it was all coincidence”.
The chief’s response shows he’s a realist and not an idealist. He’s more concerned about what happens on the pitch and not outside it.
In a country where disillusionment envelops the landscape, football and the Eagles’ World Cup adventure was a welcome distraction for the populace to at least forget their worries. But, with their exit, Nigerians can now soak up the pressures of everyday life.
While for the neutrals, the good predictions unfortunately didn’t happen. It might have been a letdown, but really is football and there is bound to be winners and losers. But for the ‘Femis’ out there, they see it differently and would insist, “that the pig and cat lied.”