Lessons football teaches


By Tony Afejuku

Let me state from the outset that what I am dwelling on today was not what I intended dwelling on. Big, big issues crop up day by day, day after day and every now and then in our country, my country, your country.

As we speak, as we write, as we argue, as we try to justify what we try to justify, your country, my country, our country is not your country, my country our country. Things are rolling out of the grips of those who grip power.

They want to hold on to power and grip it forever. But this will not be. No. Nothing good or bad goes on forever. Nothing good or bad happens forever. This is a simple law of life. This is a simple law of existence.

You know the law, this law. So I am not saying anything new to you or to anybody. But there is something new in my not saying anything new. Confusion, am I causing confusion? Or am I not causing confusion?

Yes or no, no or yes, there is a lesson in the utterance. But I should get out of this small attempt to tempt you with my little room philosophy engendered by our big country Aso Rock philosophy.

I recollect a chat with a regular reader of this column. After reading my column on Juventus’ Ronaldo who was cracked out of the European Champions League, he text-messaged me as follows: “I am just reading the Friday edition [of The Guardian] and came across your article [on Ronaldo].

I can see the sarcasm there. I even had to check this old video where the same Ronaldo helped the Brits against a club from his country.

“I wish him the best… for he has shown what discipline entails despite his age where most footballers would have retired.

The other day, I was looking at Ronaldinho, who, if not for his love for parties, would have given the world the best of his gifts.

Today, Ibrahiimovic, his age-mate has not stopped. Football teaches a lot of lessons but this is the final bus for Porto as they meet my favourite team, Chelsea.”

I gave my reader a fitting reply which I don’t feel or see the need to quote here. Clearly, his prediction is pursuing its way to fruition as Porto, the chaps that Mourinho managed as coach after leading them to win the Champions’ League in 2004, have just been beaten in the first leg of the quarters by Chelsea.

Porto hosted Chelsea; and they were beaten. But Porto hosted Chelsea in Seville in Spain two nights ago. Covid-19 took the first leg to Seville. So Porto and Chelsea met at a neutral venue – meaning that both sides played the first leg of the quarters away from their respective familiar turf.

But should that matter to Porto that cracked Juventus and Ronaldo a few days back? In any case, the Chelsea chaps now have the advantage to move on to the semis when both sides meet in no distant date in the second leg in the same stadium in Seville.

This will be in less than six days’ time at Sevilla’s home ground, the Estadi Ramo Sanchez Pizjuan. Alas, my reader will win as Tuchel, the new coach of Chelsea, will teach Porto a new lesson that Porto will not bargain for.

And remember that Thomas Tuchel, booted out of Paris St. Germain not long ago, is writing a new football lesson in Chelsea. Indeed, the Chelsea chaps are riding the “crest of a wave” under their new coach, who has learnt a new football lesson based on his forced exit from PSG.

Their 2-0 defeat of Porto in the first leg was no fluke. But perhaps the match officials will help Porto to crack Chelsea? We will see.

Now the new lesson we need to learn pertains to CR7. He has not allowed the Porto cracking of him and Juventus to dampen his football spirit and confidence. He has been banging in goals for Juventus and leading his country’s national team, Selecao Portuguese de Futebol, well.

In fact, he scored a last minute winner, a last gap winner, for the Selecao in their last but one match of FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group A. Again, the super-star was cracked by the Dutch referee called Danny Makkelie who has since offered Ronaldo and Portugal an apology for the last minute disallowed goal against Serbia. Yes, the referee apologised.

But what of the yellow card he issued Ronaldo for his justified protest? Has he withdrawn it? And why did Serbian players not in the spirit of football fair play and football integrity tell the referee that Ronaldo’s goal was a good goal?

Why did they not tell the referee that the ball rightly crossed the goal-line? Why did they accept and claim the result that they did not merit? They sent the wrong lesson to the whole world.

As for FIFA, why did the world managers of our football and respective federations not rule in Ronaldo and Portugal’s favour based on the series of the re-play of the goal that the goal be allowed and certified as such V.A.R. or no V.A.R.?

The answer is simple. There is no integrity in football. The under-dog never wins. There is no genuine ethics committee in FIFA.

In the football field or outside the football field the under-dog never wins – or better stated the under-dog rarely wins. And Ronaldo was the under-dog in that match. What a bad lesson that incident has given us.

The incident just recalled may be an isolated incident, but it was serious enough to cause a political and patriotic war that luckily did not happen between Portugal and Serbia and their supporters beyond the football field.

There is no exaggeration here. And poor Ronaldo, how we pity him for the robbery of his goal that would have added to his tally of recorded official goals! Now and again, alas, I must apply the lesson in Serbia and FIFA to our political circumstances here.

Why is Buhari not creating for us here a country of no under-dogs? Why is he not giving us a country where everyone of us and where every geographical and political region will smell, touch and consume cherries?

As I was about to rest this column the following message was WhatsApped me:

“Buhari approves Air Force University in Bauchi after Police College in Kano, Defence Academy in Kaduna, War College in Abuja and Army University in Borno. And Southern slaves remained mute.”

What a poetic stanza about Buhari’s Aso Rock philosophy of oppression and repression and exploitation and corruption and poor ethnic politics! But this poor philosophy Aso Rock is engraving deliberately in our consciousness shall pass out of Aso Rock, and cease to exist at the appointed time hurrying near. Its memory will fall asleep forever.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

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