Let’s Talk About Football By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, thanks to Globacom and Confederation of African Football, I was thrilled to no end as I watched the GLO-CAF Awards 2013 a few nights ago on television. That was a great event in terms of planning and execution. As someone who hosts events, I could see how Globacom put good money to great use. It was such a spectacle to behold. For a moment, I forgot this was being staged in Lagos, Nigeria. The set was a dazzling exhibition of colour and flamboyance. The revolving lights produced hues of ethereal beams. Some of my African friends called to ask if this was somewhere in South Africa. They were surprised to see something so good come out of Nigeria. I was proud to be Nigerian in addition to my usual patriotic conviction of our country’s greatness.
This particular GLO-CAF Awards was a celebration of Nigeria on several fronts. It was an eloquent demonstration of how the private sector continues to make us proud. Globacom is a success story. It is a tale of how the dream of one brave man, Dr Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Isola Adenuga, has been converted to reality. His is a world of unlimited possibilities. This he demonstrates and replicates regularly through uncommon exploits in the business world.
Ever since Globacom began operations ten years ago, the company has never hidden its exceptional determination to empower the African man through the demystification of how we communicate with one another, the promotion of sports and the development of entertainment. Dr Adenuga and his daredevil team broke down the walls of superstition that enveloped the telecom industry. The coming of Globacom was a blessing. Customers soon became like kings and could no longer be taken for an expensive merry-go-round. The pan-African vision of the company is reflected in its conquests across the Atlantic Ocean. The African race is at the centre of its operations. Investing heavily in Africa has become its catechism. This enviable mission has forced others to invest in infrastructure, service, manpower, the community, and charity in amounts and circumstances that they would probably have ignored in other times.
African music has grown in leaps and bounds since Golacom pumped stupendous resources into endorsements of its products by our artists. It is doubtful if any company has improved the lives of our talented youths as much as Globacom has done. If you’re a GLO Ambassador, everyone knows you have become a big pawpaw. Apart from the cash splashed on artistes, the visibility that comes with it is second to none. The reason is very simple. GLO is a master of hype. If in doubt, please ask our dear Brother, Bright Okpocha, aka Basketmouth, whose career as a comedian has blossomed beyond imagination. His face is plastered everywhere. He comes on every now and then on CNN commercials. He has easily become a walking brand in many parts of the world.
Let’s rewind and do a flashback to another great Brother, Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo, otherwise known by his stage-name D’banj. His first major break into corporate sponsorship was when he was signed on by Globacom. He was spoilt and pampered like the true star he is. The relationship broke down and there was a break-up but D’banj returned with a bang two nights ago looking as cool and calm as cucumber. I was happy and proud to see a clean-cut D’banj on stage doing Africa proud with beautiful songs.
Thanks to GLO, we saw Lagbaja, the masked musician in a new form. He invaded the stage looking like an astronaut about to power off into space. His costume had flashes of reflectors and his talking-drummers were simply on fire. For me, he was the toast of the night for putting so much into his art thus adding extra flavour to his act. GLO gave Lagbaja a powerful platform to show his many fans that he’s still in top form.
Flavour was eagerly awaited by me and many others who tweeted that they heard he was on the bill. He did not disappoint as he navigated us effortlessly and meandered us through a rich repertoire of highlife music. It was the moment I sprang up and broke into a solo dance. That guy has melody. And he reconfirmed his current rating as one of the over-subscribed Nigerian artistes around the world with a super-loaded diary. There were other international acts to spice up the night. Everything was staged and put on with near clinical precision justifying the extensive planning and money that must have gone into putting the exhilarating show together.
Of course, Africa’s biggest group Psquare brought the exciting event to a close. They waltzed in as usual with their unmatchable choreography. Twitter was going haywire as soon as they were announced and they upped the great show to a crescendo and fantastic climax to end it all. But of course, it was not merely a night of music. Music was just a veritable tool for celebrating some of Africa’s soccer icons. It was a night to showcase and reward those who have worked exceptionally to achieve fame and recognition in the field of football.
Investing in football is a major public relations equity for Globacom and it has reaped bountiful harvests in the process. Africa has become the home of soccer. And whosoever controls the soccer crowd can never go wrong. From Nigeria to Ghana, GLO is effectively the Grand Commander of Football Affairs. The leagues of those countries are powered by the telecom giant. The supporters clubs are galvanised into action by GLO. There is never a dull moment. Through this vision of empowering our youths, a lot of kids are taken off the streets.
There’s no better time to escape into the game of football than now. The year 2014 can be labelled the year of football without any fear of contradiction. In less than six months, the world attention would shift away from the many problems confronting our planet and look towards Brazil, a nation that used to dominate the game of football. I doubt if anything unites all mankind like football. If I’m not so certain about the world, I’m at least very sure that soccer is the opium of my dear country Nigeria. We get so soccer-drunk that we forget all our religious worries and ethnic differences when any of our teams is engaged in the field of play.
There is no Federal character when our national teams are playing. We simply accept whatever configuration the coach puts in place. If he likes, Stephen Keshi can pack all the players from his village and park them on the field and the reserve bench, he will get away with it if the guys can deliver. It does not matter if all of them are Christians or Muslims. The only time our secularity is practised is through football. How I wish our politics could be as tolerant and downplay where we come from and the prophet we worship.
Africa and indeed Nigeria was at a standstill two nights ago. Everything came to a screeching halt. There was no game involving Nigeria that night but Nigeria was competing for continental honour. One of our own, in whom we are well pleased, John Mikel Obi, had been pencilled down as one of the three contenders for the Africa Footballer of the Year, the prestigious Award hosted by Globacom and CAF. The other contenders were Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba both from Ivory Coast. The short-list was a triumph for West Africa and a recognition of its current dominance in African football. Four out of the five African teams that have qualified for the World Cup fiesta in festive Rio are from the sub-continent. They are Nigeria and Ivory Coast which both produced the short-listed contenders for the Africa Footballer of the Year 2013 and Ghana and Cameroun. The lone breach of the West African supremacy in Africa football on the world’s foremost intercontinental competition is Algeria. Incidentally these five teams are the same teams that represented Africa at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, as if one needs further confirmation of West African domination of African football on the world stage.
The winner of the African Footballer of the Year Award is chosen by a panel made up of national coaches and technical directors of the African countries. Yaya Toure eventually emerged as the well deserved winner of the Award winning the votes of majority of the national coaches and technical directors. Mikel Obi was a not too distant second but both players eclipsed Didier Drogba.
For Yaya Toure this was the third successive time that he would win the Award having won in 2011 and 2012. Only two other persons have achieved this feat. Abedi Pele of Ghana between 1991 and 1993 and Samuel Etoo between 2003 and 2005. Indeed Samuel Etoo uniquely won the awar seven years later in 2010 just before Toure started his winning streak.
Some Nigerians and a few Nigerian officials were understandably miffed that a local son had been beaten to the Award but we believe that honour should be given to whom honour is due. The major complaint of the disgruntled Nigerians was that the panel is made up of only national coaches and technical directors and there is no input from journalists and fans in particular. Whilst this may be true one must appreciate that these are persons more than fully qualified to evaluate the impact of any particular footballer on the fortunes of his team, both club and country.
John Mikel Obi certainly did better than Yaya Toure as Mikel led Nigeria to a scintillating victory at the African Nations Cup earlier in the 2013 and was an integral part of the squad that finally clinched qualification for Brazil 2014. On the contrary Yaya Toure endured a trophyless season and if trophies were the sole benchmark for giving out the Award then the clear winner should have been Mikel.
However, Yaya Toure’s impact on the success of his club and country is crystal clear. Although Manchester City did not win the Premier League or any of the Cup competitions they vied for in England and Europe they were the proverbial bridesmaid, coming second in the Premier League and losing finalists in the FA Cup. He was quintessential to Ivory Coast securing a place at Brazil 2014
Both Yaya Toure and Mikel Obi are effectively holding midfielders and whilst Mikel eventually scored his first Premier league goal for his Club Chelsea Football Club in November 2013 Yaya Toure had weighed in with about 13 goals for his club, Manchester Football Club in 2013. Toure certainly has a more commanding and pivotal role for his Manchester City Football Club and has on occasion captained the team. Mikel was a motivating force and captain of the Super Eagles team that won the African CAF championship in January 2013 but his role for his club can best be described as peripheral. He certainly does not have the same kind of presence which Yaya Toure has when playing for club and country.
As Nigerians, it is tempting to believe that since we won the Nations Cup one of our players must win the Footballer of the Year Award especially as the gala event was being hosted by us. However, if we are objective and merit conscious, which are traits that appear to have subtly erased from our consciousness by successive impotent leadership, we would admit that the panel of Judges gave the award to an individual who has distinguished himself as a footballer of stellar qualities.
It is noteworthy that early in November 2013 a panel of 44 experts across Africa shortlisted Yaya Toure, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses of Nigeria along with 2 others for the BBC African Footballer of the Year Award. The competition was then thrown open for football fans all over Africa to nominate a winner and Yaya Toure emerged the clear choice of the fans when the results were announced by the BBC on 2 December 2013. Ironically it was a similar poll of fans that the Nigerian officials had demanded in respect of the CAF Awards that Yaya Toure has now won.
Nigerians can be proud though because they won six major awards at the glitzy Football Awards Night coming away with both individual and team honours. Kelechi Iheanacho was named ‘Young talent of the Year’ and Super Eagles Coach, Stephen Keshi, won ‘Coach of the Year’. Their were honours for the Women’s team, the Junior team and of course the senior national team. Fittingly our Supporters Club won the ‘CAF Fair Play Award’. On a symbolic note President Goodluck Jonathan was given the CAF Platinum Award for ‘exemplary commitment and support to the development of football’.
All in All, it was not a bad night for our Great Country, Nigeria. Thank God.
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org