WORLD CUP, JABULANI AND AFRICA
The recent World Cup fiesta, the first to be hosted on African soil has come and gone but the memories still linger. It is indeed one of the best organized FIFA mundial in recent times. I commend South Africa for hosting the world for the days the soccer war lasted.
The fears entertained in some quarters before the tournament did not materialize. Neither the criminality anticipated in the rainbow country nor terror acts happened. For this, I doff my hat for the South African security for keeping peace while the football entertainment and soccer war raged.
The vuvuzela, though noisy added colour and culture to the entire business. No visitor to the event would forget in a hurry the overbearing presence of the vuvuzela sounded by almost every spectator and supporter of the round leather game. Both the vuvuzela and the Jabulani ball have their cultural as well as their comic and nuisance values. I shall dwell on each of them in the course of this article.
The vuvuzela at times could not allow me concentrate in what the white commentator was saying via the television in my living room. Since the death of Nigeria's ace football commentator, Ernest Okonkwo, the nation's broadcast media have lost that art.
We now depend on foreigners to comment our own matches and their own and make us absorb all the historicism and witticism they heap on us whether true or not. What passes as football commentary today on our television and radio is a far cry from what obtained in the past. The commentators of today lack knowledge, depth and diction.
They lack wit and creativity that gave us such coinages as 'Chairman Chukwu', 'Mathematical Odegbami' and 'Justice Amasiemeka' and many others by vintage Ernest Okonkwo at the commentary box in those good old days of Nigerian soccer. Okonkwo, while alive was a moving sports encyclopedia. He reeled off details of past matches with ease and objectified facts of the activities of every player. That is essentially the price we are paying for not taking matters of intellect more seriously. No wonder such neglect is manifesting in all sectors of our national existence including sports, economics, politics and culture.
Economically, historically and politically speaking, South Africa 2010 was a huge success. FIFA has attested to this assertion and South Africa has equally concurred. I cannot admit much in the officiating. Most of the referees were prejudiced or blind in their judgements that even FIFA President, Sepp Blater apologized for the poor officiating witnessed at the event, the worst so far in any World Cup competition.
We have seen a mundial that produced a new champion and many broken records and shattered dreams of those that erroneously think that the cup is their birthright. Surprises and surprises marked the entire games. The vuvuzela, though noisy, was a cultural statement that is uniquely African. In African villages and cities, there is never a dull moment. The people are alive and hearty hence the noise of the vuvuzela. African nights are equally not devoid of such liveliness. Remember the tales by moonlight, which were used to pass the peoples' culture, belief systems, myths, stories, history and morals to the upcoming ones. Remember the ubiquitous talking drum of Africa.
Africa never sleeps because the weather is always clement. Even in rain, you see children running, singing and dancing. It was that cultural spirit that was reawakened and reenacted in South Africa 2010. That the people of South Africa have etched this in the memory of millions of people that watched the tournament is a big cultural statement that will not be ignored.
But the vuvuzela was very noisy that at times it distracts. All the same, it added to the spectacular of the event and made it more dramatic. The vuvuzela drama was total and entertaining. It is musical and ferocious in its agitating wild notes and resonances.
If vuvuzela was entertaining and sometimes irritating, the Jabulani ball was the most comical and deceitful. The Jabulani mesmerized the players, spectators and those officiating. It confused the goalkeepers and the strikers. That was why Yakubu Aiyegbeni made the worst flop at the event and laughed over it as if nothing was at stake.
That miss has become the butt of jokes that some say that their grandma can score the goal missed by Aiyegbeni. It could explain why Vincent Enyeama made those daring saves. Jabulani caused Ghanaian player, Asamoah Gyan, to miss a penalty given on a platter. Jabulani was why the Super Eagles played like frozen chickens and old market women. It is the reason they could not advance beyond the group stage.
Despite the criticism of Jabulani, Spain still emerged the winner, many thanks to the omniscient psychic Octopus Paul that predicted that Spain would win. The octopus succeeded where Nigerian seers and prophets were caught sleeping and snoring. None of them was able to predict about the outcome of the first World Cup held on African soil. In spite of its shortcomings, Jabulani favoured Spain, Netherlands and Germany. Where is Africa in this configuration?
Where are African teams in the entire picture? All of them crashed out at the group stage except Ghana. The country of gold did Africa proud but was edged out by the ingenuity of the Uruguay player, Luis Suarez, who used the hand of god to prevent what was clearly a goal. I blame it on poor officiating and insensitivity of the referee. That Ghana was robbed of a goal just as the Argentine goal against Nigeria was Ojoro are statements of fact.
That FIFA ruled that the Argentine goal against Nigeria was done in error is medicine after death. FIFA should deploy technology that would detect such infringements in future. Also, Jabulani should be improved. The way it is now distracts from the precision expected of players at the game. If one plays right and the ball goes left as in Aiyegbeni's case, who do you blame? The football should be made in such way that it does not deflate and go astray when you want it to go inside the net. It made many goalkeepers look stupid. The Jabulani should be such that can be commanded by players. It should not be otherwise.
At South Africa 2010, it could be rightly said without any fear of contradiction that FIFA was seemingly unfair to African referees in selecting the officiating team. Everything looked like Africa has no referees. Black referees and assistant referees were a rarity at the games. The number used was very insignificant. And, I am not alone in this line of thinking. I am not talking about race here but equal representation in a game called World Cup.
Every thing about the game must of essence reflect the configuration of the world in every material including human representation. That is how it can merit the name World Cup. Why is the scenario like that? I want FIFA to come forward with explanations. If the World Cup is indeed for the whole world, all blocs of the world would be made to have adequate representation at the officiating level. As was recently constituted, those officiating for FIFA are from one colour configuration. FIFA should do something about this and others before Brazil 2014.
African teams went to a tea party hence they could not make appreciable impact in the fiesta. Ghana is perhaps the only exception. It had the opportunity of making it to the semi-final and flunked it. It all goes to show the unpreparedness of all African teams that participated in the game. From North Africa to Southern Africa and from West Africa to Central Africa, it was the same tale of woes. It is failure to rise to the occasion where the ovation was loudest. Like play, African teams proved Brazilian football legend, Pele, wrong. Pele had predicted that an African team would lift the World Cup by the year 2010.
Maybe African teams would rise to the occasion at Brazil 2014. That is only if they would get their acts together. Of all the African teams that participated in the mundial, Nigeria had the worst performance. Let us reorganize and get our acts right before the next World Cup.