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The farce of FIFA’s lottery-style draws produced five Nigeria/Argentina match-ups in six Super Eagles appearances … African teams as atmosphere at W/Cup tournaments – Tola Adenle

July 1, 2018

Africa, Sports

“God is with Argentina and would not let us down”!

[Lionnel Messi, after he – and his team – played a lackluster decider against Nigeria in the Group Stage but still won.]

God is maker of all and a team’s ability PLUS other variables decide a winner but then, again FIFA is also A god as there must indeed be a god of Argentina who ensured that a penalty-deserving tug of a French attacker’s shirt around the 53rd minute in the penalty box in the Group of 16 match – 2018 WC which Argentina lost to France, BTW – did not get the referee sprinting to the VAR! – TOLA.

BACKGROUND

Nigeria seems to [still] be paying for the ‘offence’ of winning Group D in USA ’94 which included Argentina, Bulgaria and Greece at her maiden World Cup (WC) appearance.  And horrors as Argentina would only reach the knock-out stages as one of top three third-place finishers because only Nigeria and Bulgaria qualified from the group. Then, again, perhaps worse in my recent opinion as far as FIFA was concerned, Nigeria, which went on to play another power house, Italy in the Group of 16, drew the first blood when Amunike – may God continue to bless him! – scored first against Italy in the 25th minute against ponytailed Roberto Baggio and his team-mates. What? It was sheer excitement among the mostly pro-Nigeria US fans in Boston as well as at our Henderson, NV home.

A little more at the end of the essay but remember dear readers that the Roger Milla-led Indomitable Lions of Cameroon had had a magnificent run (topped Group B: Cameroom, Romania, Argentina & the Soviet Union, a victory that incl. beating Argentina 1-0; Cameroons lost to the English team in the Quarter finals)  the previous tournament to the quarter-finals where they lost 3-2 to the English lads during the1990 Tournament. In hindsight, it must have agitated FIFA gods in their ever-cushy Swiss perks. “The Africans” are coming!

After Nigerians started playing what seemed a stop-attacking-just-defend-what-you-have, a late equalizer in the 88th minute took the game to overtime during which a penalty gave the Italians a path to victory where they played Brazil, the winner at USA ’94.

Since that 1994 tournament, Nigeria’s Supereagles have been at every WC Tournament except in 2006 and of those 6 appearances out of a total 7, the Nigeria met Argentina in the group stage an improbable, though supposedly randomly-drawn 5 times.  Here is the list and how both countries performed:

 

1994:  Nigeria led Group D  – Nigeria/Bulgaria/Argentina/Greece  –  Played in Group of 16

1998:  Nigeria led Group D – Nigeria/Paraguay/Spain/Bulgaria      –   Played in Group of 16

2002:  [Denmark and Senegal led Uruguay and France,  and Senegal went all the way to the quarter finals] Group F – Argentina & Nigeria placed third and 4th – Sweden/England/Argentina/Nigeria

2006:  Nigeria did not make the Finals

2010:  Argentina/S.korea/Greece/Nigeria

2014:  Argentina/Nigeria/Bosnia-Herzegovina/Iran – Argentina & Nigeria qualified to the group stages – Argentina & Nigeria played in Group of 16

2018 (when the 2-lowest-ranked teams Saudi Arabia & Russia magically drew each other in the supposedly lottery-style drawing even though the home court advantage is understandable for Russia)

Croatia/Argentina/Nigeria/Iceland – Nigeria & Iceland did not qualify to the group stages

Since Nigeria first qualified for the WC Finals seven tournaments ago, it has played in six tournaments out of which it has qualified out of the Group Stages – three times, i.e. 50 percent of the number of times it has appeared in the Finals, it has gotten out of the round-robbin stages half of the times.

Senegal and Cameroons have also performed very well.  In fact, “the Africans” – as they are all proud to be but as others disparagingly refer to the teams from the continent, have nothing to be ashamed of since the late 1990s when they started appearing at WC Finals, and teams from quite a few as shown hold up well against some from Europe and Latin America, and are superior to “the Asians”and “the Arabs”, to borrow classifications that I’ve never heard – because they are meant as aspersions – used for Japan, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia …

The others have been at it for several decades. I’m sure that Africans, Asians, Middle-Easterners and others, including the USA with her female soccer development perhaps at same or higher level than those of the traditional power houses. They are all rapidly building up the game and will one day produce world cup winners. After all, none can compare or compete with America’s basketball prowess.

 

THE STORY

This is no sour grape even though it’s sad that Nigeria’s exits at four quadrennial competitions at supposedly fair draws have been at the hands of the same country, Argentina. I had never given any thought to the seeming conspiratorial coincidence until this year’s tournament when, lo and behold, it happened again at the draw. Even though like any self-respecting  football fan, I could tend towards looking out for refereeing biases against teams that I support either on the continent in world competitions or in the English Premier League (EPL), I’m generally a fair-minded fan, pardon my being the one saying so.

England, for example, is one of the teams I generally support at WCs and other competitions but I’m even-handed enough to be dubious about the bring-out-the-crown expectations this year simply because of England’s victory against tiny Panama at the group stage. It must be remembered that the same type of high expectations have often led to mighty let-downs for English football fans even when the squads featured did not perform below their capabilities. A major anecdote awaits that should show this blogger is not so passionate about sports to be tribal.

First, I decided to change from watching on one of the channels transmitting matches to Nigeria:  the pidgin commentaries on DSTV which was often jarring. Make Nigerian fans no vex; I sabi pidgin well-well but the one wey DSTV commentators dey use no clear at all, at all! Sabi? I was therefore forced to watch the channel that broadcast in [UK] English, a situation that made me aware of blatantly very biased, often bordering on condescension and even racist takes of what should be general reporting of goings-on during matches.

It did not take long to wonder if Nigeria and, indeed African teams, were generally expected to proceed beyond the group stage as well as well as dismiss any fancy idea of any mythical luck of the draw with Nigeria set to play Argentina – again – as the Eagles’ last group game. and quite a few examples of referees who were quick to blow the whistles; quite a few commentaries, too, were blatant put-downs against Nigeria and Senegal.

I know it’s generally difficult for most white people to recognize racism, subtle or not-that-subtle but when commentators refer to the Senegalese players as “the Africans are …”  while their opponents, Colombians, get mentioned not as Latin or South Americans but by their nationality, the dismissive put-down is unmistakable. When lowly Russia (by world football ratings) thrashed Saudi, there were no comments like ‘the Arabs are not going to make it’ … or after it was apparent Iran, too, would miss the knock-out stage … ‘all the Middle Easterners are out’ … Many comments about Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt and Morocco were couched in negative terms or “seen” from the angle of gain for the opponents.

By the time Nigeria vs. Argentina match was on, it was apparent the Super Eagles were up to their fans’ pre-match expectations in preparedness but it was not going to be as it was never designed to be. Although Moses electric equalizer was a good take-away, Argentina won moments to the end of the match.

My complaints beyond commentaries? The referees’ failure to notice the shirt tugging and pulling, the manhandling of the Nigerians reminded me of a “Street Basketball” we watched in 1990 on land that is now Vegas’ Excalibur. A referee’s blind eyes on one side of the court where a team got off with virtually all sorts of infractions had a fan’s ranting your whistle broke(?) so loud that the referee finally relented – a bit!

The Senegalese perhaps got served a very bitter pill to swallow. After looking poised to win Group H – Senegal/Colombia/Japan/Poland – it ended up not making the cut to join the Group of 16.

What happened? Senegal and Japan each had 4 points from 1 win, 1 draw, 1 loss and NO GOAL DEFERENTIAL EACH at the end of their group games although Senegal had been on top of the group before the match with 4 point, and needed a single point to reach the knock out stage. When Colombia won its final game against Senegal 1-0 and went from 3 points to 6, it vaulted over Senegal and Japan and the FIFA gods used a new formula reportedly started with this WC: to break a tie, the “cleaner” team wins rather than use the “old” drawing of lot; bingo, “the Africans lost to the Asians, oh pardon me, Japan”.

Now, Senegal is home-bound led by their mild-mannered coach, Aliou Cisse who said of the heartbreak:  “Senegal doesn’t qualify because we don’t deserve it. This is one of the rules … We have to respect it. We would prefer to be eliminated another way … we were fully committed and maybe because we were fully committed we got more yellow cards.”

Cisse BTW was the captain of the Senegalese team that captivated the football world with her quarter finals appearance at the 2002 WC.

The Japanese had a total four yellow cards,  Senegal had 6: two in the Polish, pardon me – the East Europeans match; three with Japan and 1 with Colombia.

My opinion? Senegal played better than Colombia throughout the match and although “the South Americans” goal was a very good one, a Senegalese’ penalty goal was disallowed over the new Techie-ruling (VAR).

LAST WORD

I stopped but did not completely cut off full support for the Super Eagles because of what, to me, was deliberate loss – throwing a match – at USA ’94. The match with Italy was theirs to win/lose; they found a way to lose it. Now, except during a very few international competitions, I no longer watch the team for the country of my birth. S-A-D, as an infamous world personality would describe my feeling!

YOU MAY ALSO LOVE

https://emotanafricana.com/2012/05/06/the-church-of-in-england-is-alive-at-football-cathedrals-tola-adenle/  [The Church of/in England is alive at football Cathedrals – Tola Adenle]

https://emotanafricana.com/20011/04/22/its-another-ho-hum-epl-season-ending/ [It’s another ho-hum season-ending – Tola Adenle]

https:emotanafricana.com/2011/05/17/world-cup-2010-series-13-freddie-adu-on-my-mind/      [World Cup 2010 Series 1/3: Freddie Adu on my mind – Tola Adenle]

 

SUNDAY, JULY 01, 2018. 11:22:00 A.M. [GMT]

 

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