By Cheta Nwanze*
Make una no vex, I’m running on less than 2 hours of sleep, and for good reason. Scratch that, FOR GREAT REASON. Thirteen years of sorrow, hurt and pain were wiped out in an instant a few hours ago as I watched Joseph Yobo lift that golden goblet over his head to proclaim Nigeria the number one football side on the African continent. UP EAGLES!!!
Okay, let’s get serious. I don’t know what to write. Sorry Sean, sorry Elliot, should this be a match review? Or should it be a celebration piece? It doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that I’m over the moon. Scratch that, I’M OVER THE SUN!!!
When the teams began lining out, a bit of fear gripped me. Irrational fear. I had been invited for a late lunch with some rich kids, and for some reason, I began to think back to the 2000 final match when for the first (and only time in my life as it will never happen again), I took a ticket (it was given to me free) to sit among celebrities. That was for Nigeria’s final against Cameroon in Lagos, a moment when I abandoned the area boys for the comforts of the big life, and sat beside the then Senate President, watching Rigobert Song steal the trophy from us.
As has become the habit in final matches recently, the opening few minutes were cagey, but Victor Moses decided to go against that script and ran at the Burkinabe defence. Sadly, Ike Uche, though in Jo’burg, had somehow not made it to the stadium. Earlier in the day, a friend of mine had predicted that if Nigeria failed to score in the opening thirty minutes, Burkina Faso would win. As the thirty minute mark slowly came upon us, that prediction began to dance around my head and I don’t think I have been that depressed, or nervous, in a very long time. Layi, e no go better for you.
Then, on forty minutes, the moment of magic. Brown Ideye won a sixes and sevens clash with Koulibaly his opposite number, then the absent Ike Uche, for a brief moment remembering what he had come to South Africa to do, seized on the loose ball, laid it square to the brilliant Moses, who parted the Burkinabe defence like the Red Sea and took a shot. Blocked by the platinum blonde Djakaridja Koné. As providence would have it, the ball fell to the on-rushing Sunday Mba, who said “Mba”, and measured the height of Mohammed Kofi with his right foot, dinked through Panandétiguiri and Bakary Koné before the ball had come down and then took a brilliant shot with his left foot. Diakite could only watch in admiration as the ball settled in the left hand corner of his net. At that moment, for me, thirteen years of hurt ever since that Rigobert Song penalty left me walking dazed on the streets of Surulere, were erased. It was a goal. And what a goal!
The second half began with the Super Eagles dictating play, and the Stallions still on the back foot, slowly, as was to be expected in a final, beginning to crank up the pressure. A few heart stopping moments as Victor Moses contrived to miss an open goal, and Vinnie Enyeama with the second most important touch of the tournament, saved Fair play to the Burkinabe, they showed that they were no push overs, but the day belonged to Nigeria. For the records, during half time, I left the elitist enclave of the rich kids, and drove to the more habitable hole of a friend so I could watch the game in as unrestrained a manner as possible.
Great moment of the game: when the referee ended proceedings and confirmed us as African champions. Goalie, Vincent Enyeama ran over and attempted to lift the referee sky high. Bros Vinnie, we are still waiting for you to redeem your promise. Prior to the tournament, Enyeama had promised that if Nigeria won it, he would dance naked. I want to see his ding-dong dinging on my television screen.
Great moment after the game. Calling up ALL of my Ghanaian friends at an ungodly hour to remind them who is boss. UP EAGLES!!!
*”Mba” in the Igbo language means “No”.
Cheta was one of the few Nigerians who believed in the Super Eagles ahead of the tournament. His predictions for the team proved remarkably astute: on Keshi, on Mikel Obi, on the quality of the locally based players, on the team’s wealth of attacking options when others were lamenting the omission of Osaze Odemwingie and Obafemi Martins. The preview he wrote for Africa is a Country is well worth revisiting.
Addendum: As you’d expect Twitter was on fire yesterday. Here’s a bunch of our favourite tweets sent during the big game: