On the 29th of March, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will once again lock horns with West African neighbors and rival the Black Stars of Ghana in what is a win or go-home match-up in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria.
The World Cup qualifying fixture had the first leg played on the 25th of March at the Baba Yara Stadium, Kumasi. The game, as expected, was attended by a mammoth crowd with the stands swarming with the red, yellow, and green colors on the Ghanaian national flag. On a night that meant everything for the players as well as the supporters of both West African giants, the only sound that stood out above the whistle of the referee was the noise coming from the stands.
The Ghanian flag and the chants from their home fans as expected dwarfed that of the few green and white colors rooting for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. But even though supporters of the Super Eagles lost the battle of the number to a more robust Ghanian fanbase, they were there nonetheless to cheer them to victory.
The Super Eagles, after 90 minutes of play, ultimately settled for a draw with qualification for football’s biggest tournament to be decided in the reverse fixture.
Football, also known as the round leather game, has served and is still serving as a tool for unity since it was adopted as a competitive sport in the 19th century. Nigerians are ardent followers of this game and, over time, we have seen a demonstration of that followership in the way fans all over the country come together to support the Super Eagles.
Every follower of the game of football in Nigeria would agree that one of the very few times Nigerians speak as one is whenever they are supporting the Super Eagles. As Nigerians, we are quite sentimental about a lot and while that has affected us negatively in our quest for unity, we must say, this feeling could be used to help mitigate a problem that has gazed us in the face for far too long.
Tribalism and religious intolerance are two issues aside from corruption that we have not been able to handle as a nation. Tribal sentiments and religious bigotry are recurring problems that have impeded our growth and development as a country.
However, a Nigerian football enthusiast cheering the Super Eagles either at home or abroad understands one language, Nigeria. He or she is there, not minding the sun or rain to see his country progress on the field of play. In that instance, he doesn’t care who scores so far, the goal will ensure his country wins. At that moment, he doesn’t bother to ask his neighbor of his tribe or religion before opening his arms to hug this person in celebration.
On the 29th of March, the Super Eagles will play Ghana in Abuja and this solidarity and unity that is devoid of tribal and religious sentiments will be on display. But beyond this momentary unity that has a duration of 90 minutes is a bigger issue, which is the question of national unity.
Over time, we have seen agitations from different parts of the country against marginalization and we have also witnessed political decisions that are rooted in tribal and religious sentiments. If we must make progress as a nation, we must imbibe the spirit of football. We must be able to put the interest of the nation before any other thing. We must strive for the collective good of the country. A football team is made up of 11 players with a collective goal of winning and every member works towards the actualization of that singular objective.
As a nation, unity is key to any form of development, be it political or economic. Our diversity is a blessing and not a curse and as such should be used for the collective good of all.
While we drum support for the Super Eagles against Ghana on Tuesday, we must not forget to see the bigger picture. As a news platform, we are encouraging Nigerians to put aside tribal and religious sentiment and work together to build the Nigeria we want. We wish the Super Eagles the very best of luck.