On several occasions over the past 10 days, Hausa, Gabriel and Tanimu have left Kaduna University, dropped their books at home and headed off into a novel new world full of passion and enthusiasm.
That regular journey took three students, aged between 18 and 25, to the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, where for a few hours they left aside all their academic theories and concentrated on the artistry of footballâ€™s stars of the future. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, though, were the jerseys the young Nigerians were donning – those of their favourite team Korea Republic.
The talented young Taeguk Warriors do indeed have their own fan club here at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009. During the group phase in Kaduna, every time Kwang-Jong Leeâ€™s charges launched an attack, roars of approval could be heard from some 200 locals fans who had come out to cheer on their adopted heroes.
Loud fan choruses, rhythmical drumbeats, giant South Korea flags and bright red horns and balloons helped the youngsters from east Asia ride a wave of enthusiasm through the group phase. â€œWe love the South Koreans. They play by far the nicest football. And besides, we won the U-17 World Cup in their country two years ago,â€ 25-year-old Hausa told FIFA.com. â€œSouth Korea supported us all the way to the title two years ago, and now weâ€™re singing for them.â€
Hausa wears the red jersey of Korea Republic with great pride, and he is not the only one, with the entire fan club in Nigeria sporting bright red these days. â€œThe South Koreans have given us all this fan gear for free. Our support is our way of saying thanks,â€ says 18-year-old Tanimu.
For the people of Nigeria, having visitors come from all over the world to enjoy the tournament is a huge honour. â€œWhen we see how much the South Korean lads enjoy us cheering them on, it just makes it even more fun for us,â€ explains Gabriel. Naturally, the 23_year_old hopes the east Asians make it into the final to be held on 15 November in Abuja, adding, â€œI really believe that they can do it!â€
However, the three young students from Kaduna could have a small problem should that come to pass. Who would they support if the the Taeguk Warriors and the Super Eaglets meet along the way? â€œThatâ€™s a good question,â€ replied Hausa, who thought for a moment before admitting, â€œTo be honest, I canâ€™t really say right now.â€ Tanimu, the youngest of the three, had no such hesitation, shouting â€œNigeria, of course!â€. For now though, theyâ€™re backing Korea and gave another blast of their red horn to dispel any doubts.