By Onochie Anibeze
What a thrill to be part of the World Cup in the very acclaimed home of football, Brazil.
But I will not be here for long. I will soon be heading home.
However, the little I have seen has been satisfying. The football culture, the friendly Brazilian people and their ever exciting women.
Women? I may not delve much into them. Tony Ubani has done a thorough research on them and has been serving you a lot on them. He can tell what is in their waist, their eyes, their entire features that are so alluring that one can easily lose concentration if you are not focused. But they are part of the game here and focusing on them, in Tony’s estimation, wouldn’t be losing track. So, feel free to read more about them in the Flicks Tony serves you from here.
I had planned to start my coverage of the World Cup from the training tour of the Eagles, beginning with the friendly against Scotland in England and moving down to the USA with the team. Few days to the match in England, last month Mideno Bayagbon, our Editor, called me on phone that I was to start producing Saturday Vanguard. I reached out for consultations. 30 minutes later, The General Manager, Gbenga Adefaye, accompanied by Eze Anaba, our Deputy Editor came to tell me that for the next two months I would be producing Saturday Vanguard. An official letter appointing me Acting Editor of the Weekend Vanguard followed the next day. Man plans, God disposes, they say. Trips to England and USA cancelled. World Cup coverage cancelled. Everything now fell on Tony Ubani to cover the entire Brazil. He has been doing a pretty good job of it. I’m proud of him.
Two days after the World Cup kicked off on June 12, I received a call from Jenkins Alumuna, our colleague who is now into Public Relations.
“DSTV will be taking 60 of their subscribers to the World Cup in a chartered flight and you have been selected to be on the trip,” Jenkins told me, expecting me to be excited. He was disappointed.
“I’m sorry, Jenkins. There’s a development in Vanguard and I may not be able to make it. I’ve been asked to be producing Saturday Vanguard this period and I can’t travel now.”
One hour later Jenkins called again to tell me the trip was for a short period and that I would not have to spend many days in Brazil. I accepted and here I am in the home of football.
Will it be right to call Brazil home of football? Yes, and no.
Yes, in the sense that their name is synonymous with football. They made the game beautiful with their samba football. Their entertaining football thrills the world from the beginning of the World Cup till date. But they are gradually dropping their samba football. Europe forced them to do so when Italy introduced Catenaccio football. It’s all about blocking the goal area and breaking away on the counter. They score a goal and they close up the game. Other European countries started adopting this style. Winning mattered most to them. Brazil would entertain but would end up gnashing their teeth, losing in a match that they so much dominated. After winning the 1970 World Cup, it took Brazil 24 years to taste the trophy again in 1994 in USA. And they even won on penalties against Italy. Before then, Europe had made the game a huge business and they were becoming masters of the game against the natural endowments of Brazil. Germany and Italy have all won the World Cup four times. And for Brazil to win again they had to go to Europe, away from the supposed home of football. Their players moved to Europe where the business of the game mattered more than the Brazilian samba. They made money and also inculcated the European speed and marking qualities. Even their coaches moved out of South America. And this marked the beginning of the end of samba football. Brazil had to drop a little bit of samba to adopt pace and marking to curb what the Europeans were doing to them. A combination of their skills and pace has helped them win the World Cup five times which no other country has done. That is still enough to regard Brazil as home of football especially going by the number of players they export to the rest of the world. But would you say that they are the most entertaining side in the ongoing World Cup? I leave you to be the judge.
Is Brazil truly the home of football? No, some may argue with a sense of history. Football started in the United Kingdom, Scotland to be precise and England has the record of starting organised football. English sailors actually introduced the game to Brazil. When England hosted Euro ’96, which I covered and which remains one of the best organised events I have attended, their theme song was FOOTBALL IS COMING HOME. It was a nice song. They wanted to win and prove to the world that football has come home. Germany knocked them out in a semifinal penalty shoot-out. After winning the World cup in 1966, their greatest achievement has been in the area of organisation. They run the best league and they market the game possibly more than any other country. After two games here, losing to Italy and Uruguay and packing to watch the rest of the games from home, their claim as home of the game remains vague to many and an outright illusion to some. But history accords them that respect although the game has found another home in Brazil. So,I’m happy to be at the home of football. Arriving here on Saturday, early enough before Nigeria raised their game and beat Bosnia was some tonic for me.
The eight hours flight on Asia Air organised by Wakanow to Viracopus Airport was smooth. Imigration process was very smooth. I met friendly immigration people unlike my trip to Russia for the World Championship last year. I was not surprised as I was the only black in the arrival hall that night. But that’s Russia. This is Brazil with roots in Africa. Here, black is beautiful.
The only person among the DSTV delegation who had question to answer at the immigration was a man with an awesome protruding tummy. He was thoroughly searched. Customs and security officials were frisking his tummy to ensure nothing was stuffed there. They first asked him what he had in there and he said nothing. Eyes turned here and there and they asked him to step aside. Ever seen a pregnant woman being caressed by the husband or a caring nurse? It looked so. And when they found out it was just his tummy they told him “sorry about that.” The man responded “thank you.”
What was he thanking them for? Some timidity, you would say.
Anyway, my next destination will be Porto Alegre to watch Eagles against Argentina. I discussed with Keshi before and after the Bosnia match. He is confident. And the boys are in good spirit. Expectations are high. Keshi knows this and he hopes to put a smile on the faces of Nigerians.
I return home after the Argentina clash to continue with Vanguard whose focal points on Saturdays are entertainment, human interest stories, politics, crime, business and of course sports; not forgetting great columnists like Muyiwa Adetiba. Bunmi Sofola, Yetunde Arebi and the veteran Bisi Lawrence. I will like to return home to the beat, smiling. Only Eagles can make that happen.