By Paul Bassey
I thank God for the gift of life. I thank him everyday. Friday was not an exception. I told you how I was seconded to Benguela to help fortify the team on ground for what was expected to be world war four in African football.
Egypt and Algeria were scheduled for their fourth confrontation after three World Cup matches that produced Algeria as World Cup qualifiers and ugly incidents outside the field of play.
Benguela was the venue of the match in which Egypt wanted to use in proving that they not only deserved to go to the Â Â Â World Cup, but was also anxiously pursuing a third consecutive Nations Cup diadem, history by all standards.
I want to confess that pre-match tension could be cut with a knife, especially when Algeria informed that they were going to storm Benguela with four chartered planes of supporters. At first I thought it was a psychological gimmick.
How were they going to get visas for a thousand supporters? How will the Angolan immigration handle the crowd? Any way I still believed it was a stunt until we were informed that the planes had started landing.
On the field, I knew we were in for a classic. On the field, I knew were not likely to have problems. Two members of the executive committee of CAF were from Algeria and Egypt. A preview in the CAF Web site said it was a match of reconciliation, so I rested easily,Â ready to enjoy myself.
The rest is now history. Egypt won four – nil in what turned out to be an anti-climax.
Friday morning I headed for Benguela airport to return to Luanda. Th authorities informed that the plane that was bringing the Super Eagles to Benguela for their third place match was also going to take the Egyptians to Luanda and that there was a seat for me in that aircraft.
The flight was for 10am and by 9am I was at the airport to meet the shock of my life. The airport was literally strewn with hundreds of Algerians. There were green and white clad individuals on the lawns,Â departure lounges, every where, waiting for departure.
Why didnâ€™tÂ theyÂ take off yesterday? Why were they still here? That question could not be answered because before I knew it, I was surrounded by five youth asking whether I was yesterdayâ€™s referee. I said I was not. Then who was I? I sensed trouble. I said the referee was a younger man, just as I pointed to some strands of grey hair on my head.
They were not satisfied and came nearer. By this time, the number had risen to about a dozen.
You see in CAF, we travel in official uniform and this was my undoing. They said I was CAF, that there was no difference between me and the referee that was sent to kill them. They started raising their voices as their colleagues joined them, just as I was moving back to my carâ€¦â€¦â€¦jumped in and told the driver to return me to the hotel.
Austin Akosa had seen me off.Â He is the Benguela Centre Protocol Officer. When he saw me return, he wondered why and I related the whole story of how I was going to be mobbed, he had a good laugh after which he said â€œ na God save youâ€
â€œ Na God sir, na God â€œ I concurred.
Look out for this headline, because it is a very popular one. The Nigeria media relishes in hiding her dissappointment under headlines that celebrate nothing out of something. History has it that we will win the bronze. We won it in 1976, beat Tunisia in 1978 and Mali in 2002 and 2004. Another bronze is on the cards. Why not?
A shirt for Pappilo
Since coaches use classification matches to give playing time to players who could not feature in the competition, I expect our non-playing captain, Papillo, to lead out his wounded army Saturday, except Coach Amodu considers the bronze as very important, he may still retain his non- scoring squad against an Algerian team that has been decimated by red cards.