Americans call it soccer, but it’s generally known as Football, the most popular sport in the world is fast becoming a symbol of unity in Africa including Nigeria the most populous black nation in the world. The young and old, poor and rich are not left out in this display of love and commitment for the beautiful game which is continually reflected in the record viewership of championships such as the African cup of Nations and the World cup respectively. But the recent shift in paradigm is the soaring popularity of championships such as the English premier league, La Liga and off course the UEFA champion’s league. The growth of the game in Africa is reflected in the large number of African footballers plying their trade in Europe. Last year’s champion’s league final between Manchester United and Chelsea had at least 4 Africans trading tackles. In the semi finals of this year’s edition nearly a dozen Africans were spread among the four European giants; Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester United and Arsenal, a remarkable phenomenon when you realize that the number of Africans who had graced the finals of the prestigious event could be counted on your fingertips.
This year’s UEFA champion’s league has been one to behold, with a total number of 36 teams competing and 2 finalist, English champion Manchester United and Spanish giant Barcelona will play for the prestigious title. The atmosphere is intense; fever pitched. Rome the match’s venue is jam-packed with expectant fans of both teams. A record, 150 million viewers will be hooked up to this year’s spectacle. The fans have contributed greatly to this year’s duel; donning jerseys, scarves, hand bands of their favourite teams anything to show their support and loyalty. Many travelled from countries all around Italy, the America’s and Asia, several without match entry tickets. Even the global economic meltdown is expected to help stimulate match profits by nearly 50 million dollars
Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub is not left out of this football craze. Last year’s final, there were blue and red carnivals all around major streets in Lagos in the build-up to the game. It’s only hours to kick-off to the big show down this year, and walking through streets and major motor parks, it’s all apparent that there’s been no lull. Club Souvenir vendors are making brisk business, selling off anything to showcase either Barca or Man U. Coincidentally both teams wear the predominant red colour so it’s a red letter day, and everyone’s being caught in the bug. Ahmed a commercial motorcyclist thinks Manchester United will win because of Barcelona’s legendary defensive frailties. “Carlos Puyol cannot stop the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez” he argued, exclaiming that Manchester United is the champion of champions.
Manchester United fans by far outnumber the Spanish giants’ because the English Premier league is the default Nigerian league. All over Lagos, Man united fans wore their colours proudly. “It is a one sided game, Manchester United will surely win, because their players are more experienced than Barcelona players, the difference is clear! English league remains the best in the world and Man United is the champion of the English premier league” Baba Oje another United enthusiast boasted
Finally a Barca fan surfaces, Prince prefers being the bookie, predicting a 2-1 victory in favour of the Catalans. Another fan, Francis, an electronics salesman likes the view from the fence. “For me, the match is unpredictable. Both sides are good, the end of 90 minutes will determine who carries the day. But I am supporting Barcelona and hope they’ll win” he said
Messi, Eto, Henry and Iniesta are familiar names Barcelona fans will be pitching their fortunes on. Once the first prediction came through it wasn’t difficult finding more patrons to stake on the Rome crystal ball, “Manchester United will win because they are the best club in the world, the match will end 2-0 in favour of Manchester United” Funmilayo, a student said. Farouk and Tayo dressed up in United and Barca jerseys respectively, though brothers are fighting on opposites of the arena in today’s final. If your guess is as good as mine, a family feud is already brewing
So in 90 minutes, Rome’s gladiatorial clash of titans will decide Europe’s best club. Predicting a winner in tonight’s contest could be akin to the lucky throw of the die. But one thing you can though be rest assured of is, football will definitely be the winner.
Filed under: AFRICAN NEWS, AFRICAN SPORTS | Tagged: AFRICAN FOOTBALL, AFRICAN FOOTBALLERS IN EUROPE, AFRICAN SPORTS, BARCELONA. MANCHESTER UNITED, SAMUEL ETO, UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, YAHAYA TOURE | 1 Comment »