The world will never tire of this, and maybe that is a good thing for all of us who suffer so many tribulations on a daily basis that any reprieve that brings out shrieks of joy and ecstasy is most welcome.
For over a month, a great part of my city has been water-stressed, but now that the water situation is easing up a little, power rationing is upon us. Well, be thankful for small mercies.; better no power than no water.
Now, the FIFA World Cup has opened in Qatar, and everyone now finds an occasion to shout and holler in support of teams that do not even represent them. At such moments of inexplicable joy during which we relegate our mundane concerns to the back burner, we are happy to concentrate on what human legs and feet can do with a round ball full of air.
All we know about this ball is that it will bounce, but we do not know exactly how, because some smart alecks have found a way to make the ball change direction in mid-air in a way one would have thought impossible.
‘The Beautiful Game’
We are bound to witness this over and over again in Qatar. Although it is clearly still early days, the world has already witnessed enough samples of what the Brazilians have dubbed ‘O Jogo Bonito’ (the Beautiful Game) and we may hope that the remainder of the month or so will bring more beauty and more thrills.
The footballing aristocracy has had to make way for some innovations to allow for exigencies, for better or for worse, and there will be time enough to decide whether they were all for the good of the game or not: With some $300 million spent on the preparations for the tournament, is there any way to justify such expenditure? Time will tell, but with an economy powered by hydrocarbons, who really cares?
The tournament has had to be moved from the usual period of the northern-hemisphere summer to the beginning of winter, just to avoid the scorching sun of Qatar. That has had the effect of disrupting many European soccer leagues, which have had to suspend national competitions for a month.
Now, that is important, because we are in that part of the year when the European season is moving toward the halfway mark, and when the incorrigible fans can start dreaming of the trophy come May next year, and maybe a couple of signings of new players who will improve the performance and fortunes of their teams. But now that the aristocracy has decided to humour Qatar, and the latter seems to have laid out a most sumptuous feast, we may as well relax and enjoy ourselves.
Little to celebrate
But, as Africans, we have had little to celebrate, as our representatives have been disappointing thus far. None of our five teams in Qatar has been able to produce that kind of magic that lighted up the African skies in past tournament, such as we saw with Roger Miller’s Cameroon in 1990 and a few other flashes of brilliance offered by such luminaries as Jay Jay Okocha (Nigeria), Abdou Diouf (Senegal), Sunday Olisseh (Nigeria), Lakhdar Belloumi (Algeria), Emmanuel Amunike (Nigeria) or Assamoah Gyan (Ghana), Siphiwe Tshabalala (South Africa). The overall impression of our lads has been rather lacklustre.
The cruel irony is that Cameroon should be defeated by Switzerland via a goal scored by one Breel Embolo, himself born in Cameroon but now a national of the Swiss confederation. One may want to speculate around Embolo’s fortune had he stayed at home and played for Cameroon. Probably he would not have amounted to much, even not playing football at all and instead crossing the Sahara to try his luck crossing the Mediterranean into Europe.
But that is mere idle speculation, and who knows what anyone of us would have come to had our fortunes been different than they have been? So, this Embolo is as Swiss as they come, and he scored against Cameroon, and that is that.
On the increase
Come to think of it, players whose origins can be traced to Africa have been on the increase in this kind of competition. Only the most diehard lilywhite nations in Europe still bring out squads of all-white players (think Serbia); most others have had a sprinkling of black and brown, and the numbers are rising.
As Africans, we have not shined in Qatar this far, but that is fine, for we do not expect to outdo those who have had time to invest thought and dime in this game over decades and whose football governors are more attuned to the needs of their players when they are engaged in serious international competitions such as the World Cup.
We have witnessed African teams go to the Cup without their allowances being paid, not because the government has not disbursed the money, but because the officials have pocketed the money and sent their players penniless! Then, after one or two matches the players go on strike, and officials rush to wherever the players are with gunny sacks full of money! This time round, this has not been reported’, but that does not mean it has not happened
We shall talk some more about the tournament, but for now, enjoy the show!