In partnership with Star Lager Beer.
2 – 0.
That was the scoreline at the end of the game. Just two numbers and a hyphen in between were enough to dash the hopes of 180 million people. We had arrived at the Kaliningrad Stadium with so many expectations – a triumphant win, a ‘we go manage am draw’, etc. But what we did not want nor envisage was an outright loss; one where we were completely outplayed and outscored. One where our game had no head, tail or purpose. One where Nigerians did not have a chance to scream ‘Issa goalll!’
And as a result, the long ‘walk’ home was depressing. All over the world, sporting the lemon green and white-striped Jersey that the world had come to love, Nigerians bowed their heads in embarrassment as they walked home. Those of us at the Kaliningrad Stadium had it worse. We had to watch the Croatians celebrate their deserved win. Fortunately, a lot of them were gracious in victory, but it was hard nonetheless.
We had lost our first World Cup game in four years, and nothing could console us. Well, except those green bottles that have become Nigerian citizens. We had saved them in our coolers, fridges, and some of us were going to bars after the game. As we felt it rush down our spines, we expressed our disappointment in the players – Moses falling like the price of crude oil; Onazi banished from the Mainland; Mikel and his transformation to a Chinese product; etc. Expletives were hurled. Anger dissipated. Pain … As we drank. Grateful for Star. When drunk responsibly, it is the best remedy for stress. And were Nigerians stressed? What kind of question is this?
The next few days saw most Nigerians become football managers. Everyone knew what tactic would work for the team. Everyone except the coach of course. 3 – 5 – 2; 4 – 4 – 2; 4 – 3 – 2 – 1; Musa at 7, Iwobi at 8, Onazi at the Airport, waiting for his plane back home. And so on and so forth. We analyzed, we advised, we prayed, and we drank. Then the D-Day came, and the whole nation paused to see what fate and our boys would bring us.
The first half of the game with Iceland saw us having more of the possession. But we were not doing anything productive with it. It felt like there was no willingness to score. Some people had already started thinking of how to sneak into the Super Eagles Hotel after the game to load them slaps if we lost. But second half came, and whatever Gernot Rohr told the Eagles definitely worked. Few minutes in, Victor Moses crossed a ball in; our President Ahmed Musa controlled it in the air, and thundered it into the back of the net in one fell swoop.
Everybody ran mad. Every single one of us. Words cannot describe the new-found energy at the Volgograd Arena. You see, a 10th of Iceland’s population was at the stadium, but only a tiny fraction of Nigerians was there. They outnumbered us, 30 to 1. But after Musa scored, our sound became louder than theirs – even though we didn’t have our typical drums and trumpets (apparently, the people at the gate refused to let our supporters club in with them). We were currently winning. There was hope for us.
Until Musa received the ball, powered into the 18, shunted right, cut, cut, and blasted our second goal in.
Tears flowed. People lost their voices. Madness everywhere. And we drank.
But this time, we didn’t drink to calm our nerves. We drank to celebrate a deserved victory. We drank to celebrate deserved happiness. We drank to celebrate the coronation of HRH, Ahmed Musa, King of the Icelandals, Lord of the Eleven Big Sons.
2 – 0
That was the scoreline that ‘ended’ tribalism, and promoted national unity. That was the scoreline that gave us joy, hope and pride in our nation. That is the scoreline we will cherish forever.
That evening, we walked home with our heads held high. We danced, partied, hugged everybody we saw, bought people drinks, and drank our fill. We emptied green bottles everywhere, belched in satisfaction, and when it was time, we slept like babies.
You see, there’s a thin line between winning and losing; happiness and sadness, joy and pain. In 90 minutes, a whole lot can happen to change these situations. But while we always hope for the best, there are times when we have to suffer defeat, so the eventual success will be sweeter. However, whatever the mood or situation is, a green bottle will always be there for you.
Win, lose or draw, we drink.