Sports Stories That Are Sports Stories

By Tony Afejuku

It has been two plus weeks or so of some major sports events in the globe that capture my interest. My sporting mind and heart have been wearing their sports regalia to check and control the refugium causing them geographical as well as political disturbances.

Without mincing words, the regalement I am currently enjoying derives from sports stories that my mind and heart are momentously relishing. Sports stories from Australia, that is, from Brisbane and other cities where the 2023 FIFA Women World Cup has just ended and the 2023 1,000 Masters Tennis Tournament called Western and Southern in Cincinnati, USA just terminated flourished my frame with excitement.

The events took me away, even momentarily, from the plague plaguing this country – your country my country our country. What of the other news, the football news, from Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and the ones from Budapest in Hungary in Eastern Europe where the 2023 World Athletic Championships are still on?

The alluded-to events arouse and intensify my philosophical thoughts in their stillest hours after the end of each of the sports events. Each event brought to the fore new values which our country should learn from and be enriched by even though we may be governed and controlled and ruled by hypocritical donkeys.

But are we really this unlucky because we are all, one way or the other, hypocritical donkeys and hypocritical dogs? Am I derailing? Or am I not derailing? Friedrich Nietzsche appears to me as he frequently does now: “To perform great things is difficult: but more difficult is to command great things.”

My mind trembled as my thought went to our Super Falcons Round 16 match against the Lionesses of England. The female lions were clearly and visibly outplayed by our Super Falcons, our female Super Eagles. Indeed, they certainly would have beaten the English girls, ladies and women if only the two devastating shots by Ashleigh Plumptree and another of our players respectively had not saved their opponents, their opposite counterparts, by shamelessly embracing the woodwork – the crossbar and the left side of the post of King Charles’ dames.

More painfully, perhaps I should say most painfully, towards the end of regulation time the referee – from wherever she was imported – denied our women and girls a visibly visible penalty when Bronze, the England left fullback violently pushed our player to the ground in England’s penalty box. Bronze immediately threw herself to the ground feigning and faking a non-existent injury!

The centre referee who was close to the scene and her co-officials running the lines and the VAR ones gave our offended player nothing.

Our players who had the advantage and power of protest in their favour, surprisingly did not insist that VAR should intervene. Were they (and the officials) cowed by the pre-match prediction of a supercomputer that gave victory to England without giving the score figure that would give the Lionesses the predicted victory?

When it came to the penalty shoot-out after extra time, our girls, our first two players, suddenly grew the feet of doves rather than the feet of Falcons. But our Super Falcons gave us super pride after all they went through before they flew to Australia.

It is not un-befitting of them to be given the title of the tenth-best team in the 2023 FIFA Women’s Football Cup. But they certainly don’t deserve their tenth-grade command.

They and their head coach Randy Waldrum deserve to be better rated than the Lionesses and the Maltidas of Australia and their respective head coaches. But I am ashamed of our Football Federation and all the hypocritical dogs there. They cannot ever command great things to get our football to where we want it to get to.

The final between England and Spain was the real astonishment and wonderment of the tournament. England had no business being there after the team’s shameful hopping to the meeting with Australia that a European rare voiceless strange animal, a rabbit-looking one, and “a natural mystic” (indeed!) “prophesied” that Australia would beat England by four goals to three.

Alas, the animal in question had/has no mystical or mysterious limbs, sight, insight and mannerism of the well-endowed German octopus, a confirmed natural mysticthat predicted correctly that Spain would win the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The aforesaid voiceless rabbit-like animal was psychologically employed to dupe the Matildas of Australia to expect a victory-less victory against the Lionesses of England. The rest, as we commonly say, is history.

Football-win-or-lose games-betting influencers who stake all kinds of resources and things to win or lose bets were at work. Spain, well disgraced by Japan in the group stage, was primed to beat the European Champions. The Lionesses were given fruits rather than lambs, to consume in the final. And they lost to the un-fancied women and girls from Spain who surprised even themselves in the game of their lives.

At the end of the clearly one-sided game, the head of Spain’s football federation was too, too happy to the extent that he threw caution to the loud night to give a movingly moving kiss to Jenni Hermoso. The long mouth kiss Luis Rubiales, Spain’s Football Federation president, gave an outstanding member of the Spanish team was the kiss of optimally optimum euphoria with well-meaning intentions. The kiss has since been wrongly interpreted to mean what it is or was not and what it should not mean.

The incident that seems to have overshadowed Spain’s 1 – 0 victory over England and the medal ceremony, has “caused an uproar.” Luis Rubiales who initially did not accept that what he did was wrong has openly apologized for his action to placate all those who were hurt by his abnormally normal behaviour (some are even asking him to resign now). Now his well-intentioned about-turn has brought to my remembrance this quote by Euripides: “No man on earth is truly free, all are slaves of money or necessity. Public opinion or fear of prosecution forces each one, against his conscience, to conform.”

Now let’s dash to the Middle East. Cristiano Ronaldo of Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia at the ripe football age of thirty eight scored two magnificent goals to enable his club to win the equivalent of the European super cup (if I am right) in a tough match against al –Hilal.

Ronaldo is still the super maestro that he is and will always be even when he eventually decides to retire without retiring from the sport. Saudi Arabia is a football country of a well-cherished football culture especially since CR 7 decided to be its undisputable hottest rockstar there. A Saudi Arabia national team that disgraced Messi’s Argentina in the last World Cup can no longer be overlooked in any serious discussion and analysis of global football. We have never beaten Argentina at the senior level but the Saudis have, and in that land CR7 is still doing his magic. Victor Osimhen must learn from him.

Tennis – the sport for really intelligent minds – greeted us with the story of Novak Djokovic who has just beaten Carlos Alcarez, the Spanish youngster at the Cincinnati 1,000 Masters of the Western and Southern Tournament. It was a close call between the young number one player and the much older number two player. But Djokovic ultimately prevailed through fraud – as he often does by faking injury when he is on the losing stretch. He does not believe in Sophocles’ “Rather fail with honour than succeed by fraud.”In his court conduct I am now perceiving that sports have no place for morality.

It reminds me of law that tells us that there is no morality in the profession because “law is anass.” Politics is like that as well. It has no regard for ethics and morality.

I am now in Budapest, Hungary. Nigerian athletes have so far brought shame to our country. None of our athletes has earned us any medal. Our only hope is Tobi Amusan who at the time of writing – Tuesday, 22 August, 2023 evening has just come out tops in her heat – Heat 5 – and has qualified for the 100 metres hurdles semis where we expect the global champion to do us proud by eventually winning the gold medal despite her recent travail.

The Budapest reflection of running and jumping and throwing men and women is a reflection, a sad reflection, of the current state of your country my country our country. Hell! What Ese Brume could not do, may Tobi Amusanand Amusan Tobi make it be! I want her Budapest to delight my mind, heart and soul.

The spontaneous euphoria will fly me to Budapest to hug, embrace and kiss her for Nigeria! I must beat Chief Solomon Ogba, the President of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria, to it. Yes. And no one should Rubiales me thereafter. Let’s chuckle together. What a sports story that is a sports story! Let’s chuckle together in our season of seasons of recklessly induced political, electoral and economic pains crushing us in all ways and spheres. Hell! And what a hellish hell it will be if Tobi doesn’t win gold! What a hellish hell it will really be for me and all lovers of the sport!