The 19th FIFA WORLD CUP will kick off in South Africa. Eighty years after the biggest showpiece in world sport began in Uruguay in 1930, it’s bandwagon has finally landed in Africa. Ke Nako! Jabulani!
The South African story can be told from a million and one perspectives, but let’s keep it simple and just focus on the football, literally. Ke Nako in Swahili means “It’s time.” Jabulani in Zulu means “Celebration.” Put together, the two translate into “It’s time (for) Celebration (in South Africa).”
The FIFA World Cup is the world’s biggest disco party. Thirty-two countries will be doing the dancing in 64 matches culminating in the final on July 11, but the whole world will be watching (and dancing) from the sidelines. Four years ago, an estimated cumulative global television audience of 26.29 billion watched the finals held in Germany.
This year’s event promises to surpass that figure as the host country, well-known for it’s unique traditional dance steps, welcomes the world.
My first visit to South Africa was in 1993 when I stopped over in Johannesburg en route to the tiny Indian Ocean country of Mauritius for that year’s African Youth Championship. Austin Okocha made his debut for Nigeria in that tournament while Nwankwo Kanu was an unused squad member because the coaches (led by James Peters) decided that he was too young and inexperienced. How ironic that Kanu is now leading the senior team, Super Eagles, to South Africa for the World Cup when many consider him as “too old” and probably, “too experienced.” Nigeria, meanwhile, did not go beyond the first round in Mauritius. Our big nemesis, Cameroun, saw to that.
Back to South Africa. Even for the brief period that I stayed in the country back then, it made an instant impression on me. I had been to many other African cities prior to then, but Johannesburg stood out for its infrastructural development and organization.
Before that visit, my thinking about South Africa was of an apartheid enclave where whites dominated the blacks and the black freedom fighters were demanding the return of their “Papa’s Land” (lyrics from late singer Sunny Okosun’s famous track). But after seeing the level of development that the “whites” had brought to the country, I came to the conclusion that they (the whites) would be going nowhere and both races would have to learn to live together permanently. Indeed, that’s the way South Africa is today. That is why Archbishop Desmond Tutu described his country as the Rainbow Nation – a nation of many colours and nationalities. The alias has stuck.
For several weeks now (even months), I have written a lot about the football to be expected in South Africa, especially from the Super Eagles. As the tournament gets under way, let’s share some other information that will put us in the right mood for the big kick-off. Let’s go Inside South Africa…
KE NAKO!: This is Swahili for “It’s time.” Those were the words uttered by South African icon Dr. Nelson Mandela when receiving the FIFA World Cup trophy from Sepp Blatter to symbolise the hosting right granted to South Africa.
JABULANI: This is the Zulu word for “Celebration.” It was adopted as the name of the match ball for the 2010 World Cup. The design features 11 colours, each representing one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. These are English, Zulu, Swazi, Tsonga, Venda, Sotho Ndebele, Tswana, Xhosa, Northern Sotho and Afrikaans.
Ironically, Jabulani the World Cup ball has become controversial because many goalkeepers have critisized it for being deceptive in flight. That could be to the advantage of strikers like Cristiano Ronaldo especially at free-kicks and we could see a lot of goals.
FIFA partners adidas have been designing new balls for every World Cup since 1970 when they introduced Telstar in Mexico.
ZAKUMI: This is the official mascot of the 2010 World Cup. It was “born” on June 16, 1994, the same day as Youth Day in South Africa. The name comes from “ZA” which is the code for South Africa and “KUMI” which translates as “ten” in various African languages. It’s green and gold colours are taken from South Africa’s flag. Former SA international, Lucas Radebe describes Zakumi as a “proud South African that wants to ensure that the world will come together in South Africa.”
SPRINGBOK: South Africa is rich in wildlife and there are no less than 11,000 elephants at its world -famous Kruger National Park, amidst various populations of giraffes, lions, rhinos, buffalos and leopards. The country’s “national animal,” however, is the springbok after which the South African rugby team is named. Remarkably, there are over 200 species of mammals to be found in South Africa. Fans visiting for the World Cup must find time to see the wildlife to have a complete South African experience.
THE CITIES: South Africa is hosting the World Cup in ten stadiums spread across nine cities. The biggest of them is Johannesburg (popularly called “Jo’Burg” by locals) with seven million people. It is home to the magnificient Soccer City stadium which will host the opening match between South Africa and Mexico on Friday, as well as the final on July 11.
Other major hosting cities are the executive capital Pretoria (60 kilometres from Jo’Burg), the judicial capital Bloemfontein (420km away) and the legislative capital Cape Town (1405km away). Nigeria’s base city Durban is 600km from Jo’Burg.
THE SPORTS: The national sports of South Africa are rugby union and cricket played mostly by whites; as well as football and boxing which are dominated by blacks.
South Africa hosted and won the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations as well as the 7th All-Africa Games in 1999 which I attended. They also hosted the Cricket World Cuip in 2003; hosted and won the Rugby World Cup in 2005 and hosted the FIFA Confederations Cup last year. The FIFA World Cup will be their biggest hosting so far and the Olympic Games might not be far in coming if they pass the latest test in flying colours.
Super Eagles Rating
LAST week, I published a table of indices to analyse Nigeria’s chances of qualifying from their first round group which also features Argentina, Greece and South Korea. However, I goofed big time in adding up the marks for each team and I was soon overwhelmed by sms text messages from readers pointing out the error. (See feedback).
Luckily, I had noted last week that “I was surprised to see Nigeria tying with South Korea after adding up the marks since the total score was not premeditated.” To put the records straight, I have published the table all over again below with the correct totals for each country.
Argentina Nigeria Greece S/Korea
1. World Cup pedigree 4 2 1 3
2. Recent W/C Experience 4 2 1 3
3. Quality of Coaching 1 4 4 2
4. Quality of players 4 3 3 3
5. Team quality 2 2 3 4
6. Qualification 2 2 1 4
7. World rating 4 2 3 1
8. World ranking 4 2 3 1
9. Preparation 3 1 3 4
10. Element of luck 1 1 1 1
TOTAL 29 21 23 26
If the teams perform true to form, the implication of the above table is that Argentina and South Korea will pick the group tickets while Greece and Nigeria will head for home. I repeat, however, that football obviously doesn’t always go according to predictions and Nigeria may spring a pleasant surprise if the players discover their innate “Nigerian Spirit.” Our third game against the South Koreans may still be a winner-takes-all for a second round ticket depending on the results of our first two games.
Indeed, the Eagles appear to be waking up on cue for the World Cup as they played their best football in a long, long time to beat North Korea 3-1 in their final warm-up game last week in South Africa. All of a sudden, expectation is rising again and the verdict amongst fans and journalists alike is that the Eagles have been “improving with every match,” from Saudi Arabia, through Colombia and now North Korea.
Meanwhile, the overcrowding that occurred at the Nigeria – North Korea game at the Makhulong Stadium in South Africa has shown unequivocably that the Super Eagles will not be lacking support at the World Cup, beginning with the game against Argentina. The Nigerian population in South Africa is quite large and they will be in full voice with their vuvuzelas whenever the Eagles are playing. What is not altogether certain is how the players will respond to the motivation by the fans.
I don’t want to be a spoilsport, so I will not discourage anyone from building his castles on the Eagles. But blessed are those not expecting too much against Argentina, for they shall not be disappointed.
INJURIES, the scourge of professional sportsmen has been ravaging the 2010 World Cup even before the first ball is kicked. And it has been picking mostly on the marque players and knocking them out of the tournamnet.
Ghana’s Michael Essien had been a long term doubt and he finally failed to make the cut for the Black Stars. He was soon followed by his Chelsea teammate Michael Ballack of Germany who got injured on the last day of the English season in the FA Cup final. Last week, the unfortunate story of the Three Michaels of Chelsea was complete when Nigeria’s John Obi Michael (Mikel) pulled out after being named in the Nigerian squad. He has since been replaced by Brown Ideye of Sochaux.
Towards the end of the English season, a Chelsea fan gave Mikel the knocks by declaring in a blog that the player’s injury was the club’s good fortune as it allowed them to play at a faster pace in midfield and win the double. But the same cannot be said of the Super Eagles because our team is lacking in depth. Mikel’s hard-tackling would certainly be missed despite his weakness of slowing down the play.
In Mikel’s absence, Sani Kaita is our main option to play the holding role in midfield while Haruna Lukman will act as play-maker. It remains to be seen how the duo will fare against Javier Mascherano and Juan Sebastian Veron for Argentina on Friday, but the prospects are not promising at all.
Still on the list of injured stars, the tournament has also lost England captain Rio Ferdinand while Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba and Holland playmaker Arjen Robben suffered major scares in their countries’ last warm-up games. If the last two manage a come-back, the World Cup will be the better for it.
HI, MUMINI. You are unimaginably too poor in simple elementary addition. From your table, Argentina should have 29, Nigeria 21, Greece 23 and South Korea 26. The mistakes in the sums have made absolute nonsense of your analysis. Get back to us your fanatical readers and apologise to us. And, be more meticulous next time. – 08023085835.
* I’m truly sorry for the error. Thank you for the advice.
YOUR analysis of Nigeria’s chances at the World Cup is the latest evidence that you’re the best football analyst in Nigeria. Unlike most others who base their opinion on sentiments, you provided hard facts to prove your case. Even though you made mistakes in your addition, I believe your conclusions are still valid. It will be difficult for the Super Eagles to qualify. – Olalekan Badru, Lagos.
YOUR article on the Nigerian Spirit and Segun Odegbam’s comments have rekindled my hope in the Super Eagles. I think you should have scored Nigeria more marks in the luck category than any other team. Remember, we qualified by luck and we will do it again in SA. – Peters, Ilorin.
THE error apart, your article on the Eagles chances at the World Cup is a masterpiece. I think we should limit the damage against Argentina, then go for victories against Greece and South Korea . Six points should be enough to guarantee our qualication for Round 2. – Seth, Jos.
I AGREE with you that Lars Lagerback may be our saviour against Diego Maradona. Meanwhile, the Eagles are not unbeaten this year. Egypt and Ghana beat us at the Nations Cup in Angola. – Dr. Igwe.
THANKS for a brilliant Soccertalk. I share Segun Odegbami’s optimism and predict an overall third place finish for the Super Eagles at SA 2010. – Buchi.
BROTHER, nice write-up. I have the Naija Spirit in me, a spirit that believes we will shock the world. Amongst my pals, I appear to be alone in this belief. – Seyi Aruleba.
YOUR ALTRUISTIC analysis of the artistic and scientific elements of football has revealed what awaits Nigeria in SA. But we hope the Naija Spirit will quash every opposition. – 080343606053.
MANY thanks for an exellent analysis of our World Cup chances. But I think your nationalism made you reduce the marks of our opponents. Using your indices, I will rate Nigeria third in our group. Our preparation has been woeful but our mental strength is high. – Omoniyi Ashaolu, FCA.
YOU MESSED up your calculation in an otherwise brilliant article. I hope your error was not a product of a sentiment to please Lars Lagerback. – Alenkche, Esq.
YOUR calculation is wrong. Nigeria comes last on the analysis table. Please change your analysis because your prediction has a way of coming to pass. Put Nigeria in second position instead of last and I know it will come to pass. –– Akinremi Wale, Ayobo – Lagos.
MUMINI, a correct calcuation of your analysis table shows that Nigeria has the lowest score. Does that mean we will not qualifying for the second round? –– Bash, NHA, Abuja.
MUMINI, your last article swept me off my feet. You are indeed a football witch, wizard, tutor and complete analyst in all ramifications. I believe the Naija Spirit will do the magic for us in SA. Best of luck, Super Eagles. – Idris Olalekan, Oworo, Lagos.
NIGERIA versus Argentina will be decided by the tactics of the coaches and I believe Lars Lagerback will outwit Diego Maradona. Good luck, Super Eagles. – Timothy, Ilorin.
THE DROPPING of Victor Anichebe will only help to discourage other players in diaspora from choosing to play for Nigeria in future. This is a case of using and dumping. – Mfon Alex.
lWE CAN’T beat Argentina in our opening game due to bad selections by Lagerback. If we go beyond the first round, it will be a miracle. – Vincent Abugu, Enugu Ezike, Enugu State.
INDEED, the Super Eagles have landed! Good luck, Nigeria. – F.A. Ogunniyi, Igbo-Ora, Oyo State.
Re: Lulu Grabs 2nd Term
YOUR exposé of the evil plan by the NFF to extend their stay in office is the saddest news in the federation’s history. There’s need for a superior force to chase these Lulu-putians out of the Glass House. – S. Ade Alao.
NO MATTER how hard you try to hide, Mumini, it is now obvious that you are paid to roll out the right spins for Sani Lulu and co. How could you score them 99 percent for a second term? I won’t be surprised if your trip to SA 2010 is bankrolled by the NFF. Lucky guy! What a shame. – Ben Ogbuabana, Ojo-Lagos.
*MUMINI SAYS: My last week’s comment on the NFF elections was definitely NOT an endorsement of Sani Lulu for a second term and I am sure that most readers understood this. I only meant to ALERT everybody to what was going on and to ginger the right quarters into action.
I will say that the comment actually achieved it’s objective because the National Sports Commission (NSC) has responded by advising the NFF to postpone all electoral processes until the Eagles return from the World Cup. The NFF has, however, replied that the NSC’s “advise” amounted to government interference in it’s affairs and that the election process will proceed as originally planned.
Effectively, the battle line is drawn between the NFF and the NSC! The coming weeks will be quite interesting indeed. Watch this space.