THE BEAUTIFUL GAME (PART 2)

Well the nations cup we hosted in the year 2000 ended badly for us fans, but time really waits for no one and before we knew it, 2002 was here. The Super Eagles had two major tournaments that year, the nations cup in January and the world cup in June.

Mali were hosting this one and I felt we were gonna win, we just needed to pay more attention. Aghahowa had more experience, the team seemed solid, what I remember vividly was the semi final's, I did not see it live for whatever reason but we followed it on radio; we(Nigeria) were up against Senegal again, we met them two years earlier (Aghawonder was in form) and it was a difficult game but we won, so I felt OK meeting them again but this time they scored first again, aghahowa equalised the game went into extra time, they scored again but we missed a penalty, Wilson Oruma missed and just like that were out, I probably just hissed and I felt bad but it wasn't like in 2000, maybe I was beginning to develop a tough skin towards the game just maybe. We still had the 3rd place match to play and we played against the hosts Mali and we won. Cameroon played against Senegal in the final and they won (back to back champions and five afcon titles in all, I didn't like what I was witnessing)

Next up was the World Cup, hosted by Korea and Japan. Nigeria were awful in that tournament, from the Jersey's to our play, the only good thing that happened was the emergence of one young Vincent Enyeama in that tournament.

Nigeria at the 2002 world cup

Yea I also liked Sodje's bandana.

So the tournament as a whole, I didn't follow it because Nigeria were awful, I saw ronaldinho's goal and I thought brilliant. For me the main attraction was Senegal, they beat the almighty France, Diop scored the only goal in that game. Senegal did well in that tournament and they got to the quarter finals, making all Africans proud (I remember thinking ok maybe they deserved to beat us in the AFCON semi's then). Brazil won the competition, Ronaldo de Lima scored 8 goals and we were all saying these Brazilian's were born to play football

Ronaldo De Lima

Fast forward to the year 2004, Tunisia were hosting the nations cup and this new young kid took centre stage against South Africa (who were gradually turning into our wives in football) by scoring two goals, his name was Osaze Odemwingie

Odemwingie

In football we always like new heroes. However, the main story was the quarter finals, we were up against Cameroon (our football nemesis at that point). They had even gotten better in my opinion, they went for the confederations cup(a cup tournament involving champions from every continent including the world champion) in the year 2003 because they were the defending African champions and they came second losing the final to France, they even beat Brazil on their way there. So we had to meet them again.

The game began, as usual the Cameroonians were looking very very big with those their tight jerseys, looking intimidating as usual but as the game went I thought that we might actually have a chance today, towards the end of the first half, an opportunity came for Nigeria that we almost converted, so they were showing the replay, I was feeling all bubbly that today Cameroon would know that we are a tough but to crack.. Next thing, they take the replay away and I hear goal…… The Cameroonian's have scored, they scored, those guys again, i said come on!! Samuel Eto’o scored. It seemed like Cameroon were our krptonyte at that point and accepting that fact would help us fans deal with it better. Then as the first half is about to end, Kanu is fouled, free kick. Jay jay Okocha takes it, GOAL!!!!!!! we equalised, we were jumping up and down in my house and i’m screaming jay jay at the top of my lungs. The referee blows the whistle for half time and obviously everyone is in high spirits but i just have a flash back of the 2000 AFCON final, we were 2–0 down, we equalised but we still lost the game, so i began to have this deja vu feeling like we have been here before and we still lost, so during half time, the joy i was feeling quickly turned to anxiety.

The second half began and i’m so nervous but still watching the game, all i can remember is that John Utaka received a pass and he ran, oh my he ran and he finished, cool as you like. Till today, i still love John Utaka for that single moment, after he scored, he runs to the corner flag (or close to the corner flag) kneels down and raises his index finger on both hands to the sky. Brilliant goal, 2–1, we were leading The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, as the match went on, the Cameroonians huffed and puffed and they almost equalised (i was also beginning to understand why some folks do not watch some matches live), it was nerve racking but we held on for the win, one of my best matches of all time, we beat that stubborn Cameroon, we were no longer their wives in football, it felt so good. Cameroon were also the defending champions at that point, so we just beat the best team Africa in my opinion, so i expected us to win the Afcon at that point but we lost the semi’s again to Tunisia this time. I should have been disappointed after the game against Tunisia but we had just beaten Cameroon a few days earlier and i was still on a high from that, so it did not matter to me, beating Cameroon is all i really cared for. Nigeria played against Mali again for the 3rd place match and we beat again (seemed like they were turning to our wives also).

Also a change occured for me in 2004, i started hearing a lot about club football, most people were either supporting either Manchester United or Arsenal. Another cousin of mine who is a man u fan was describing a move cristiano ronaldo did and his words were it’s not done… He found it spectacular, I found that very interesting, gradually but surely, i was catching the club football bug. I also thought Arsenal were cool, they still had Kanu i think, so i said they were ok because of that. But i followed jay jay okocha, i mean he was my favorite player, so it was wherever Okocha went to that i followed. So Bolton became the first team i supported, i did not see so many club games in the 2004–2005 season but the few i saw, Jay jay was magnificent, the bolton fans even had the placard “so good they had to name him twice.” I even saw one of his highlights where close to the corner flag,he flicks the ball over an arsenal player(Dennis Bergkamp i think), it was beautiful. I also saw the highlights of the Chelsea versus Barcelona game and i thought interesting, Ronaldinho scored a legendary goal, i mean he was dancing thinking of what to do then just hit it, no back lift, nothing, he just hit it, he was a genius

Anyways Chelsea won the game and i thought cool.

Then the turning point in my life, the day i fell in love Chelsea, I was watching the 2nd leg of the UCL semi final against Liverpool (2004/2005 season) and luis garcia scored the ghost goal, i remember my pops telling me Liverpool were gonna win but Chelsea were pressing Liverpool at that point, i said no way that was going to happen, i said Chelsea for the win but lo and behold, Liverpool won, i was shocked.

Luis Garcia celebrating his ghost goal

I saw the chelsea players after the match and they looked genuinely hurt but the part i enjoyed was what Mourinho said after the game, i can’t remember his words exactly but he just gave you a wonderful excuse and his cockiness, it was great and his nickname was “the special one” oh! he spoke to me and Chelsea would still go on to win the premier league that season, piping man u and arsenal to the title, i knew Chelsea were my club and we were gonna stay together probably forever (heck if i ever have a female child, i’ll probably call her CHELSEA!!!!).

2004/2005 EPL champions

Being a fan of the winning team felt awesome….

Chelsea!!! Chelsea!!! Chelsea!!!