“If you can dream it, you can do it.” —Walt Disney
There was silence across the country.
The streets are completely deserted except for a few stray dogs and chickens that strolled aimlessly in search of grub. Everyone had hurried home to watch the football match.
They display the whole spectrum of emotions largely oscillating between excitement and anxiety as the match progresses. Sometimes, shouts of delight would puncture the silence. At other times, shouts of anguish would invade the air.
It was the finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The Times of London had described this year’s competition as “the year of the underdogs.” A Nigerian-based newspaper was quite prescient. In its Editorial, it wrote that 2014 is “Nigeria’s date with history.”
Nigeria has been making global headlines since the tournament started. It all began with Nigeria’s invasion of Iran in her opening match. In the second match, Nigeria not only beat but also humiliated Bosnia-Herzegovina. The team went on to annihilate Argentina in the last match of the group stage. Italy, Spain, England and Germany suffered a similar fate at the hands of the seemingly unstoppable Super Eagles, who had not lost a single match since the competition started on June 12. No African team had ever come this far in the previous editions of the tournament. Against all odds, Nigeria eventually managed to get to the finals!
No one could explain how the West Africans, widely regarded as the underdogs before the event, made it to the finals of the World Cup for the first time in the 84-year history of the tournament. Not a few are amazed that Nigeria is playing against the highly rated Brazil, the host nation, which had won the cup a record five times, in the final match of the competition.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is the goal margin, which stood at 1-1 at the 90th minute of the game! It seemed that the Samba Boys had met their match.
Even football pundits could not explain what was happening. Nobody gave Stephen Keshi’s boys a chance—not even a dog’s chance—of progressing beyond the second round as had been the case at four past attempts: 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010. But then, every dog, as they say, has its day. This is Nigeria’s day, or to be more precise, year. Already, bookmakers are raising the stakes in anticipation of what many hope would be the biggest upset in FIFA World Cup history.
The underrated Super Eagles stood their ground against their formidable opponents. They wowed the crowd with their mesmerising dribbles and entertaining style of play. They dazzled the world with their neat passes and beautiful crosses. They controlled the mid-field. They spearheaded the attack. They marshalled the defence. Both teams did all they could, but the goals refused to come anymore. The spectators are already settling down for a penalty shoot-out.
However, about a minute to the end of the injury time, the nimble Nigeria forward, who had been terrorising the Brazilian defence since the match started, suddenly managed to wriggle past two defenders and the goal keeper. He was hacked down savagely by a third defender before he could take a shot at the empty net.
Nigerians roared. They were baying for blood.
The Brazilians quickly swarmed around the referee. They insisted it was a fair tackle and tried to dissuade him from awarding Nigeria a penalty kick that could seal their hopes of winning the trophy for the sixth time.
But the sangfroid referee smiled blandly at the hapless Samba Boys and pointed unwaveringly at the penalty spot, to the relief of Nigerians and the consternation of Brazilians.
The hearts of many Nigerians watching the match jumped into their mouths. The weak-hearted amongst them fainted. Even the strong ones could no longer sit down. The tension was so thick that you could have cut it with a saw.
As the Nigerian captain himself prepared to take the penalty kick that could put the first FIFA World Cup in Africa, Victor woke up from his sleep. He gazed at his wrist watch and yawned tiredly.
It was the best dream that he ever had.