|Super Eagles celebrate their win|
On game day we only had one plan and that was to hit the stadium at 2:30 pm even though the match was to start at 5pm.
I’ve always loved to get in early when watching international games in Nigeria as crowd control had never been a strong point of Nigerians.
Time without number I had seen how the police and soldiers start physically assaulting ticket paying fans as it gets closer to match time.
I had even seen situations where journalists, even with their accreditation tags find it difficult to get in and I had never been one for stress, so I would just go in early enough and wait till match time.
But I had a meeting with Shehu Dikko, the chairman of the League Management Company, LMC and he agreed that we meet at his hotel room at 11am on game day.
Incidentally he was at the same hotel with the Super Eagles.
I wanted it a bit earlier, say around 8am so I could finish my business with him and go rest for the game, but who was I?
I had to go with Carl Orakwue and of course I needed a car to take me there and back and that was how Chuma Nnoli got a ticket to go with us, since he had a car in Uyo.
We got the Le Meridien Hotel just as the Eagles were taking a walk around the hotel.
As the journalists who were already present there ran in front of them to take pictures, some gun totting police men tried to stop them.
I even heard one say in a cruel voice, “If you don’t leave this place, I will seize your camera,”
These had to be some of the most untrained policemen in the world or maybe who ever gave them those instructions were as ignorant as they get.
I do not want to digress into the importance of allowing the media into such unofficial events with national team players so I will leave this topic for another day.
We met George Essien at the lobby of the hotel and he decided to tag along with us.
Meeting with Shehu Dikko was very successful as we talked about the coming Victor Ezeji Testimonial and then how to improve the Nigerian league.
Having done that, I stopped at Brown Ideye’s room to pick up my note book forgotten there two days before and we were off to look for lunch and then to prepare for the match.
We went back to Flavour Kitchen and this time I got rice.
Filling up the Godswill Akpabio/ lessons for state governments
I had a small argument with Saatah Nubari a day ago as he thought the stadium would be full to capacity.
I thought it wouldn’t be because for the last five years Nigerian state governments had spoiled their fans by declaring gates free almost every time the Super Eagles played.
I thought people wouldn’t pay five hundred and one thousand naira enough to fill up the terraces.
By the time I was in the stadium at about 3pm I knew it would eventually be a full house.
The people kept on streaming in until there was hardly an empty seat left in the stadium.
And this got me wondering why state governors keep declaring free gates. If people cannot pay to watch a football game then they should stay home. Better to have just 500 fee paying fans at the stadium than to declare the gates free.
Soon enough they’ll know they cannot be spoon fed all the time.
And the people of Uyo have shown that you can actually fill up a thirty thousand capacity stadium by buying tickets.
The Eagles are a beauty to watch
The Eagles are a beauty to watch. They are not perfect, not even close, but a lot of us enjoyed the football on display.
The goalkeeper was not as bad as a couple of pundits painted him to be. That Bentaleeb goal could have beaten any goalkeeper. We have seen Liverpool’s Coutinho bury even more audacious ones in England.
Then again, we saw him get frustrated with his players before kicking balls out “aimlessly” and that was because his players hardly ever opened up space for him and time and again, we could see him gesticulating at them to make space for balls.
The defence was still shaky but some pundits will praise them to high heavens.
They were not woeful, but still shaky.
In the midfield, the main man was Oghenekaro Etebo who ran the show with effortless ease.
In all it was a good game and the team played well.
The shame of the Conference room
The Post Match conference was one I would not attend because of the size of the room.
For a stadium that sits thirty thousand people, you would first expect a media tribune that sits at least 500 people, but this one could only sit 30.
But the worst of all was the conference room of the stadium that couldn’t take more than twenty people and worse still had no air-conditioning or fans.
Staying in that place was hell and I wasn’t going to do that.
While I waited at the lobby for the post-match meeting to end alongside Carl Orakwue, Peter Abaje, Yinka Elebute and some other Port Harcourt based journalists, the police soon came and ordered us to leave.
This was because the Super Eagles players were about to leave the dressing room for their bus and the police (as illiterate as they showed) and some FA officials (even more ignorant) were about to use the police to force people out of the passage way.
|Algerian fans mingle with a few Nigerians at the lobby|
Funny enough there were a few Nigerian fans there who were chased out but the police did not even speak to the Algerians fans
I stood my ground and told the police man to tell the Algerians present in the lobby to leave first and they just couldn’t.
They rather said the Algerians were our visitors and they couldn’t send them away.
The Nigerian slave mentality shows that anything that is light skinned is superior to them and they have behaved that way time and again.
I stood my ground that I would not leave the lobby because as a person with a press accreditation tag I had permission to be there.
Meanwhile, they should have allowed at least twenty fans, lucky ones to get into that place to have a match day experience with the players.
You cannot keep shielding the players from the fans, both sides need it.
When I was in Spain for the LaLiga tour that was exactly the same place I waited to have a selfie with Fernando Torres (I later got one with Saul Niguez).
I saw some fans wait in the lobby too to take selfies with the Atletico Madrid players
Then again, you’d ask who the NFF people are that leave these kinds of instructions.
Eventually, the players started making their way out and got into their bus and after the post-match meeting was done we departed.
After match party
While we got some food and returned to our hotel to crash, Queen John, Tamara Ebiwei, Jessica Amadi and Adebola Adebanjo had headed out to Le Meridien to see some Super Eagles players, maybe for post-match interviews.
They returned with Colin Udoh who banged on my door as though I owed him money from our Uniport days.
It was 10:30pm and I was ready to shut down.
He told me he wanted to buy dinner for the girls but since they couldn’t find any place to do that, they agreed to come and try the fish at the hotel.
Peter Abaje and Carl Orakwue stayed in the executive suite, so we decided to use their place upstairs.
Ayo Ibidapo and Rotimi Akindele joined us a bit later.
Placing order for the fish was easy, getting the fish ready was the issue.
While waiting Colin Udoh took some time educating the younger ones on how to do their jobs better.
An argument erupted later when I said Colin Udoh was my boy at Uniport while Tamara claimed her boss at the office, Soni Uboh told her I was Colin Udoh’s boy.
Lol! Silly argument, wasn’t it? But we sorted it out later when I insisted that in my opening statement I said Colin Udoh was my boy in school, operative word here being “In School” the University of Port Harcourt.
Colin agreed. Silly boy
Colin agreed. Silly boy
Imama Amapakabo had called about 11pm that he was coming to hang out with us and when we waited until almost 2am and he wasn’t there, I shut down for the night leaving the rest of them at Carl and Peter’s apartment to enjoy their fish and gist.
I woke up to see missed calls from Imama and later found out that he had come in at about 3 am to see us…
Who goes to visit someone at 3am wanting to hang out except an Okrika man.
Anyway I spoke with Imama later on my arrival in Port Harcourt. He was not too happy that he came all that way and did not meet us, but a simply apology sorted it out.
The next Super Eagles diary will probably be in August 2017 since that is the next time the team will play a serious game.