CAN as games of life

Africa’s premier football tournament ended in disappointment last Sunday with a penalty shootout between Egypt and Senegal. Anticlimatically, because a mostly thrilling tournament should end with spectacular goals, not a scoreless draw after extra time.

But don’t tell the Senegalese that, though. They stormed the streets and stadiums of Dakar and other Senegalese towns and villages in sustained jubilation. And why not? Senegal has been one of the powerhouses of African football for years. However, they only won the CAN last Sunday. So, now, the African team ranked No. 1 on the FIFA ladder has finally become the No. 1 team in substance.

The league match featured two players in contention who happen to be teammates at Liverpool, namely Senegalese Sadio Mané and Egyptian Mohamed Salah. At Liverpool, Salah’s star shines brighter. The CAN allowed Manéa to come out of this shadow, even if it was for a while.

Still, Mané appears to have squandered an opportunity when he failed to convert from a penalty in the first half. In life, there is no guarantee of a second chance. But Mane got one as the outcome of the game hinged on another chance at a conversion. After the Egyptians failed to convert in an uncharacteristic fashion on two penalty kicks – and with Senegal leading 3-2 – victory lay at Mane’s feet.

It was not at all acquired. The talented Egyptian goalkeeper made several saves during the match, including Mané’s first penalty. And he had already saved one during the shooting. But Mane was not about to fail twice. He fired what looked like a furious shot and the ball whizzed past the goalkeeper. Senegal won and Mané’s star continued to shine. The moral here is that sometimes life offers a second chance. And when it does, better take it.

Race not always fast

The overriding lesson of AFCON 2021/22, however, is the old adage that racing is not for the quick. Remember the allegory of a tortoise who beat a hare in a race. At CAN 2021, Nigeria was the hare and Egypt, Tunisia and even champion Senegal were the turtles.

Nigeria exploded in group play, raising everyone’s hopes for better things to come. They were the only team to win all three group stage matches. And he had the highest goal differential, which is the difference between goals scored and goals conceded. Still, the Super Eagles crashed out in their first playoff game.

By contrast, Egypt barely made it past the round robin stage. First, they lost 0-1 to Nigeria in both teams’ opening matches. In fact, the result did not reflect Nigeria’s dominance of the game. They then struggled to beat Sudan and Guinea-Bissau by just one goal each. The match against Guinea-Bissau would have ended in a draw had it not been determined by VAR that a Guinea-Bissau player had fouled in the process of scoring a goal. Meanwhile, Nigeria comfortably beat both countries by a two-goal margin.

Thus, Egypt barely qualified for the knockout round. Yet, they are the ones who qualified for the championship game, only losing on penalties. Even Senegal won only one group game. However, they are now CAN champions. This is life for you.

protest too much

Among the controversies that have arisen at the AFCON, none was more bizarre than that related to the premature end of the group game between Mali and Tunisia. The game ended with Tunisia losing 0-1 and head coach Mondher Kebaier going ballistic. He called the sick referee’s officiating a “horrible situation”.

His compatriot Hannibal could have told him that a truly horrible situation is to lose more than half of your combat strength trying to cross the Alps during the Punic Wars. Kebaier should certainly have saved the phrase for what happened a few days later when at least eight people were trampled to death trying to enter the Olembe stadium in Yaoundé.

Alas, it’s a fact of life that people often blame others for their failures or fate rather than looking in the mirror. Venting against the referee, Kebaier ignored the fact that Mali had won by converting from a penalty; Tunisia missed theirs. Moreover, the game was only 20 seconds from full time when the referee called it. They then lost to Gambia by the same scoreline.

In any case, Tunisia ended up advancing despite everything thanks to their 4-0 victory over Mauritania. And then they beat Nigeria in the first playoff game. Lesson: In life, it is advisable to exercise restraint even in the face of apparent disadvantages. Too often people worry, fuss, or even fight over things that ultimately don’t matter. Or when they matter, it’s only marginally.

curse of success

Back at the Super Eagles, the Nigerians would have been disappointed with any performance short of lifting the AFCON trophy. But by playing so well as a group, the Super Eagles have set even higher expectations in the stratosphere. This made the defeat against Tunisia so shocking. What fans may not know is that Tunisia (29th) overtakes Nigeria (36th) in the FIFA rankings.

In any case, despite the early elimination, this assembly of Super Eagles looks very promising. They played with more liveliness and artistry than I remember. It was no coincidence that they were the only team to win all three group games with the highest goal differential.

The future rests on the feet of young stars like Moses Simon. You might as well call him Colonel Simon. It is reported that his military father wanted him to follow in his footsteps, but he opted for football and the Super Eagles.

On the pitch, the 26-year-old constantly disturbs the defenses of Super Eagles enemies. So we may as well reward him with the honorary rank of colonel, with expectations of promotion to general perhaps at the Qatar World Cup later this year. If nothing else, that should appease the father.

Remember Foe

It’s an unfortunate sequel to the above thoughts, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch it. One of the images that are forever etched in my memory is the moment Cameron’s soccer star Marc-Vivien Foé collapsed and died while playing in the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2003. I was on a sabbatical in Nigeria visiting a cousin. While I was busy chatting with relatives I hadn’t seen in years, I didn’t pay much attention to the game on TV.

Suddenly there was an anguished commotion. “He’s dead, he’s dead,” shouted my cousin frantically. “Look at his eyes.” I turned to see what she was pointing at, and sure enough the man looked dead. It was a surreal moment. The 28-year-old, it was later reported, suffered from an undiagnosed medical condition.

Foé had big plans for Cameron’s youngsters, including building a football academy where they would hone their skills and grow their minds. The complex was ongoing when he died. Today it would be overgrown with grass, as promises to complete it have not materialized. Cameron also had the opportunity to honor their deceased hero, as the host of the tournament which is very much tied to the one he died playing in.

“Abishola” will return

On the lighter side, why not take stock of “Bob Hearts Abishola,” the American sitcom that entertains the world with its true take on Nigerian values ​​and culture? Currently in its third season, “Abishola” has aired original episodes only irregularly. Normally, this is a sign that the program is about to disappear. But it’s 3 CE, like in the COVID era. Nothing works the same way.

So it’s no surprise that CBS renewed the program for its fourth season. Aside from the CE factor, the writers increased their perplexity by casting “Abishola’s” mother as the main character. Before the elaborate wedding in Lagos, she was sometimes heard on the phone but hardly seen.

From marriage, she was highlighted as a pretentious and overbearing mother. She thinks her son-in-law is a laggard for not turning her compression sock business into a Fortune 500 company. Oh yeah, she’s the type to be regularly spotted in Nigerian high society. It makes sense, of course, that she is now visiting America, a visit with no return date.

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