talk football today. The game that is like no other. The game that mirrors and reflects life. The game that is so beautiful yet so cruel. The game which pastors use to preach. The game from which we learn management lessons about team-building, leadership, goal setting and winning.
The game that Nigerians love and worship like religion. The Beautiful Game. The People’s Game. The game that keeps me happy. Each time there is big match, my day is made and my heart is filled with high expectations.
I am not alone. We all love football. We all eat football. We all drink football. We all love watching football. We love discussing football. We love everything about football. We are not alone. It’s a universal passion.
This is the year of football, the year when nations of the world will assemble in Russia for the World Cup. Nations that didn’t qualify for the World Cup are grieving and cursing their bad luck. Thank God Nigeria qualified for the World Cup. Thank God we did when other big name countries didn’t qualify. Italy didn’t qualify. The Netherlands didn’t qualify. USA didn’t qualify. Chile didn’t qualify. The list goes on and on.
Football is a game I love writing about even though my wife won’t read my column each time it is about football. Much as I try to keep away from football, football refuses to keep away from me. It haunts me. It drives me. It inspires me. Oh, what would the world be without football?
On Wednesday night, I watched a wonderful match: the return leg of the Real Madrid versus Juventus match. A Champions League quarterfinal duel between two giants. It was one match that proved that in football anything can happen. In football, it is not over until it is over. In football, you should expect the unexpected. Real Madrid had won the first leg, beating the Old Lady Juventus 3-0 on their own ground last week. The second leg was supposed to be a formality with Real Madrid expected to win easily, but in football, the unexpected happens.
Before you knew, Juventus was taking the fight straight to Real Madrid. In the second minute, Juventus was already leading with a header by Mario Mandzukic, the Croation goal poacher. In the 37th minute, thunder struck a second time with the same Mario Mandzukic scoring with another header that caught Keylor Navas, the Real Madrid goalkeeper napping.
Oh, what a match! What a drama on the football pitch! In the 60th minute, Juventus scored again to level up with Real Madrid at 3-0 each. From then on, everybody was praying for Juventus to finish its fairy tale victory like a Cinderella. Everybody loves a comeback story. But with just a minute or so for the match to end, the referee awarded a controversial penalty which got Real Madrid out of jail. Thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo who in spite of the tension had the courage and the composure to find an angle and to score through a penalty. I really felt sorry for Juventus having come so far and almost close to making history as the only team to come from a 3-0 loss in the first leg and winning. But they didn’t make it. They almost did.