TUESDAY Column by VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
Sports enthusiasts, not least those in Nigerian will have their eyes literally fixed on Russia on Saturday where the draws for next year’s World Cup tournament dubbed, “Russia 2018” will hold; after which each of the 32 countries that have qualified for the competition would know which other countries they would play against in the preliminary group stages. No doubt there is frenzy in the land ever since the Super Eagles booked their ticket for the quadrennial World football competition. This excitement will reach fever pitch as the tournament draws nearer next year. Then you would see frenzied preparations for it such as people resuscitating their television sets, many others buying new ones, especially LED, plasma TVs even with their last cash; cable television subscriptions being renewed, boom in Nigeria’s own digital pay television (Star Times). Of course there will be increased subscriptions for data bundles to follow the World cup events on our smart phones wherever we are.
Also corporate organisations will be wetting our appetite for the event with enticing promotions. They will be wooing us to patronise their products for a chance to win some ‘fantastic’ prizes, including sponsorship to see matches live in Russia. Large advertising billboards will prop up, spread across the nation to proclaim advent of ‘Russia 2018’. Our airwaves – radio and television will be replete with advertisements and promotions on the World Cup, ditto the new media – the internet. In brief wherever we turn to in June of next year, we will be confronted with the sights and sounds of the World Cup. So much so that one can predict that even the deaf will literally hear it. The football World Cup is ranked as the greatest global fiesta, a truly infectious tournament to which all eyes are fixated as though hypnotised.
However, amidst the pervasive excitement and noise engendered by the quadrennial tournament, mothers stand aloof, unimpressed. Indeed left to them they wish that international football is banished altogether. For, with the commencement of the World Cup comes another round of Junior’s hide and seek game that often wears her out. Junior and the other young boys are likely to have their attention directed wholly to happenings on the field of play in faraway Russia rather than to their academic, domestic and other household duties. This for Mama Junior and other mothers/guardians in her shoes is a burden.
What is more, the World Cup will be setting in just when mothers will be heaving a sign of relief that the European football season is ending. During the long European season which spans August to May, it is a tug of war sort of, between Junior and his mum. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Junior will sneak out of the house after lunch to go watch soccer matches at viewing centres. He and his friends would not return until late in the evenings. It is even worse for games that are played on weekdays, usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On such occasions, he comes home late at nights when other family members have gone to bed. Locking him out does not seem to deter him. Flogging and denial of food does little to change his ways either. At best when the punishment appears unbearable he would stay indoors on a match day. On such days he would wear a permanent frown on his face and grudgingly attend to errands and domestic chores allotted him.
By the next day, he is back to his old ways, off to viewing centres. It is as though he is addicted to football. It is a habit boys pick from their fathers who themselves are soccer fanatics. What happens is that Junior makes it a point of duty to leave the viewing centre a few minutes before his father and then wait for him in front of the door. They both meet there and saunter into the house together. As you can well imagine, Papa Junior cannot really discipline his child on this issue since Junior is only imitating him. At best he feebly remonstrate him. This causes dissentions, quarrels and even fights between husband and wife. The wife accuses him of encouraging Junior in his ‘wayward’ ways. It is only when Papa Junior is out of town, on one of his numerous business trips that she can bring the full weight of punishment to bear on Junior. But as I mentioned earlier this does not quite change Junior’s penchant for watching football matches outdoors for several hours on end.
So you can well imagine Mama Junior and other mothers’ sadness at the forthcoming World Cup. She and others in her shoes are scratching their heads, putting on their thinking caps on how they can wade through this 30 days of intensive football, especially against the background that the 2014 competition in Brazil though relayed by all local television stations, was played from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. This resulted in discomfiting generator noises and irritating frequent shouts from neighbours. Mama Junior and her likes will have a breather in July. But this will be rather brief for after that comes August, start of the ‘notorious’ European leagues. She is already cracking her head on how to cure Junior of this addiction to international football. She is considering sending him to the village to continue his academic pursuits there. But she learns that this may not achieve the desired result because the bug of international soccer has caught up with villagers and viewing centres are also springing up like mushrooms there. So what to do? Banish football?