Rus­sia 2018: Nige­ria to face Ar­gentina again

Weekly Trust - - Front Page -

I am very ex­cited and ag­i­tated at the same time.

There is so much play­ing around my mind that I will re­ally make an ef­fort to make some sense of it all in this piece to­day.

First, my ex­cite­ment.

In the next few weeks Africa will be cel­e­brat­ing a brand new African Player of the year. It is go­ing to be ei­ther Mo­hamed Salah of Liver­pool FC and Egypt, or Vic­tor Moses of Chelsea FC and Nige­ria. Ei­ther way a new king shall rule African foot­ball for the next one year. Ex­cit­ing as that is, it is dwarfed by what is hap­pen­ing to three past win­ners of the same award at the mo­ment.

They present hope for good and pro­gres­sive gov­er­nance in Africa and a bright fu­ture for the Black race all over the world.

Usu­ally, for some strange and un­de­fined rea­son, high pro­file foot­ballers ei­ther never think about po­lit­i­cal of­fice af­ter their ca­reers or never get the es­sen­tial sup­port needed to seek for of­fice within the cor­ri­dors of foot­ball ad­min­is­tra­tion and na­tional politics.

Ge­orge Opong Weah is about to rewrite that out­dated script.

The only African player to win the African, Euro­pean and World Foot­baller of the year awards in the same year is about to be­come the Pres­i­dent of his coun­try, Liberia.

In or­der to ven­ture into par­ti­san politics and to seek the high­est of­fice in the land, Ge­orge be­came a leader in his coun­try, fund­ing var­i­ous pro­jects within his lo­cal com­mu­nity and also at na­tional level in­clud­ing bear­ing the as­tro­nom­i­cal cost of the par­tic­i­pa­tion of his na­tional team in many international com­pe­ti­tions, of­fer­ing schol­ar­ships to the youths, sup­port­ing sev­eral poverty re­duc­tion pro­jects, and be­ing an ad­vo­cate for the ces­sa­tion of the civil war that dev­as­tated and rav­aged his coun­try for many years.

The Liberian peo­ple saw him as a true leader by ac­knowl­edg­ing and ap­pre­ci­at­ing him be­yond his foot­ball ex­ploits, his global achieve­ments and hu­man­i­tar­ian works, and hear­kened to his call to be­come their po­lit­i­cal leader. But for Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo’s in­ter­ven­tion at the time, even with­out the es­sen­tial solid ed­u­ca­tional foun­da­tion to lead a dev­as­tated coun­try like Liberia, he would have won the elec­tions 10 years ago by a land­slide.

2018 is now here.

Ge­orge has gone back to school and ob­tained the aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions and knowl­edge re­quired, and is now ready to lead not just his coun­try, but join the new global strug­gle of the Black race for re­spect, eq­uity, true free­dom from men­tal and phys­i­cal en­slave­ment, and jus­tice in the world.

That’s why it is likely he be­comes the next Pres­i­dent of Liberia.

Sa­muel Eto Fils is another African player of great international re­pute, a three-time win­ner of Africa’s most pres­ti­gious in­di­vid­ual foot­ball award, a player so good he played along­side Lionel Messi in the great­est team, prob­a­bly, in the his­tory of foot­ball - FC Barcelona. He won Euro­pean and African awards for his ex­ploits in the best Euro­pean clubs as well as his coun­try’s na­tional team. Whilst in Barcelona, he was so good that Lionel Messi de­scribed him as the best cen­tre-for­ward of that gen­er­a­tion in the world.

His con­duct and ac­tions on the field of play at a time earned him a global rep­u­ta­tion. His story in a match be­tween Barcelona and Zaragoza in the La Liga re­mains etched for­ever in the con­science of the world.

Fol­low­ing ‘mon­key’ chants by the racist home fans of Zaragoza FC ev­ery time he had the ball, in anger and frus­tra­tion, Eto de­cided to walk out of the field in protest de­spite en­treaties by his sym­pa­thetic team mates to con­tinue the now halted match. Even the cen­tre-ref­eree ap­pealed to him to re­main, com­plete the match and shame the dis­trac­tors. He re­fused. It was his coach that met him by the side of the field and told him that leav­ing the field would change noth­ing, but play­ing well de­spite the dis­trac­tive chants and de­feat­ing his ‘en­e­mies’ would change ev­ery­thing by shut­ting them up! That’s ex­actly what hap­pened. He re­turned to the field, scored one of the goals FC Barcelona scored that evening in bury­ing Zaragoza in an avalanche of 4 goals. Eto’s was the sweet­est! The chant­ing racist sup­port­ers were shut up!

Since that in­ci­dent Eto learnt a great les­son in how to deal with racists and has be­come a global am­bas­sador of Black Africans fight against global racism.

The third player I was re­fer­ring to at the start of this col­umn is a ‘god’ in his na­tive Ivory Coast. A mul­ti­ple win­ner of the African Player of the year award also, and one of the great­est strik­ers in the his­tory of Euro­pean foot­ball, Diedre Drogba, stands like a Colos­sus in Ivory Coast. His story out­side the field of foot­ball is the stuff of legends.

In 2005, af­ter 5 years of a bloody Civil War that had rav­aged Cote D’Ivoire, wasted thou­sands of lives and made the coun­try a des­ti­tute na­tion with un­end­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis and a crip­pling econ­omy, Diedre Drogba led his coun­try’s na­tional team to qual­ify for the 2006 World Cup.

This was at a pe­riod when the same coun­try had gone ‘mad’ with broth­ers sense­lessly killing and maim­ing each other as a re­sult of po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences that es­ca­lated and de­gen­er­ated to the ex­tent of start­ing the blood­i­est war in the his­tory of the coun­try.

On the day the team qual­i­fied for the World Cup Drogba seized the op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress his coun­try­men and women. In the dress­ing room in front of na­tional tele­vi­sion cam­eras that had come to cover the cel­e­bra­tions amongst the vic­to­ri­ous play­ers, Drogba went on knees and with his team mates be­hind him, ap­pealed to his coun­try’s leader, Pres­i­dent Gbabo, to end the war, and to his coun­try­men and women to bury the hatchet and stop the wan­ton killings and de­struc­tion of lives and prop­erty so that the peo­ple can cel­e­brate and en­joy the vic­tory of their am­bas­sadors - the Ele­phants!.

One week af­ter that ap­peal for peace the 5 years old war was halted by the war­ring armies.

There could have been no greater demon­stra­tion of love for Ivory Coast’s great­est am­bas­sador. The peo­ple’s pos­i­tive re­sponse to him is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of their love and re­spect for him. In that West African coun­try Drogba is a king!

He has been ex­tend­ing his good for­tune to the needy, and sup­port­ing good causes amongst the un­der-priv­i­leged in Ivory Coast, par­tic­u­larly the chil­dren and youths through ed­u­ca­tion, skills ac­qui­si­tion and de­vel­op­ment, and other work, health and wealth cre­ation pro­jects. This past week he has been at the joint Euro­pean Union and African Union sum­mit hold­ing in Abidjan cut­ting his teeth in international diplo­macy.

If Eto and Drogba are not con­sid­er­ing it yet, the re­cent de­vel­op­ments in neigh­bour­ing Liberia, where Ge­orge is con­vert­ing all the virtues and val­ues that foot­ball in­cul­cated in him - dis­ci­pline, team work, pa­tience, ded­i­ca­tion, pas­sion, the win­ning spirit, con­quer­ing fail­ure, us­ing the power of foot­ball to fight global causes in­clud­ing racism, dis­ease and il­lit­er­acy - should wake them up to the present op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to them to present them­selves a new kind of lead­er­ship of the Black race from their coun­tries!

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