We sauntered onto the road the night the trophy was lifted.

It has been a day of enjoyment, excitement, friendship, arguments, predictions, shouts and legal debauchery.

Tell me who wouldn’t fully enjoy a public holiday which commemorates the return to Democracy of one’s country. What makes it all the more better was the final game between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and her Ivorian opponents. The rivalry between both teams go way back to Senegal 81, when Michel Bassole scored the winning goal from the penalty spot for The Elephants in Senegal. This is 2013 and the opportunity presents itself on the 3rd day of the 3rd month for the redemption of The Green Jersey from the inflicted damages of the past by the Orange Men from West Africa.

 It promised to be a long night of enjoyment we thought.

The host, Morocco, had been eliminated by Ivory Coast in the Semi Final - the Atlas Lions had played brilliantly and everyone thought the game would end in penalties, but such expectations were dumped in the bad basket of football history, when a 110th minute substitute Gervinho came on. The former Arsenal but now CSKA Moscow player had suffered a concussion in the Quarters, when he collided with a Malian defender, Traore Samadu. It was then not surprising that the coach Kalusha Bwalya made him start from the bench in their outing against the host nation.

The frenzied fans of the elephants were enjoying themselves, as they moved in unison from right to left, while the Moroccan supporters equally made music, shouting themselves to high heavens. The sportsmanship was evident, so is the friendship you’d expect from both high-caliber teams. This rave was to get another colouration when Yaya Toure languidly launched a sublime pass through Hafik Tarik’s midfield, beating the best Moroccan midfielder on the night. Gervinho, saw it coming and rounded Ousmane Hassan on the left flank, controlled the ball with his left to his right foot, driving an angular from the front of the eighteen yard box, to beat Mohammad Hanas as the ball curled into the left side of the net.

That was the terminus for the host nation and the progression into final for the Ivorians.
Nigeria rounded off their Senegalese ambitions within the 90 minute mark but it did not come easy. 
Although El Hadji Diouf had replicated his outstanding Liverpool form on the day, dribbling past Echiejile, who looked lethargic, playing a dummy on Adeleye before blasting home from 33 yards in the 33rd minute, the story was to be re-written in the second half.

The friendship with which the team began the game fizzled off, as Coach Stephen Keshi must have read the riot act to them at the interlude. Every Super Eagles player looked sober, fighting as though wounded, winning a penalty in the 53rd minute when Ahmed Musa’s pace was cut short in the penalty box by Dramani Traore. Mikel Obi converted from the spot.

Extra time was 33 seconds away from the 3 minutes given for the period. The Senegalese never backed down since the equalizer, doling out in commensurate measure, every artistry cum deft touches on the ball. Nigeria rattled their bar three times, with goalkeeper Samson Inuwa looking bemused on the occasions; Senegal’s goalkeeper, Keita Mahmud made three saves as well, preventing Nigeria three times with the tip of his gloves. Infringement also stood at three each as shown on the score board. Referee Makhidile Nukampayo of South Africa had allowed the harmless football tempest to sweep everyone off their feet. If football ever allowed for friendship, then this game could not be described as the consolidation of football friendship. Business at its height was the order.

A 93rd minute deflection ended the football fracas, when Heartland’s Agbofure had his shot deflected into the opponent’s net by Babatunde Ogbonna. Graveyard should be noisier with the way the Senegalese supporters went quiet. The final was Eagles port of call.

The Super Eagles shared the same hotel with their Ivorian counterparts, as the former French colony had to move there after they experienced some security breach by restive supporters who could not stomach Morocco’s exit from the African National Championships. So it happened, that on the night the Eagles were celebrating their victory over Senegal, the Ivorians threw caution to the winds and for once before a final game, drank and ate with their West African opponents. 33 Export Lager flowed freely. The game was in four days and friendship only mattered to them at that point in time. Even the coaches joined in, seeing no need to deter friendship when such opportunities to mingle do not come as often as one would have wanted it. The neighbours from the same region celebrated their dominance in the competition.
The computer graphics on display around the pitch scrolled and re-scrolled 33 Export Lager…Friendship just got better. This is a CAF organized competition as such the adverts cannot be controlled by the teetotaler nation.
The King Said Al Sabdakar stadium was agog. 50,000 capacity seemed to spill over, but such may not be unexpected as Morocco had trounced Senegal a day before, clinching the Bronze medal after putting 3 un-replied goals past them.

The Ivorians had fought determinedly from two goals down to equalize 2-2, They pushed harder and had a third, only for Awala Joseph to bring it to three apiece at the 93rd minute.
Then a fan ran onto the pitch and the referee brought the game to a halt, pausing for 3 minutes until sanity returned.

It was at the end of the 3 squared minutes that Victor Moses turned the game on its head, curling with outside of his right foot into opponent’s net. The referee had given the ball to Ivory Coast players, expecting a fair play to Nigeria. This they did, but the god of soccer had decided
33 bolstered our friendship as we chorused home.

‘Naija no dey carry last’


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