So, in this space and for the next 15 weeks until after the end of the championship, I shall be taking readers through an incredible journey, an unforgettable experience, through the many tributaries of the World Cup, with special attention paid to Africa’s 5 representatives, particularly, the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
As all eyes would now be focused on the players, the main actors in this unscripted drama that promises everything in excitement, suspense, permutations, disappointments and successes, I will attempt to pry open the ‘hearts’ of players and their handlers to unravel what lurks in there as the championship inches closer.
Interestingly, on the eve of the World Cup, some of the world’s greatest teams and players are already putting up fantastic rehearsals that indicate that the world is in for a treat when June 12 finally arrives.
The ongoing European club championship, where the vast majority of the best players in the world at the moment have been playing, is providing a window through which we are already peeping into the World Cup proper. The football has simply been superb, unpredictable, breathless and exhilarating.
Only a few other times in the history of the game has there been such a rich collection of some of the most talented players playing in the same era in the same continent, in the same continental competition so close to the World Cup.
These are the players that have now influenced the game’s astronomical growth. Looking at the football played when the World Cup in 1938 and comparing it to where the game is today makes the game almost unrecognizable.
Although, basically, football has remained the same game, the advancements in the level of athleticism and fitness of the players, the speed of the movement of the players and the ball, innovations in playing systems and organizational patterns, some rules of the game, technology, television production and coverage, officiating aides and excellent grass turfs, have all combined to take the game to new and unprecedented heights. These days, when a player is considered exceptional, he is truly exceptional.
We are, therefore, very lucky to be alive at this time in history to witness, and be part of, a World Cup that will showcase the likes of Messi (the most accomplished and, perhaps, the greatest human to ever play the game), Ronaldo (another exceptional athlete and one of the sharpest forwards and best scorers in the history of the game), Neymar, Iniesta, Xavi, Pique, Robben, Neuer, Alaba, Suarez, and so many others, in one package.
They have all emerged in this incredible era, playing in different national teams to make the second World Cup to be held in Brazil a most unpredictable and open championship. Any one of several teams in the world in 2014 can win this one, from hosts Brazil, to Argentina, to Spain, to Germany and even to some dark horses including Nigeria!
Brazil also provides a unique atmosphere outside the field of play that promises to add social incentives for all football fans. Brazilians know how to celebrate!
In Brazil football, the beaches and samba are in an intricate perpetual romance – you can’t separate them! So, the world should be ready for a true festival.
On this page, I intend to attempt to capture them all and bring to readers in captivating exclusive interviews, previews, reviews, analysis, commentaries, diaries, sights and sounds.
It has been 33 years since my last visit to Brazil. I still remember it the way it was – a country under construction (cranes everywhere), but beautiful with great beaches, enchanting tourist sites, bikini-clad molatto girls, the sound of music everywhere and a fanatical football following that will teach the rest of the world what it means to be a true fan of the game.
I can’t wait to return to the country to see what I hear has become an unprecedented infrastructural, economic and social transformation, and to share my experiences with all readers of this page that are ready to view every aspect of Brazil 2014 and Nigeria’s part in it through the lenses of my eyes.
I shall train my on Nigeria’s Super Eagles, follow their advancement from preparation through to the championship, up until they get to as far as they can go (which I hope will be all the way to the semi’s at least)!
As current African champions expectation about how far they can go is extremely high indeed. The feeling is that if any African country will advance to the semis of the championship it is likely to be Nigeria.
It is in that hope that I embark on this journey that starts here next week! I invite all to share it with me.
World Cup Football Mastermind.
I am preparing a bonus package for readers of this page.
First a question: Which is the best way to watch the World Cup finals?
Some people will say, go to the venue of the match and watch the game live! Okay, I concede that you cannot beat the atmosphere of a live match, particularly when your team is playing. Unfortunately, for most people, their team never gets to play in the finals.
So, for the vast majority, the next best way (indeed for some it is the better option) is to watch proceedings in the company of a large audience of friends in front of a large television screen!
The beauty of this is that they have the privilege of seeing everything a live audience would see plus more – what a great television coverage will provide in slow motion replays, expert match analysis, informed commentaries, views from several angles, and none of the nuisance of human traffic in the stadia.
Well, here is the good news. A reader will have the opportunity of enjoying that experience. The reader will sit in the comfort of their home, in front of the latest state-of-the-art television screens and watch the World Cup final!
This is the Star prize (a 52-inch LG super screen television set) of a quiz competition to be called World Cup Mastermind. This will be presented to a reader that emerges winner at the end of a marathon 10-week competition.
For 10 weeks I shall be asking a series of 10 questions every week on Africa and the World Cup. At the end of the 10th week there would have been 100 questions in all.
The person that answers the most questions correctly wins the single Star prize that will be delivered to him or her anywhere in Nigeria one week to the final match of the World Cup.
The rules of participation will be provided next week. So, watch out as I pitch my knowledge against yours in what would be an interesting duel. I can’t wait!