Listening to the French celebrate their win at the last World Cup is absolutely awe-inspiring. Africa was ousted from the onset but just read the ingenious memes on social media celebrating what someone aptly called – the United African Football Club. Leveraging on the United Colours of Africa that won the gold, the ingenious writer gives FRANCE a new name.
F – Former
R – Residents of
A – Africa
N – Now
E – Europeans.
When ingenious things go round social media, they maliciously lose their creator in a criminal twist of plagiarism. Not being a football fan, I followed the commentaries on radio. During the week, a video clip of jubilant Croatia made the rounds. The synchromatic swaying of a nation to the rhythm of the music of success was pure moment of ecstasy.
Months ago, three US-based Nigerians, Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga flew the Nigerian, nay, the African flag as a team to the Pyeonchang Winter Olympics for the first time. They got no support from their home government and absolutely were ignored because; they did not win gold medals. They won platinum in my heart.
Their story is worth retelling at this moment of frenzy and ecstasy. My Canadian neighbour, a hockey coach, brought their exploit to me. Beaming with smiles one cold winter morning, he asked if I was watching the Olympics and when I flippantly responded that as a news junkie, I get to hear stories, he went further. He said the team to beat at that event were the three African girls members of the bobsleigh team whose nation he did not know, but who sponsored themselves all the way to the Olympics. He said it made him proud to see those young girls.
You could see the hair on the nape of my head stand when I told him that the girls in question were my compatriots. He asked if I had an idea what that feat meant? To sponsor yourself as a bobsleigh team to an Olympic event? He said from the special suits they need to train, to the equipment; from the club fees to use facilities, the physiotherapy and coaching needs, to the time they would have spent practicing those girls have spent a lifetime for a sport and should be national and continental heroes.
He said even some wintery nations could not afford to send a team because of the cost which he estimated runs into millions. He said some of these nations rely on second-hand equipment to train because everything about the sport is special and constantly evolving. How three girls could beat the odds to make it in, he said should be celebrated and rewarded.
How does one explain to a Canadian him that the closest Nigeria gets to know about snow or ice is if their epileptic electricity companies gives enough power for their refrigerator to make ice blocks? Where does one start to tell the story of a nation with more talents but so little appreciated? That we devote more time to celebrating the thieves among us that the best among us are unsung?
The trio Seun, Ngozi and Akuoma are uncommon gems whose impact breaks taboos. Instead of having billboards celebrating those who would loot us dry from 2019, they should be the poster-girls of a nation in search of national cohesion. It is not often that you see a group of Nigerians born and raised in arid Texas making winter history for a nation that cares nothing for them or those associated with them.
The three had better chances of making history as track and field athletes in their native USA, even under Trump than making history in Nigeria or anywhere in Africa. After all, they were tested track and field athletes of note before patriotism and the zeal to make history called them to a game where you slide at 90 kilometers per hour. A crash could basically end their lives or careers but they did not think about that, they only had history and an ungrateful nation on their minds.
The Olympics is over and medals are not given for attending but for winning. Yes, these girls did not mount the rostrum. They have no weight of medals on their necks or adorning their homes but they have patriotism in their hearts. Yes, and they won! They won the heart of a Canadian hockey coach who was trying to draw the attention of a neighbour to their zeal and determination to raise national flag and continental accolade. They had no chance in hell of making the medals table, but they had the undaunted spirit of patriots and have since returned to their mundane lives after the attention they garnered. They made history in a positive way, not as looters, 419ers, armed robbers or criminals but as patriots.
They remain unmentioned and unsung by their government. Their unique feat was unrecognized by their country and their story died the moment they dropped out of reckoning. Games are not always played for the win, but the fun. If all we are obsessed with is with winning, then we are no good sports.
The trio may never make the dinner with President Buhari. They’re unlikely to get the national honour. Streets would be named after political thieves and social brigands, but not these ones. They did not go to PyeongChang for any of that; but until we start celebrating the best among us, we’ll always be blighted by the antics of the worst in us. Here’s a belated big thank you to Adigun, Onwumere and Omeoga whose only link with motherland is their tongue-twisting names but who were not ashamed to be called – Nigerians! Someday in a true Nigeria, history would remember and honour you. Let’s hope that happens soon.