I love football. Honestly, I am such a huge fan. I used to play when I was in primary and secondary school until sadly my parents shattered my dream of becoming the best female football player in the world. LOL OK cool, I lied, that wasn’t my dream but still, I was deprived of the opportunity. Back then my parents couldn’t imagine a woman being a footballer. Women’s football wasn’t big in the 90s and to be quite frank, it still isn’t that big now. Even though it has come a long way in publicity, it just isn’t that financially rewarding.
Football is a big business in England but when it comes to hosting the World Cup…it probably wouldn’t happen in my lifetime but I just knew I had to see the tournament somewhere, somehow. South Africa World Cup 2010 would’ve been perfect for me to watch the games but I just couldn’t afford to go. Then came World Cup 2014 to be hosted by Brazil; the must go to destination in South America. Brazil; the home of some of the finest players we’ve seen such as Ronaldo (not the model looking one that plays for Real Madrid), Ronaldinho and Neymar Junior. All I could think of was how to make this happen!
Just 2 weeks before kick off I was lucky to have made a contact at BEN TV who got me a press pass to follow the Nigerian football team throughout the group stages. How amazing to be going to a World Cup, having exclusive access to a team and travelling to Brazil? Pretty awesome right?! For an average fan yes, but the World Cup isn’t all it’s cracked up to be from a players’ point of view. This is a serious job and they aren’t out and about having a good time soaking up the ambience with the fans. For most part of the day players are stuck in the hotel apart from when it’s time to train or play a match. I flew to Sao Paulo and joined the team in Campinas, which is a couple of hours away from the main city area. The team trained at the Guarani Futebol Clube, which was just a few minutes drive from the hotel. I wasn’t surprised to see so many Nigerians at the training ground as we all know Nigerians are everywhere. I even met the President of the Nigerian Community who said
‘There are thousands of Nigerians scattered around Brazil. Even people from other parts of Africa come to Brazil and claim to be Nigerian because people think Nigerians are tough so the locals won’t mess with them’.
Due to time constraints I only managed to watch the Argentina v Nigeria game in Porto Alegre. It was such a nice day, walking down the streets with the masses to the Estadio Beira-Rio stadium. The Argentinians were friendly and kept shouting ‘hey Nigeria, photo, photo’. After a few pictures I was shattered. I couldn’t smile any more. After a few minutes of walking I finally saw some Nigerians. It was really good to see the support of the Nigerian fans who came from all over to watch their team. The stadium was huge and buzzing with a great atmosphere. We couldn’t understand what the Argentinian fans were shouting but apparently it was directed at Brazilians.
After a couple of days of following the team, I flew to Rio de Janeiro. I really wanted to see the Christ the Reedemer statue, walk on the sands of Copacabana and take in the sweet smells of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Rio was so congested at that time, streets filled with traffic, beaches littered with people and soldiers armed and alert. I felt safe, especially as I had such a lovely driver who took me around town. I drove past the favella’s, went down town, saw the street markets and the trendy parts too. On the beach, the locals came up to me touching my braids and asking me to take pictures with them. Every first question was ‘are you Nigerian?’ There were so many other African nationalities there from Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal but the locals just seemed fascinated by Nigerians.
Ever been to a World Cup or visited Brazil? Share comments below about your experience.