|Croatian President and French President during the final game of the World Cup|
Interestingly, in the next four years, when the world will be converging on Qatar to witness the first World Cup to be hosted by an Arab Nation and the twenty-second edition of the competition, the people of Ekiti State, in Nigeria, barring any legal alteration at the heels of the just concluded election, would be converging at the polls to elect another governor; they would be at the polls shopping for the governor who would pay more money for their Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) and trammel them for another four years if there is no change in how our society now works.
Meanwhile, an audacious France on the other hand, would be riding on an ambitious crest with a singular mission of extending its dominance in the World of soccer to an enviable height and make its citizens prouder. To France, the 2018 competition was an investment initiated in 2014 when they were piped in the quarter-finals by tournament eventual winners, Die Mannschaft, the German national team. Ironically, to the People of Ekiti, 2014 was an investment which reduced them to abject poverty in 2018. Ekiti went to the polls last Saturday, breathing faintly and sickly under the backlog of seven months unpaid salary to State workers, nine months unpaid salary owed Local Government workers and three months unpaid salary owed the workers of the Ekiti State University by the Fayose administration. The pensioners are not left out of this shackle of woes which be-dogged the Ayo Fayose’s administration which Prof. Eleka, the candidate fielded by the PDP was a prominent member.
Different stroke for different flock!
Ekiti State and the State of France in this flip of historical moments are what could be described as the antithesis of development. Two parallel World Orders of excellence and incompetence; a society that places premium on human resources, harnessing them from variant roots, making them work for excellence under a clement atmosphere and the one that starves the human resources at its disposal to death, managing them under the shackles of ‘despotic machinations and totalitarian impunity’ and still expecting nothing but appreciative votes from them.
Away from the undemocratic election of Ekiti State, the 21st World Cup has come and gone – with sixty-four matches played, stretched over a period of one month, and a trophy won – without leaving us to ponder on the most expensive tournament ever with estimated figures standing towering at 14.2 billion dollars which halves Nigeria’s budget for the 2018 economic year. Despite this astronomical figure, the World Cup has been claimed by many as one deprived of the glamour which characterized the 2014 tournament hosted by Brazil. Meanwhile, the event ended with a lot of moments to ruminate on.
Russia hosted the event battling with controversial and image-tarnishing occupation of Syria; seeing to thousands of people die in a war not nearing an end and annexing Crimea. These are however in isolation of being alleged of meddlesomeness in the US election and the recent allegation of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal which incited a World Cup boycott from the Buckingham Palace. Despite these controversial issues rocking the boat of Russia’s hosting rights and implementation, the World Cup was described by FIFA President as ‘the best World Cup’ and the Russian team progressed beyond expectation only to be denied a historic progression into the last four despite its deserving efforts. This is a surreptitious message to Vladmir Putin and what he represents in world politics that he cannot continue to enjoy the World he is ripping apart with ‘grenades.’
In a direct reversal to Putin’s ‘patriarchal policies’ – where he is exerting his influence on big players of world politics – is a Croatian team bathed in matriarchy, which emerged from the arrays of the regular teams in the World Cup to becoming one of the most respected. The accolades which trailed the Croatian team can be said to be more than the success achieved. The social media was agog for them and the world stood for a President whose effervescence was touching and colourful like the red and white Croatian jersey she donned whenever she’s seen. She also made a duty of moral correctness to board an economy flight with the Croatian’s players in order to cheer them in matches, refusing to be paid for days absent in office – this act, in relation to governance in Africa is exemplary. Also, the care with which she attended to the defeated Croatian players at the final was enviable, soothing, and symbolical. It was matriarchy at its peak. This matriarchal disposition has questioned the supremacy of patriarchy which has risen to tear the world apart through wars and unhealthy sanctions. Croatia might have been pushed to settle for a second place, but they left the scene bigger than they came. This development might change the world’s perception about them hence, raking in gains politically and economically. Furthermore, Grabar-Kitarovic’s maturity and friendly disposition to Emmanuel Macron became the cynosure of all eyes. Both leaders exemplified how World leaders ought to relate with themselves. It won’t be surprising if the two young leaders leave Russia with their countries in a cemented diplomatic tie, dripping with mutual benefits than before the World Cup. The World will be watching keenly now how the affection of these two leaders for each other will transmogrify to something substantial. Just as Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau were fond of Obama which translated into stronger US/Germany diplomatic relations and formidable US/Canada relations – Sometimes, diplomatic relations and peaceful co-existence are triggered by the friendly disposition leaders extend to each other.
No man on earth is indispensible. Arguably, the greatest players which the World has ever known, were unceremoniously ousted from the tournament the same day at the bewilderment of all football lovers. The showpiece quickly recognized the efforts of the likes of Luka Modric, Eden Hazard and Antonnie Griezman, whose consistency have been eclipsed by the dominance of Messi and Ronaldo for years too long. Amazingly, no player got awarded outside those who have been diligent and consistent with their performance overtime. ‘Show me a man diligent in his work, he will walk before Kings and not mean men.’ These players and the officials who qualified for the final had a rare meet with three World Presidents at the same time. They shared the podium with a high-spirited and boisterous Macron, a fearful Putin, who couldn’t even feign a smile while decorating the players and an admirable and beautiful Kolinda, who won the admiration of the World. The World celebrates excellence not practices; one should strive to be excellent in whatever one does.
‘Pride goes before a fall.’ This biblical injunction best suits the character of Nikola Klanic in the World Cup who refused to play a second fiddle but eventually lost out in the World Cup which would have celebrated him. Klanic, despite all entreaties, refused to apologize to his coach after defying him. He left the tournament unapologetically, closing all doors behind him, despite knowing that Croatia will be left with only one natural striker in Mandzukic. He left without knowing Croatia will be at the final. This singular action has ruined his career. Our actions and inactions can ruin us hence, we must be careful not to be a Nikola especially in a place like Russia 2018 where surprises are common.
Argentina. Brazil. Portugal. Belgium and Germany couldn’t make it to the final. They were beaten by teams which won the trophy. This is an indication that no battle is impossible to be won. We are made to subdue all encumbrances dragooning us to a stand-still.
The World Cup also witnessed the abysmal performance of African teams which came to the tournament with high hopes but ended up not qualifying for the round of sixteen. However, as the African spirit is designed to transcend difficulties, Africa sneaked into the final by making up the bulk of the French team which won the trophy. While this opinion has been labeled racial, it remains a fact that those players were of African descent. The positive thing here is that while Trump has decided to shut his doors on immigrants, Macron has refused to close his which has remained rewarding. The danger however is that, countries in Africa, colonized by France will continue to see themselves more as French instead of Africans at this particular time when the continent is not securing the future of its teeming youths. This will greatly polarize the continent and wean it off some productive ones who should build the continent to the envy of the world.
The sack of Julen Lopetegui in the eve of the World Cup was shocking, self-destructive but self-corrective and a purge from unprofessional conduct. Signing a contract with Real Madrid when he is under contract with the Spanish team on national duty where he is expected to manage players from the two biggest sides in La Liga is unprofessional. How would personal interest and his employer’s interest not spill into his decision which is expected not to be biased? Ognjen Vukojevic, the Croatian assistant coach, too, was axed after his action after the victory over Russia was found to be capable of instigating insurrection given the sensitivity of the Ukrainian- Russian relationship. These decisions were painfully made to forestall further occurrences and to restore professionalism. When will Africa get to this level? When will Africa start addressing issues?
Tawose, a communication scholar is based in Lagos.