By Kayode Ketefe
“Strange things happen at midday” is a memorable quote from William Golding’s classic “Lord of the Flies”; an outlandish event that thrusts that clause again into one’s consciousness recently happened. As we have just begun the last six months of this eventful 2013, perhaps, one can mirthfully refer to the said recent incident by saying, in Nigeria, “Strange things happen at mid-year!”
While the locale of that novel where strange things happened at noon was a desolate, god-forsaken uninhabited island, the Nigerian society claims to be among the centerpieces of modern human hustle bustle and civilisation, and what is more, a nation connected to full glare and audience of the global community courtesy of the Information and Communication Technology.
Well, the strange things that happened was the bizarre football matches involving two lower division sides Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine, who were attempting to outwit each other to gain promotion to the Third Division of the Nigerian Professional League.
The two teams were on level point and had only their respective last match to play on Monday to see which of them would be promoted. Then the unthinkable happened. Plateau United Feeders defeated Akurba FC 79-0, while Police Machine FC massacred Babayaro FC 67-0. My God!
What made the matter palpably amenable to allegations of bribery and match fixing is that Plateau United Feeder was just leading 7-0 while Police Machine was leading by 6-0 at half time, but within the last half of the match, the former scored 72 more goals while the latter pumped in additional 61 goals. So the story is that two Nigerian teams scored between themselves whopping 146 goals within a space of 90 minutes on the same day and simultaneously against two different opponents none which could even manage to score single a goal! What a soccer abracadabra!
Apparently scandalised, the Nigerian Football Federation, has reacted to this bizarre news, describing it as “”a mind-boggling show of shame.” The federation’s Chairman, Mr. Muke Umeh, said “It is unacceptable, being a scandal of huge proportions. The teams are suspended indefinitely, pending further sanctions.”
Also Speaking to BBC, sport, The NFF’s director of competitions, Dr Mohammed Sanusi, vowed that the regulatory body would get to the root of the matter and dispense severe sanctions on all persons and institutions indicted by the investigation, added “The teams involved, their players and officials, match officials, coordinator and anyone found to have played some role in this despicable matter would be severely dealt with.”
Expectedly, the news of this “soccer miracle” was everywhere, including, BBC, AP, UK Guardian, Telegraph, Yahoo News, Ireland Eurosport etc to mention a few of the foreign media.
Looking at it from logical perspective, it would appear that the teams spied on each other’s game (as the matches took place simultaneously) by live telecast reporting via mobile phones, and each being determined to outdo the other at all cost, threw caution and even rationality to the wind in the greedy and selfish passion to go goal-haywire.
Well, this development is yet another unwitting advertisement of our nation as a failed system where corruption renders anything possible? The hitherto recorded biggest score line in football history was 36-0 when Arbroath beat Bon Accord in a Scottish Cup match on 12 September 1885. The closest to that almost mythical scoreline happened in more recent time when Australia vanquished American Samoa 31-0 in a 2002 World Cup qualifying match which held on April 11, 2001.
But the Nigerian soccer miracle has dwarfed all those feats. 146 goals in two interrelated games! That should have entered into the Guinness Book of Record if they were goals genuinely scored in a game you and I know as football. But what happened last Monday was not football; perhaps “fraudball” would be more apt to describe it.
Why not claiming to be in possession of every material fact on what actually transpired in the last Monday games, the humongous scorelines inexorably give rise to the a situation in law when we say “Res Ipsa Loquitur” that is, “the facts speak for themselves”.
The problem in Nigeria is that each time scandalous, shameful or terrible things happened; our leaders do often gloss over them. After all, we have witnessed more outlandish incidences in our electoral practices, like when returned votes were two or more times greater in number than registered voters of a particular constituency and yet the results had been allowed to stay!
The outrage being felt by the NFF over this as evinced in the avowal to investigate and punish those found culpable, may sound reassuring, but we have also witnessed situations of more severe vituperations in the past that ended up in anti-climax.
The Nigerian football is still yet to find its way out of the “traditional problems” like maladministration, poor funding, corruption, cheating via using overage or ineligible players, favouritism and nepostism in selection of players, mafia within the national teams, strike or threat of strike by players over bonus row and inept officiating, however if we allow outrageous scandal like the one that happened last Monday to keep haunting us, it may spell the doom of Nigerian soccer.
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