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Despite the defeat suffered by the of Nigeria in their encounters with Argentina and France in the ongoing World Cup competition in Brazil, many Nigerians still follow the round leather game with interest.
Karl Marx once said that religion is the opium of the masses but now is. Only that is not just the opium of the masses, it is also of people in general, the masses and the elite. Some people have claimed, not without their reasons, that is now a religion with the largest number of adherents.
That our elite are also obsessed with football is well known. A recent example is that last Wednesday (July 2, 2014), the Federal Executive Council sitting in Aso Rock, Abuja, devoted some time to the analysis of the performance of the Super Eagles at its meeting, chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, who addressed journalists after the meeting, the Council analysed the performance of our boys congratulated them because other giants of football did not perform better. His words:
“You can look at the performances of some giants like the defending champions, Spain, that did not go beyond the first round. Italy, which has won this Cup three times didn’t also go beyond the first round, so Nigeria did better than Spain and Italy which are previous winners and better than several other countries. On a serious note, even England that founded football didn’t go beyond the first round!”
But this piece is not about Mr. Maku giving us good excuses for failure or the Federal Executive Council being “busy” analysing football, it is  actually about life and the wisdom of Vincent Thomas ‘Vince’ Lombardi, in line with the spirit of the season.
Famously known as Vince Lombardi, the legendary American football coach was insightful and successful. As the head coach of the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s, Lombardi led his team to three straight championships winning the first two Super Bowls following the 1966 and 1967 National Football League (NFL) seasons. In honour of his coaching skills, the NFL’s Super Bowl trophy is named after him.
It was Lomardi who said, “Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” The more one thinks of it, the more one is enthralled by his compelling simile because such is life.
My brother, this life is hard; Nigeria is hard. Horace Walpole was spot on when he said, “Life is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think”. For many Nigerians, life is a tragedy and they feel it seriously in death, insecurity, misery and extreme poverty that are our lot.
The Nigerian situation requires perseverance, like the perseverance of a tired player who must keep on running and playing till the end of the game. In all circumstances, perseverance is virtuous and Nigerians need to persevere as we hope for a better tomorrow.
Then, there is self denial, which is also key to success. There are many students and others who want to enjoy their way to success. They want to achieve academic success but still desire to attend parties, watch movies all day and consume music and all other stuffs. It is whimsical. Things are bad but can they still be worse, if we are not careful and persevering.
Meanwhile, self denial is akin to sacrifice and sacrifice makes a man. The level of success is often directly proportional to the cost of self denial or sacrifice invested in the process. You don’t want to live long without denying yourself of the vacuous fad of smoking, drinking and other dangerously trendy life styles including drug abuse and casual sex.
Moreover, it takes a lot of hard work to succeed. The Super Eagles, we all know, worked hard! If one works hard enough, one would succeed. As the mercurial former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islam Affairs, Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede, once told a youth magazine, “Hard work does not kill”. As a student, without hard work, whatever you call yourself, you won’t soar like an eagle and you will be far from being super if you are not hard working!
Also, we have to be dedicated to the Nigerian project, our people, our studies and every positive cause we are engaged in. Without dedication, nothing spectacular can be achieved. If a student is dedicated, even failure is an “energizer”. I failed JAMB examinations twice, yes, not making the cut-off mark was a failure too, and my eyes opened wide!
Lastly, we have to respect our leaders even if we criticise them because they are in charge. I love the wit of the Ghana coach in this World Cup, James Kwesi Appiah, when his team crashed out of the competition. He said, “I’ve been criticized but after a defeat you don’t expect people to praise you – and in Ghana, we have 25 million coaches.” Nigeria has 170 million.
We have to respect our leaders, the constituted authorities, as a player has to respect the coach for obvious reasons. Like football, if we play the game of life well and fairly, we will score excellent goals, believe me!

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