By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Football is an earthquake larger than the Richter scale.
I should know because I played the game. In certain locales, more people know me as an expired football player than even as a journalist or poet.
It is my attachment to the game that makes me to state that nobody on God’s earth can forget in a hurry the noise of football going home or to Rome when two soccer-mad nations, England and Italy, squared up for the just-concluded Euro 2020 final match.
The noisiest journalists on earth, the British Press, especially the sports wing, hyped up the encounter as England’s surefire avenue to end 55 years of not winning any international tournament since carting home the World Cup on home soil back in 1966.
In the end, it was yet another heartbreak night for England as Italy won the match via penalty shootout.
The pulsating matchup that even got associated with Church of England’s Anglicanism versus Roman Catholicism ended up with the three black players, Rashford and Sancho and Saka, who missed their penalty-kicks being brutally racially abused.
Football can bring out the best and worst in mankind all at the same time, not minding that it is gloriously called the beautiful game.
Sulking England with her high claims of being the home of football, and teaching the world to play saw their fans beating up the hapless Italian fans after the defeat at the iconic Wembley Stadium.
Away from Wembley and the catastrophic defeat of England, let’s take a trip to the other end of the earth, that is, South America, where Lionel Messi ended the hoodoo of never ever leading his native Argentina to win an international trophy.
Messi’s Argentina defeated Brazil 1-0 in the wee hours of the morning at Maracana Stadium with the goal coming off the boot of Angel Di Maria in the 22nd minute.
The Argentine victory has thus shot up the rating of Lionel Messi as the GOAT of global football.
How can Lion turn to Goat? This is an important question I need to answer immediately before I can make further progress!
GOAT translates to “Greatest Of All Time’’ in any endeavour or sport such as Lawn Tennis where Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are tied on winning 20 Grand Slams.
In modern football, Messi has a great rival in Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and the fans of the two great players cannot yield any grounds whatsoever in arguing the case of their darling as the GOAT of football.
Football fans of the past era would cite Pele of Brazil as the GOAT only for the adorers of Maradona of Argentina to cite their recently deceased idol as the best.
Super patriots of Nigeria are wont to make the point that Tesilimi “Thunder’’ Balogun ought to come into the GOAT question for it to make any Nigerian meaning!
Incidentally there was the fabled case of legendary Thunder Balogun being reminded by a fan back then to remember his “dangerous left’’ whereupon he unleashed a thunderous left-footer that instantly killed the keeper and tore the net at the same time!
It is my regret that I did not remember to check the authenticity of the story with Thunder Balogun’s son, Kayode “Zege’’ Balogun, who was my teammate back then at Great Ife!
This article started with the claim of England being the home of football, but this runs counter to my short story entitled “Football Made In Nigeria’’, published in the authoritative world class magazine The Global Game.
This story which has been studied as a set text in some Scandinavian schools was chosen and first published in French in a World Cup selection of stories from across the globe edited by Abdoulrahman A. Waberi.
Against the grain of proper professional footballers and writers who insist on getting paid, I found it too prosaic to process the Euros due to me as royalty which given the exchange rate of today ought to have made me quite cash heavy.
Of course the payment lapsed, just as I did not ask for nor collect a kobo for my piece entitled “The Match That Broke The Myth’’ published in the English reader Intensive English for Nigerian Secondary Schools which has been read by most students for their school certificate exams.
For me, football, like writing, is fun and not a life and death matter, but the legendary Liverpool Manager, Bill Shankly, differs markedly with me when he said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that”. Now that one is dealing with a matter that is more serious than life and death, I have to stop writing before I am annihilated by the quaking English fans and their press for my lack of seriousness in matters as dangerous as football and writing!