‘Winning’ is not only about coming ‘first’

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From AFCON 2023, Nigeria gave a new and interesting definition to ‘winning’. The country’s national team, the Super Eagles, for four weeks, provided the glue that united the country at a time when the country was going through difficult times in perennial economic, political and social challenges.

As the Super Eagles, a team that was not given a chance to win by fanatical Nigerian football fans on the even of the championship, started to play well and to win matches in dramatic fashion, the spirit of nationalism took over the country. Temporarily, for a few weeks, Nigerians set aside their hardship, divisions and differences, and focused attention on the feel-good success of the Eagles on the football field.

Even President Bola Tinubu became a part of the championship, following the Super Eagles on television all the way to the final match. With hopes sky-high, the entire country rallied around the team and supported their bid to win the most prestigious sports trophy in Africa, only for the hopes to be dashed at the last hurdle.

Despite the disappointment of that defeat, the country demonstrated uncommon appreciation of what the team had done for the psyche of the citizens during the period, a reminder of positive possibilities beyond AFCON, by spreading out the Red Carpet to welcome back the football heroes, compensating the team that came second with rewards unheard of in sports history. It was a beautiful confirmation of that Olympic truism that to be a ‘winner’ you do not have to come ‘first’.God willing, I shall be at the Paris 2024 Olympics to report Nigeria’s success, first hand!

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