I love football. I have done a lot of silly things because of football, chief among them being hiding one in my bag when I was writing my Junior Secondary School Certificate Exam. I never cared about my books. All that mattered was the ball.
I always thought I would forge a career as a world class player, follow in the footsteps of my idol Kaka’, dribble with flair like Ronaldinho, execute deftly like Ronaldo deLima, possess the shot power of Roberto Carlos and be the free-kick specialist that Juninho Pernambucano was.
I dreamt of winning the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards again and again. I dreamt of leading my beloved Nigeria to the African Cup of Nations title again and again with a World Cup victory sandwiched in between. I dreamt I would retire a legend, and after twenty years of active football playing, I would go on to become a coach and repeat those feats again and again.
This was my dream… until harsh reality dawned on me in my penultimate year in secondary school when my Yoruba teacher, with whom I had no love lost for, said, “YOU CAN NEVER PLAY FOOTBALL AGAIN AS A PROFESSIONAL, YOU GUYS ARE TOO OLD”. It seemed like he had stuck a knife in my gut. So I would never be a professional footballer again?
My happily-ever-after became a doubt, a big one, and that was how I forgot I ever wanted to be a great footballer. But, let it be known, football still runs in my veins and it’s my passion. So whenever I see a happily-ever-after, I rejoice. I consider myself a football purist and Cinderella stories (as they call them) in football, always gives me goose bumps.
In this series, I’ll be relieving some of these happily-ever-after moments I have witnessed in my lifetime.
2002 FIFA WORLD CUP: SENEGAL, TURKEY AND KOREA REPUBLIC.
The first World Cup I ever watched was in 2002 (yeah, I’m that young). I remember getting home that afternoon of May 31 and meeting a lot of people in our compound. At the time, we stayed with Senegalese occupants. This made the tournament extra special as we all gathered to witness perhaps the biggest shock in football at the time as the Teranga Lions of Senegal stunned France in Seoul through Papa Bouba Diop’s strike..
Bruno Metsu’s men would not stop there. They would make their only world cup appearance to date count as they held Denmark to a draw before another entertaining roller-coaster against Uruguay. They however outdid themselves when Henri Camara scored in the last minute of the first half of extra time to send them through to the Quarter Final where their dreams were extinguished by Turkey.
The world had taken notice, and Senegal’s pool of Ligue 1 players were scattered across Europe in no time. However, Senegal weren’t alone in creating history. Turkey, the team that got them eliminated, created a history of their own by reaching the semis of the competition. Nobody had given a team that Pele had written off a chance.
After waking from their slumber against China, they drew against Costa Rica, beat co-hosts Japan, Senegal and Korea Republic, with their semi final defeat the blot on their copybook. They even scored the fastest goal in World Cup history when Hakan Sukur scored inside 11seconds in their third place playoff.
Guus Hiddink’s men might have finished fourth but they had seemingly done the impossible, defeating the golden generation of Portugal (Figo, Pauleta, Bento, Rui Costa, Baia, et al), the might of Italy (Maldini, Vieri, Totti, Tommassi, Nesta, etc), Spain (albeit controversially), before succumbing to Germany in a tight contest. While they didn’t go all the way, these nations created memories for purists like me and it apparently explains why the whole world is impatient for another World Cup.
What do you think? Does this bring back any memories of that 2002 FIFA World Cup? Or do you have other football memories you would like to relive? Sure you do! Share them with me and the world in the comments section below and let’s take a trip back in time, together! 😀
Tosin Adesina is an ideal young man, a soccer aficionado. He prefers being called Fijasewa Arogunyo because that’s who the world would grow to know. He is a disciple of Pep Guardiola, a follower of Jurgen Klopp, a lover of Jose Mourinho, an admirer of Cholo Simeone, a fanatic of Carlo Ancelotti and an avid fan of Antonio Conte. You can connect with him on Twitter @teetunez