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Akinfenwa inspire Wycombe Wanderers to the Championship

Akinfenwa inspire Wycombe Wanderers to the Championship

Waiting for people to inspire you to chase your dreams is a waste of time. You got to inspire yourself to pursue your goals. There are moments in life, where it seems all hope is lost. When nothing seems to be working. Those are moments one needs to look inward and never give in to discouragement.

Four years ago (2016), people said he was finished. But he refused to give up on himself. The player who is ranked amongst the biggest in English football at 102 Kg has got a story to share. His name is Saheed Adebayo Akinfenwaand he is a professional footballer presently plying his trade with newly-promoted Wycombe Wanderers.
In 2016, the 38 years old striker jokingly said he was technically unemployed after been released by AFC Wimbledon. The widely traveled footballer who has played for 15 clubs, is known for his physical strength and heavily built frame.

Akinfenwa the Journeyman

Akinfenwa started his football journey in Lithuania with FK Atlantas but was unable to settle down due to racial abuse. He quickly returned to the UK after just two seasons with the Lithuanian club and joined Welsh top side, Barry Town.

His football journey has seen him then move from Boston United, Leyton Orient, Rushden & Diamonds, Doncaster Rovers, Torquay United, Swansea City, Millwall, Northampton Town, Gillingham, and AFC Wimbledon.

Against all odds

Looking at him with his massive frame, one might be tempted to believe he won’t make a success of his football career. Unfortunately, he has defied all odds and has had an illustrious career spanning more than 20 years. He has so far made a total of 717 appearances, scoring 26 goals and winning numerous trophies and personal awards. He has had to battle against racism, abuse, and all sorts of challenges. In their Play-off match against Fleetwood, he was called “Fat Water Buffalo”, but they went ahead to win against all odds.

From technically unemployed to the Championship.

In 2016, Akinfenwa spoke with reporters in a live interview that he was technically unemployed, as his contract was up at AFC Wimbledon.

Fast forward to 2019, and the London born footballer of Nigerian descent inspired Wycombe wanderers to a place in the Championship after defeating Oxford United 2-1 in the playoffs.

If there is anything that has kept him going, it is the belief in his abilities. He has seen the beautiful side of the game he loves so much. He has also experienced the bitter side of the football. Life and football are all about opinion. “Four years ago someone gave an opinion about me and that’s their opinion. My story shows the only opinion that matters is the opinion you have about yourself. I was lucky and blessed to find a manager and players who believed in me and so we are here today”.
At 38, he still has a lofty dream of helping Wycombe wanderers in their Championship quest in the coming season. Nothing is impossible when it comes to football. Akinfenwa can even inspire Wycombe Wanderers to book a place in the Premiership!

win

It is not over until you win

Life is like a football match. We win some, we lose some. The beautiful thing about football is that it gives players an amazing opportunity to correct their mistakes. It is a 90 minutes game, where there is provision for extra time.

I have seen teams that started so badly but ended up winning even in extra time. It is a game where a few seconds can determine the outcome of a game. It is rare to see football players giving up on a game. They keep chasing and fighting until the referee blows the final whistle.

I watched a local football match at a school playing ground. As I sat down, I asked one of the boys what the score was. With a smile, he replied; “They are leading us 3-0”

And to be honest, he never looked like someone who was discouraged with the score. I asked him why he didn’t sound discouraged?  “Discouraged?” the boy asked with a puzzled look.

Why should I be discouraged when the referee has not blown the final whistle. I have confidence in the team and our manager; we shall win this game. it was one of the most inspiring words I heard from such a young boy. He should be around 14 or 15 years.

Truly, the match ended 5-4 in favor of the boy’s team. He waved at me gently, with a beautiful smile as he left; I was amazed, mouth wide open; Such confidence; Such awesome positivity. It was a turning point in my view about life.

As I got back home that night, his question kept coming back to me – “Why should I be discouraged when the referee has not blown the final whistle”

Life is like a football game. Why be discouraged, when there is still life. Why should I be discouraged when the final whistle has not sounded?

The truth is that many people blow the final whistle themselves. The desire to win isn’t there. They are defeated, even before the referee blows the whistle for the game to commence.

But as long as there is life, nothing is impossible and it is never too late for you.

Half time is not full time. There are still 45 minutes left, and games have been won in 10 seconds, left of extra time. On the 13th of May 2012, Manchester City made history when they won the Premier League title for the first time in their history.

It was a game where everyone expected them to win against Queens Park Rangers. Pablo Zabaleta gave City an early lead in the first half, and everyone was already in celebration mood at the Etihad. Unfortunately, Djibril Cisse of QPR capitalized on an error by defender Joleon Lescot to equalize for QPR.

Things turned from bad to worse when Jamie Mackie headed QPR into a 2-1 lead with time running out. With the game going into extra time, Manchester United had already defeated Sunderland at the Stadium of Light and was poised to be crowned champions.

It was a nervous time for fans who were watching in shock as the title was slipping away from the grasp of Manchester City. Five minutes of extra time and City had a corner kick quickly taken by David Silva. Edin Dzeko rose highest to head in the equalizer.

Two minutes before the extra time was up, Mario Balotelli stumbled in the QPR penalty area, but still managed to make a pass to Sergio Aguero. The City talisman did the incredible and scored the winner.

It was a lesson I had come to learn. Life gives us opportunities even when all hope seems lost. As individuals,  we must never give up until we win. Don’t blow the final whistle yourself.

The impact of voodoo in modern-day football

The impact of voodoo in modern-day football

Voodoo which can also be described as juju in Africa has been known to exist for ages within the African continent. It can also be described as Black magic and is very popular in the Caribbean. Voodoo is closely linked with evil spirits and other associated demonic agents. Voodoo has gained so much popularity that it is secretly practiced in the middle east, Asia, Europe, and America.

Its history can be traced to the 16th century, with so many variations to its practice in several countries, which has created a lot of variation in its mood of operation. The emphasis, however, has always been the ability to use Black magic to manipulate the outcome of events and create fear in the heart of those who cross paths with its devotees.

Football has always been a game that is globally watched with passion. The urge to win at all costs has always been a motivating factor among players of clubs, especially in countries where football is followed religiously.

Passionate supporters have been seen with animals like goat, pigeons, cock, eagle, black cats, and owl. These are not usually carried to the stadium ground for fun but are used as contact points for wielding magic spell on the opponent. Some teams have been known to patronize Marabout or Black magic priests before games. Some of these marabouts have even followed their team to major tournaments.

There have been reports of killing of goats and the blood is then spilled around the dressing room of opposing teams. This is a way of creating fear, panic, and a spell on the opposition. Whether they work or not is a subject for debate. Giovanni Trapattoni, for example, has been known to have sprinkled ‘holy water’ on the field when he was in charge of the Azzurri’s (Italian National team).

Players have been known to go for specific ritual and spiritual cleansing as a way of fortifying themselves before crucial games. Some have been known to even tie charms around their waist and wear armbands sprinkled black magic. Modern culture has gradually phased out some of these practices, but they still exist in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Countries like Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, and Togo have been known to display traces of voodoo or Black magic during League matches or even international tournaments. As far back as 1975 for example, Cameroonian goalkeeper with local club side Aigles of Nkongsamba entered the football pitch with a live Eagle during a local league game with local rivals Canon Yaunde. It was a scary moment for the opposition players who protested to the center referee before the Eagle was subsequently removed from the pitch.

Fast forward to 1991, and in a game between Diamond of Yaounde and Caiman Doula, a huge hawk flew into the pitch and perched on the goalpost of Caiman FC. All attempts to drive the hawk away proved abortive. People believed it was the handiwork of Black magic.

The Chipolopolo of Zambia were surprised winners of the 2012 African cup of Nations. They won against a star-studded Ivory Coast side 8-7 on penalties. So many people, however, believed that the secret of their success was tied down to the use of voodoo.

There have been stories of players using black magic on their fellow teammates before major tournaments so they can be picked ahead of their teammates. An incident I would never forget in a hurry was that of one of Nigeria’s most talented goalkeepers at the FIFA U-16 World Championship held in Scotland in 1989.

Andrew AIKHUOMOGBE was so good that he was invited to the Super Eagles team three years later, for the Senegal 1992 African Nations Cup, but he had to leave the Super Eagles camp after his hands got swollen few days before the final selection was to be made. To date, the origin of that freak incident is still fresh and perhaps it was a way to ensure he never got selected for the National team.

Superstition about the use of black magic is so rampant in Africa, that before big derbies involving local club sides, players don’t shake hands for fear of been affected by voodoo or Black magic. In one of the most bizarre sporting moments of 2002, The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon goalkeeper Thomas N’Kono was arrested by riot police for allegedly using “black magic”, before the African Cup of Nations semi-final against Mali, which Cameroon eventually won 3–0 win.

Leicester City were surprise champions of the English Premier League in 2016, but their victory was alleged o have been aided by Buddhist monks who were always around during the team home games. The monks were given free access to the players dressing rooms were they were given special amulets that have been consecrated in Buddhist bowls.

The actual impact of voodoo on football may always elicit controversy and doubt, as long as Zaire who represented Africa in the 1974 FIFA World Cup and got walloped 9-0 by Yugoslavia, 3-0 by Brazil and 2-0 by Scotland without scoring any goal. They took along a Voodoo priest to help boost their chances. 

Ahmed Musa ultimate moment at the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Ahmed Musa ultimate moment at the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Humble beginning

Ahmed Musa made his name with Kano Pillars in the Nigeria Professional League. There he set a new highest goal scorer record with 18 goals in the 2009/2010 football season. He was usually deployed in the wing or as the main striker in both club and country. Blessed with a blistering pace, he like every other player had dreams of playing in the FIFA World Cup.

That dream was actualized in 2011, as he was selected to represent Nigeria at the 2011 FIFA U20 World Cup held in Colombia. It was a tournament that saw the player who was then in the books of VVV Venlo of the Netherlands scoring 3 goals in Nigeria’s first three group games.

His meteoric rise in football was soon noticed by CSKA of Russia who signed him for an undisclosed fee in 2012. He became an instant hit with the Russian club side after banging in spectacular goals for the Russian Champions.

World Cup Journey begins

In 2014, Ahmed Musa was selected as part of Nigeria’s squad to the 2014 FIFA World Cup that was hosted by Brazil. The team was managed by former captain, the Late Stephen Keshi. Paired in Group F alongside mighty Argentina, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, and Iran. In Nigeria’s first game, they were held to a scoreless draw by Iran. They however bounced back to beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 courtesy of a Peter Osaze Odemwingie goal.

Nigeria vs Argentina

Nigeria’s last group game was against the mighty Argentina. The Argentines were star-studded and led by enterprising Lionel Messi of Barcelona. The game took place at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegra and it was watched by a vociferous 43,285 football fans.

The game had hardly settled down when Argentine forward- Angel Di Maria burst forward before unleashing a left-footed shot at Vincent Enyeama in Nigeria’s goal. The ball bounced off the right frame of the goal but fell kindly to Lionel Messi who blasted the ball into the empty net. It was a rather shaky start for Nigeria’s Super Eagles.

Then comes the hour, then comes the man for the -big occasion. A minute after Nigeria conceded, Ahmed Musa was given a through pass by midfielder Michael Babatunde. He then sent in a curler to make it 1-1. Lionel Messi was undeterred as tormented Vincent Enyeama in Nigeria’s goal with an unstoppable free-kick to make it 2-1 advantage Argentina.

At the restart of the 2nd half, Musa continued from where he stopped in the first half. He surged forward to send the Argentine keeper the wrong way, and give Nigeria a well deserved equalizing goal. Football commentators were blown away by the intensity of the game and they gave the score as Ahmed Musa 2- Lionel Messi 2.

The highly entertaining encounter was eventually won by Argentina in the 50th minute of play. Marcos Rojo bounced on a loose ball floated into the Nigeria penalty area off a corner kick. It was a painful defeat, after the individual brilliance of Ahmed Musa. It takes sheer brilliance and determination to score twice against a team like Argentina. Indeed, he entered the World football record as the first Nigerian to score more than one goal in a FIFA World Cup match.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria Break the World Cup Jinx

The Super Eagles of Nigeria Break the World Cup Jinx

Futile attempts at Qualification

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are the National football team of Nigeria. They were formerly named the Green Eagles of Nigeria. They created history in 1994, when they finally qualified for the biggest footballing event on planet earth, The FIFA World Cup.

This was after several futile attempts, by the then Green Eagles to grab the elusive ticket. The closest attempt was in 1978, when an unfortunate own goal by defender Godwin Odiye in a qualifying match against Tunisia, sent Nigeria crashing out of the race to represent Africa at the 1978 Mon-dial.

The team had before then, secured a 0-0 draw against the Cartage Eagles of Tunisia in Tunis. All they needed was a win, to secure her first-ever ticket. That was not to be, as they were given the shock of their life. Defender- Godwin Odiye, headed in an own goal into his net.

Desert Warriors too strong for the Super Eagles

Subsequent efforts by the Eagles to qualify for 1982 Mondial hosted by Spain, did not yield any positive result. The team were denied the lone ticket by the Desert Warriors of Algeria. They defeated the Green Eagles 2-0 in Lagos and capped it with a 2-1 defeat in Algiers. The result ended Nigeria’s World Cup dream.

In 1986, the National team once again failed to qualify for the Global fiesta. The tournament was hosted by Mexico. They fell to the superior powers of the North Africans. Tunisia denied the Eagles the precious ticket when they inflicted a 2-0 defeat on the Green Eagles in Tunis. The story was not different in 1990, as the Super Eagles were dealt a serious blow, by close neighbors Cameroon.

Cameroon deny the Super Eagles

Needing at least a draw in their last group match, the Super Eagles were beaten 1-0 by Cameroon. The Italia 1990 qualifier would be best remembered for claiming the life of Nigeria’s enterprising midfielder Samuel Okwaraji. He died in the World Cup clash with Palancas Negras of Angola on August 12th, 1989 at the National Stadium Lagos.

The Breakthrough Year

Nigeria eventually announced her arrival at Football’s biggest stage, the World Cup in 1994. The team reached the World Cup for the first time, after many previous unsuccessful attempts. They started their journey to their very first World Cup outing, with a 4-0 trouncing of Bafana Bafana of South Africa in their first World Cup qualifying match.

They however suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat in the hands of Congo in their second World Cup qualifying match. In the return leg of their encounter with the Bafana Bafana of South Africa tagged “the battle of Johannesburg”, the Eagles braved the high altitude to record an impressive barren draw before a packed crowd at the Johannesburg Soccer City.

Nigeria scaled through to the group stage with an emphatic 2-0 victory over Congo, in the last match of the first phase of the qualifiers.

Paired in group A alongside Cote d’Ivoire and Algeria, Nigeria began her World Cup final journey on a shaky note. They suffered a 2-1 defeat in the hands of Cote d’Ivoire, in an away fixture. Their chances of qualification was however boosted after a resounding 4-1 defeat of Algeria.

The flood gate of goals was opened by Austin Okocha, who mesmerized the Algerians with some wonderful dribbling skills. He capped his brilliant performance with a stunning goal scored from a free-kick. Cote d’Ivoire was the next to fall, and they went home empty after suffering a 4-1 defeat. It was a brilliant performance by the rampaging Super Eagles.

It was a fairy tale adventure, and one match was standing in between Nigeria, and a World Cup ticket. In the battle of Algiers, the National Senior team needed either a Win or at least a draw to seal a World Cup ticket.

Finidi George is the hero

Before a vociferous and hostile crowd at Algiers, the Super Eagles got the result they needed. Finidi George equalized for Nigeria after the Algerians had taken the lead, to force the Desert Warriors of Algeria to a 1-1 draw.

It was a historic result, as Nigeria booked her ticket to appear at the World’s biggest football fiesta for the very first time. All over Nigeria, there were celebrations, and the entire nation was united in her moment of ecstasy.

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