Friday, August 25, 2006

Brazil v Nigeria

"Soccer giants Brazil and Nigeria are to clash in the quarterfinals of the Women's U20 mundial, taking place in the land of the tsars, Russia." That's how a Nigerian newspaper would have put it. Yup, Nigeria play Brazil. Nigeria pummelled Finland 8-0 and look like being equal to the task of beating Brazil. The captain, Akudo Sabi is featured on the FIFA website. She seems like an affable young woman, who goes online and reads what's written about her team. So Akudo, if you're reading this, prends courage, and teach the Brasileiras a football lesson. You can watch it tomorrow (Saturday) at 3pm BST on Eurosport.

I watched a bit of USA against France yesterday, as you do... USA - which has always produced wonderful female players - looked much better than the men's team. It's amazing how the men of one country can be, more or less useless, while the women flourish. Of course this is partly cultural, as "soccer" has always been seen as a girl's sport in the US. So it's only natural that American women are more dominant worldwide than the men. There are some who believe that the US will only become a major world player when the inner city kids are unleashed upon the game. If this happens, we might see something akin to the European exodus undertaken by Africans and South Americans. "All of New Orleans will be watching this game as Kuwayne Griffiths, born in stark poverty in Lousiana, now wears the number 10 shirt for Real Madrid." Or something like that.

I was in San Francisco in 1999 when USA hosted the Women's World Cup. I remember everyone fervently supporting the Falcons, and hoping they'd do an Atlanta '96. It never came. Even though a rampant USA crushed us 7-1 in the group stage, we bowed out with pride. The team lost to Brazil 4-3 after extra time in the quarterfinals. Naturally, they did that most Nigerian of football tactics - went down 3-0, and then clawed their way back. That tournament also produced Brandi Chastain's black bra victory moment (pictured).

My respect for women's football started in 1998 during one summer holiday in Nigeria. There was a girl, whose name escapes me, who played with us regularly in the neighbourhood. She used to school the boys like little illiterate children. Nobody ever wanted to play against her for fear of being laughed at that a girl gave them "torros". Everyone wanted to be on her team so that they could benefit from her skill, vision, and strength, while pointing and scoffing at their oponents. The girl was good.

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