The Super Eagles of Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup after losing out to Ghana on away goals in the final round of qualifiers in March this year. This Mundial is a peculiar one to most as it is the first time that the World Cup will be played in the winter (November — December).
Also, it is the inaugural World Cup in the Middle East. Despite the shenanigans off the pitch ranging from LGBTQ agendas to Qatar’s strict alcohol and nudity policies amongst others, fans seem to be settling in quite steadily. From a Nigerian’s point of view, it is pretty weird to experience the World Cup in November-December, and not even see the Super Eagles at the finals is another anomaly. Nonetheless, fans, especially UITES are far from apathetic.
Since the Mundial began on the 20th, students have turned up at the various viewing points scattered across the University of Ibadan. From Independence Hall to Mellanby Hall to Kuti Hall, the status quo was not altered. In some Lecture Theatres, you could even find a few students watching the World Cup games. Some female students have taken out time to enjoy the intrigues of football’s biggest competition. Of course, some students love and live for the round leather game and would always want to watch the World Cup games especially as the major leagues are on break.
The interest ventured in this tourney comes from a place of seeing who’ll triumph at this very last straw between the respective captains of the Portuguese and Argentinian National teams.
The argument on who the greatest footballer of all time seems to be unending. The previous generation had to debate between Brazilian magician Pele and late Argentina talisman Diego Amando Maradona. Both had trophy-laden careers, and of course, both have World Cup gold medals in their cabinets. Well, most UITES- undergraduate students did not have the privilege of seeing Pele and Maradona live. Nonetheless that discussion has taken a backseat now because there are two new sheriffs in town. With twelve Balon d”Or awards between them, Argentine maestro Lionel Messi and Portuguese hitman Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated football for the last fifteen years.
Unfortunately for them, despite illustrious careers at the club, the most prestigious football accolade continues to evade both greats. Messi and Ronaldo have one major international trophy apiece- Ronaldo won the Euros in 2016 while Messi secured the Copa America in 2021. This Mundial seems to be the last for both players as they have reached the twilight of their careers. Messi is currently 35 while Ronaldo has clocked 37. By the next World Cup, both players would be 39 and 41 years old respectively and they would be very close to retirement (if it hasn’t happened by then).
Interestingly, both countries struggled in their opening games of the World Cup. Argentina was shocked by Saudi Arabia in their first game, as they suffered a 2-1 loss. While Portugal had to leave it late to secure a 3-2 win against an inexperienced Ghanaian side. In the Great Independence Hall, at least 150 people were at the JCR to watch Selecao’s opening game against Ghana. But it was an even bigger crowd in the Albiceleste’s 3-2 win against Mexico on Saturday.
Olaoluwa Komolafe (300-level Agricultural Economics) is indifferent about Nigeria’s absence at the Mundial, he just wants Ronaldo to win the World Cup in Qatar. “I don’t support Nigeria again because they always fail,” Olaoluwa said. “I just want Ronaldo to win the World Cup in Qatar so that Messi Fanboys will see that their GOAT is rubbish. Ronaldo will surely win the World Cup because he is better and he has a star-studded team. The only reason I would miss Portugal’s game is if I have a test or an exam. If it’s a class, I’ll surely watch their game.” He added.
On the contrary, Mojeed (400-level Mechanical Engineering) has different thoughts. “Messi is the greatest of all time, I don’t even argue it again,” he said. “I can’t miss Argentina’s games, I always stream it from wherever I am. There is no way I won’t watch Mess. Even Ronaldo fanboys love to watch Messi.”
For many, this World Cup could be the vital decider for the ‘Greatest of All Time” argument as it would surely cement either Ronaldo or Messi’s legacy- if any of them wins it. Also, the World Cup’s next destination could have a big impact on who will win the next Balon d’Or. Nonetheless, both players could still miss out on the trophy as France, Spain, and Brazil have been spectacular so far, and they could end Portugal or Argentina’s World Cup hopes before the final.