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Messi, Ronaldo and the parable of FIFA award by Tunde Odesola

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Without the mind, all of nature’s wondrous beauty and Man’s strivings for fulfillment are unperceivable. Immeasurable in content, bottomless in depth, matchless in size; the human mind is the kingdom of wisdom and the grandmaster of knowledge and intelligence. The human mind is also the darkest repository of Man’s vilest thoughts and secret fears. It’s the stronghold of his most ennobling ideas and ideals, too. I woke up this morning and knocked on the door of my mind. I asked: How do proverbs come into being? A moment earlier, I had woken up to a frightful and depressing thought of not having heard a new proverb pop up in the Yoruba Language since I was a dusty boy walking and running on the railway track to and fro St Paul Anglican Primary School, Idi Oro, Lagos, some decades ago. For the Igbo, proverb is the palm oil with which words are eaten. The Yoruba say proverb is the horse used to find lost words. Today, the palm oil of proverb has turned into diesel in our mouths and its horse bolted into the wild, unheeding the whistle of the hunter. Like prodigals, we have overused the proverbs bequeathed unto us by our forebears without thoughts of bequeathing any to our children. Our children can’t speak our languages as well as we can, we can’t speak them as well as our parents, our parents can’t speak them as well as their parents…the degeneration permeates from generation to generation. We can never put value to what we’ve lost in terms of natural medicines, herbs, leaves, foods and ancient wisdom embedded in our eroded language, culture and tradition. Yet, government, parents, guardians and everyone continue to applaud senseless foreign reality shows, restrict the wearing of Nigerian attires to weekends, penalize the speaking of Nigerian languages in Nigerian schools, use our languages only when campaigning for votes, negotiating ransom, haggling to gain advantage over hapless hawkers or when in danger. Proverbs are deep reflections of Man’s socio-cultural and traditional experiences in society. A society without a rich language and deep socio-cultural tradition can never renew itself in the dew of proverbs, idioms, adages etc. To protect our dying heritage and coin new proverbs, we urgently need cultural renaissance. Basically, learning is neither time-bound nor place-restricted. I learnt some of my earliest proverbs, idioms, adages and epigrams inside the Molue, yes, the Molue – that metallic contraption that compellingly defines our supremacy at the zenith of global poverty. In those days, scribbled on every visible space inside the turbulent Molue were proverbs, idioms and epigrams. The sayings, “Won foju jo’re, sugbon ota ni won,” teaches friendship; “Wole ki o joko, oluwa mo ero okan re,” preaches purity in thought; while “Oba bi olorun kosi,” proclaims the supremacy of God, among others. The ultimate personification of football wizardry and excellence, Lionel Messi, is a frank and humble gentleman. But his alter ego, Christiano Ronaldo, is not so. Louder in noisemaking than in achievements, Ronaldo has, again, painfully found himself playing second fiddle to Messi’s matchless brilliance. Ronaldo, certainly, cannot deal with the dominance of Messi in terms of higher number of trophies won and superiority in terms of face-to-face matches, despite playing over 145 games more than the Argentine god and merely scoring over a dozen goals more. Honorary member of Real Madrid FC and former FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, hit the nail on the head before a conference at Oxford University recently when he declared that Messi was better than Ronaldo, making Los Blancos president, Florentino Perez, foam with rage. This article won’t delve into Messi being the highest-paid athlete on the planet or his eclipsing Ronaldo with 276 to 220 assists, among numerous areas of strength. It will deal with last week’s sour grapes by the internet band of wailers sympathetic to the disgruntled 34-year-old Portuguese. Undoubtedly, the sour grapes set their teeth on edge when 32-year-old Messi, last week, won FIFA’s World Best Men’s Player Award of the Year after finishing last season as the highest goal scorer in Europe – for the second consecutive time. Unlike the past when voters were anonymous, FIFA, this year, decided to unveil the faces behind the votes. By attempting to be transparent, FIFA unwittingly set the stage for controversy as Egypt FA came out to claim that its votes for compatriot, Mohammed Salah, were not counted. FIFA, however, clarified the claim by Egypt FA, saying that the votes of the FA were disqualified because the signatures on them were written in capital letters, adding that the FA failed to correct the anomaly when FIFA pointed it out last month. On the other claim by Nicaraguan captain, Juan Barrera, who claimed that he didn’t vote, despite FIFA record showing that he voted for Messi, Liverpool striker Sadio Mane and Ronaldo, FIFA told the Nicaraguan FA to launch an investigation into the votes it submitted, saying the captain’s vote submitted by the FA had the name of Barrera on it. These were the only two allegations to the award, but the noisome Ronaldo band wailed inconsolably on the internet in a futile attempt to vitiate the eternal authority of Messi on football. Some of them cursed Liverpool’s harder-than-nail defender, Virgil Van Dijk, for voting Messi, saying he shouldn’t have affirmed the supremacy of the magician from Rosario. But Van Dijk who was a frontrunner for the award had a word for them: I’m not on the same level with Messi. While Van Dijk was honest enough to concede supremacy to Messi, Ronaldo wasn’t despite not performing as well as the god of soccer last season. Won f’oju jo’re sugbon ota ni won means ‘they appear like friends, but they’re enemies’. A few weeks before the award, Ronaldo pretended to befriend Messi, saying that he was ready to host the greatest player of all time to a dinner. Ironically, however, Ronaldo didn’t only shun the FIFA awards, which held in Italy, his base, five days ago, he did not congratulate his ‘friend’ on the award and has yet to confirmed the date of the dinner. Someone said Messi should watch his food and drink if he eventually gets the dinner invitation from his ‘friend’. The other saying, ‘Wole ki o joko, oluwa mo ero okan re’ calls on the Molue passenger to board the bus and have a seat, stressing that God knows the thoughts of Man. This deep saying is for the Daura cattleman, who has looked the other way in the last few days while his bloody hounds lunge and bark and wag their tails in an attempt to decapacitate the pastoral space. It’s no secret that the Daura cattleman loves other people carrying the can for him while he appears in public as saint. A few days ago, he just arrived from NYC, not the NYSC, because his performance before the globe showed his intellectual limitation. Scandalously, the unsure leader couldn’t just say a word outside the prepared speech he clutched like a live jacket. Sadly, his hounds, in their characteristic manner, are out to tear at anyone who says the sinless one is a semi-illiterate. But no matter what the hounds or their master do, I know for sure that there’s no king like God, ‘Oba bi olorun kosi’. Published in The PUNCH on (Monday, September 30, 2019) Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com


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