Over the course of the World Cup, Howler will feature a different writer each day reflecting on the action, their own experience of the day’s games, or just offering a consideration of what they’ve seen and felt so far. Today, Felicia Pennant enjoys Nigeria’s triumph over Iceland.
Hahahhahahhahhahhaha! 2-0 oh!! HEY!
When the camera panned to the celebrating Nigerian players after the full-time whistle, after I watched the Super Eagles take on Iceland in a dry then dramatic game at Copa 90’s clubhouse in Moscow, I couldn’t believe it. One of them brandished jade rosary prayer beads and I laughed even harder. Is that you NAIJA?! Forget “Hand of God,” the divine intervention in this match between plucky upstarts Iceland and the best-dressed-but-seemingly-toothless-in-front-of-goal Nigeria was much more shocking for me. And came into sharp focus when Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson totally missed the goal when he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way as he struck his VAR-determined penalty.
I’m going to be honest here, after dire recent performances against England and Croatia, I felt that Iceland, England’s Euro 2016 conquerors, deserved to go through to more than Nigeria. Even though I’m biased as a half-Nigerian born and raised in England. Those games were embarrassing and really knocked the fragile sense of pride I and others had adopted for their chosen (by birth, soil, free will or office sweepstakes) team this World Cup. All style and no substance is how I dismissed the Africans’ chances of getting out of Group D or as my mum put it, reverting back to her native Yoruba accent: “They have been eating too much fufu.” KMT. Also I was disappointed that Ghana had, thus far, given a better account of themselves in recent World Cups.
Then Ahmed Musa popped up out of nowhere to score two fantastic goals, save his team and throw group D into disarray. Where did that come from?! A little dance in my seat to acknowledge the quality, nothing extra even though Nigeria seemed to be dominating.I thought that atmospheric thunder clap would make a difference but if the Iceland fans did it, it didn’t. OK, I said to myself, that’s why you’re here. Better late than never and I couldn’t help but think of rock-bottom of the group Argentina and Messi’s performances.
Will the real GOAT please stand up?! Cristiano Ronaldo never sat down while Messi hasn’t got up yet despite being a key (and well-paid) face of the tournament. Maybe that Paper cover shoot jinxed him because Musa has totally eclipsed him—a sentence I never thought I’d be typing and a name I hadn’t really heard of until now. (I know all about Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel as a Chelsea fan. And Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi.) That’s the problem with pressure: you can go from zero to hero or just buckle. I’m just enjoying this while it lasts—the 2016 finalists still have a glimmer of hope to progress if they beat Nigeria in the next game.
Is God Nigerian or Argentinian? We’ll soon find out.
Felicia Pennant is the London-based founder of SEASON, a trailblazing football and fashion platform that champions female fans first. Currently in Moscow, she’s not hedging her bets and is supporting an array of teams (logically Nigeria or England won’t win the World Cup) plus all the current and ex Chelsea players making their mark. Issue 05: religion featuring Nigerian/ English footballer Eni Aluko is out now and available at www.season-zine.com/shop. Follow @feliciapennant and @season_zine to find out what she and the zine are up to.