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Special report: Nigerians unite behind Super Eagles as they take on Côte d’Ivoire Elephants

11 February 2024
Reading time: 5 minutes

Football has the power to unite – and nowhere is this more so than in Nigeria as citizens forget their differences and come together to support their beloved Super Eagles.

Football in Nigeria is more than just a sport, it’s a unifying force that transcends social and economic divides.
Nigerians from all walks of life are getting ready to watch their beloved Super Eagles take on the Côte d’Ivoire Elephants in what is expected to be a dramatic final of the 2023 CAF Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday, February 11.
The nation’s commitment to the game is evident in the packed local stadiums and in animated discussions on every street corner and on all social media platforms.

Football is a shared obsession that brings more than 200 million Nigerians together, offering a common ground in the love of the game.

Despite the many challenges facing the country – including the ever-devaluing naira, record- high inflation, the skyrocketing cost of living, insecurity caused by banditry, kidnappings and attacks by insurgents, religious and ethnic conflicts and farmer-herder clashes – the citizens of northeast Borno State are super excited and can hardly wait for the showpiece game.
The Super Eagles advanced from the semi-finals after defeating South Africa 4-2 in a thrilling penalty shootout. Tournament hosts Côte d’Ivoire booked their place in the finals after edging Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 on Wednesday night.

The two sides will meet in the final for the second time in the tournament having already played each other once in a group game. Nigeria emerged then as the winners after William Troost-Ekong netted a penalty to hand the Super Eagles a 1-0 victory.

Yunusa Husaini, a resident of Maiduguri and an avid football fan, told RNI that he would never stop supporting the players in green and white.

“I have a passion, love and patriotism for my country Nigeria and that’s why I always watch when the Super Eagles are playing no matter the circumstances or what the situation is.”

Bana Modu Aji, aka coach Raul, said football was one of the major tools that never failed to foster peace and unity among Nigerians, irrespective of religion, tribe, ethnicity, political affiliation, gender, social and cultural background.

“I watched the AFCON 2023 semi-finals between Nigeria and South Africa with members of the National Youth Service Corps. Despite all the differences and challenges, we all came together under one umbrella in the spirit of football and cheered our country to victory.”

“What challenges,” asked Haruna Abba Aji, a football fan in Maiduguri. “When I’m watching the Super Eagles, I forget all about the challenges we face. There is nothing more satisfying than watching our football heroes win a game. My heart fills with joy, love and patriotism and that makes me to forget all my worries.”
Sports analyst Ali Mohammed Mafoni said all sports, and particularly football, had the unique power to unite Nigerians.
“Football provides a common language for all, breaking down barriers and fostering a sense of national unity. When the national team plays on Sunday the whole country will come to a standstill. People in every corner of the country will be cheering for the Super Eagles. Every citizen will be focused on the game, no matter their background. Everyone will share in the excitement and will be praying that the Super Eagles land the trophy.

“The love of football creates a sense of belonging and promotes national unity and integration.

“I believe football is one of the tools that will help to restore peace and unity in Nigeria, particularly in Borno State where we have been fighting a war with insurgents for years. So many people have been displaced and killed; and properties worth millions have been destroyed. Football – as well as other sports – has the potential to heal all citizens if properly harnessed.”

Mafoni said the Super Eagles brought people together and the team’s success promoted a sense of national pride among Nigerians.

“That was evident in the semi-finals and it will be evident on Sunday. We are all praying that our players will beat the Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire. And, believe me, that will be a very proud moment for every Nigerian in the country – in fact, for every Nigerian in the world.”
Mafoni said the government had established the National Youth Service Corps in 1973 after the Nigerian civil war “to reconcile its citizens and encourage peaceful coexistence among people in every nook and cranny of the country”.

“But now, through sports, and particularly football, the desired peaceful coexistence, national unity and integration among the diverse people of Nigeria is becoming more feasible.”
• Despite AFCON being full of twists, turns and upsets, both the Super Eagles and the Elephants have previously won the tournament.

Nigeria are three-time winners, lifting the trophy in 1980, 1994 and 2013. Côte d’Ivoire have been crowned the champions twice, in 1992 and 2015.


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