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Taking sports too far

The enraged Manchester fan that was driving a bus made a u-turn after he had passed by a group of jubilating Barcelona supporters and ran…

The enraged Manchester fan that was driving a bus made a u-turn after he had passed by a group of jubilating Barcelona supporters and ran into them, killing four persons on the spot and injuring about ten. What a disaster for the love of football! We wonder if this is really how to exhibit love for football or sports generally. It will similarly be recalled that four persons died in 2008 in Port Harcourt while jubilating Manchester United’s victory over Chelsea in a champion’s league played in Moscow. This sort of excitement in which the celebration of victory would lead to death of citizens is rather an obtuse form of orgy.

Apart of taking sports to the extreme, the killer-driver also took law, by killing fellow citizens, in to his hands. Even where a citizen is allegedly a suspect in a violent crime, his right to life must be preserved until convicted of the crime. Even then, it is the court of law, not an individual that executes the sentence.  But in this case, sporting and the love of it is not even an offence or a crime but a lawful quest. Why then, no matter the bitterness from a lost match, should anyone summarily decide that his fellow citizens who are thousands of kilometers away from those that actually played and won the match, are no longer fit to live? One can better imagine what the killer-driver would have done if he were at the Olympic stadium in Rome where the match was played. He would (if he were there) have executed all the eleven players of the Barcelona football club as well as the match officials.

We do not hear of any quarrels where these matches are played in Europe let alone killings. But down here in Nigeria, we kill ourselves for matches played elsewhere. Are we saying, if we may ask, that we love football more than the professional players and their European fans do? How many Europeans discuss Nigerian football clubs (if they watch our matches at all)? How many of them (the Europeans) also celebrate or fight over our won or lost matches? The answers to these questions are obvious than a ‘B’ from a bull’s footprint. The reason to be advanced by many is, perhaps, that Nigerian football is not attractive as the European, which is probably why very many Nigerians do not seemingly have any reasonable sense of patriotism. A young Nigerian sports fan would list for you the names of players for two or even three European football clubs but will certainly ask you to give him more time to be able to list names of the players of two Nigerian football clubs such as Kano pillars and Eyimba. Since we appear to have excess energy to fight, quarrel or celebrate other people’s loss or victory, we advise such people to direct their surplus calories at challenging the proponents of the “re-branding Nigeria” project by asking them to reposition sports, particularly football, in Nigeria.

There is no harm being passionate or in love with football but the love must not be a foolish one as manifest in the character of some Nigerian sports fans. Some young boys borrow money and when they cannot get, resort to stealing to get money to watch European match at commercial satellite centers. The other day too, I learnt a student missed his examination because he was ‘busy” watching a premier league match. What a crazy love for football! Is it possible for such thoughtless fans to miss their examinations because it was time for prayer in the mosque or service in the church? The love for European football is not only creating divisions in some families but also re-aligning relationships among family members. Sports principally functions to unite and strengthen bonds of fraternity but not to trigger disunity among people. The Nigerian fashion of sports, however, seems to be a negation of this praiseworthy tenet.

We call on sports fans to always put their emotions under control at the end of matches. The victory or loss of a club should not be a source of crazy excitement or odious grief that would lead to loss of lives. Human life is sacred in all revealed religions. In fact, in no other religion in the world is human life so sacred as in Islam that the murder of an individual is considered to be murder of the entire human race. Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 5 : 35 “…that if anyone slew a person-unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land-it would be as if he slew the whole people: And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people…” Sports should not break our hearts but gladden it.  Our hearts should be large enough to have a space to accommodate the victory of others over us. May Allah (SWT) guide us against going to extremes with our love not only for football but for sports generally, amin.