2014 FIFA World Cup: Historic Advance for African Teams

2014 FIFA World Cup
2014 FIFA World Cup
Flag and map of Nigeria
Flag and map of Nigeria

The 2014 FIFA World Cup has brought a lot of surprises thus far: the sharp exit of the defending champions Spain, the exit of Italy and England, the advances of countries like Costa Rica, Belgium, Colombia, or Switzerland into the last round of 16.  Above all, what has brought joy to me, a fellow African, is the advance of two African countries for the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup into the last round of 16: namely, Nigeria and Algeria (never mind that their names both finish with ‘geria‘).  I am glad to see that my predictions of seeing Algeria move forward into the round of 16 came true, and agreed with Maradona’s.  I am also thrilled to see Nigeria (whom I had thought were in a good group and had big chances of advancing) progress.

Flag of Algeria
Flag of Algeria
Schedule for 30 June 2014, FIFA World Cup Round of 16
Schedule for 30 June 2014, FIFA World Cup Round of 16

Today, both countries will face France and Germany respectively (France – Nigeria and Germany – Algeria). We wish them the very best as they carry the hopes of the entire continent up, and we hope to be elated by the strength of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, and the dexterity and perseverance of the Fennecs of Algeria.  May the best teams win!

2014 FIFA World Cup: All the African Teams

2014 FIFA World Cup
2014 FIFA World Cup

Tomorrow, the world will vibrate to the rhythm of samba, carnivals, and Copacabana… Yes tomorrow, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will start in Brazil, and 32 of the best soccer nations will compete at this great planetary event.  This will one month of soccer, pure joy, fun, and above all talent;  Talent expressed by players from around the globe.  Legends will be made, new faces discovered, and dreams will take off.

Five African teams will grace the tournament: Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria.

We do hope that at least one African team will advance into the round of 16, and beyond.  Here are some of the African stars to watch out for.

2014 FIFA World Cup groups
2014 FIFA World Cup groups

The Desert Foxes of Algeria are a good team to contend with, in another relatively easy group with Russia, South Korea, and Belgium.  This should hopefully be an easy one.  Maradona predicts Algeria “will cause a surprise”, while Rivaldo says “the possibilities of reaching the second round are abundant”.

Samuel Eto’o Fils, captain of Cameroon’s Indomitaple Lions, is incontestably one of the best forwards on the planet, and one of the greatest strikers of his generation. This might be his last world cup, and Cameroon’s first in 8 years.  The Pichichi, and winner of several honors including African Ballon d’Or, will have to be ready to affront Brazil, the host country, Mexico, and Croatia in group A.

Didier Drogba, captain of Cote d’Ivoire’s Elephants, like Eto’o is also one of the best on the planet.  After playing for Chelsea and winning countless trophies, he is now in Turkey with Galatasaray FC.  This will probably be his last world cup.  We wish him, and the Ivorian team the very best.  They qualified with gusto to this competition.  They have a relatively easy group with Colombia, Japan, and Greece.  I will put my money on them moving to the next round in the tournament.

Armadillo, the 2014 FIFA World Cup mascot
Armadillo, the 2014 FIFA World Cup mascot

Relying on their strength at the back, with captain and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria will have to face Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Iran.  The Super Eagles have undergone a radical transformation under Stephen Keshi, which has made them win last year African Cup of Nations‘ tournament. With good discipline, they should be able to advance in the competition as well.

The Black Stars of Ghana were fancied to repeat, or even improve on, their run to the quarter-finals in 2010 in South Africa.  That was until the draw was made and they were pitted with the world’s second and third-ranked sides.  Asamoah Gyan and his teammates will play against Germany, Portugal, and the United States. This is the “group of death”.  Ghana is a very good team; if they manage to make it to the round of 16, then they will quite far at the World Cup.  We wish them the very best in the competition.

Brazil 2014 World Cup
Brazil 2014 World Cup

Throughout the years, I have placed high hopes on African teams and have always been disappointed.  I might once again be disappointed.  However, this is planetary tournament, and the fun of it makes one root for any good team.  For the world cup winner, I believe Brazil, the host country has home court advantage, as well as a pool of great talents.  Let us hope that will be enough to make them winners.  I also think Argentina of Lionel Messi will be a really great contender, as well as Spain, the last world cup winners.  Overall, let the world cup start, with all the fun, and may the best team win!!!

“My name is Nigeria, I need Re-building, not Re-branding!” by Onyema Uche

Flag and map of Nigeria
Flag and map of Nigeria

I came across this article on Nigeria, which can be applied to many countries in Africa.  This is more of a wake up call, rather than just a critic.  This expresses a need for re-building the minds, the brains, and the experiences of Africans.  This is very close to the poem ‘No More‘ by Kelvin Karani.  You can read the entire article on African Spotlight.  So, after reading this article, I would like to you to answer these questions: Do African countries need re-branding or re-building?  How do we stop importing and start producing ourselves?  Since we have all that is needed to feed ourselves, how do we get to the level where every child is well-fed? How do we improve our infrastructures, etc…?  Thomas Sankara managed, in less than 4 years as president, to bring his country to the level of food self-sufficiency. How do we get rid of our debts? How do we create jobs for our youths? What is needed to come out of this inferno cycle? While you are at it, please watch Thomas Sankara’s speech on eliminating the debt.

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Few days ago, I spent 10 billion Naira to celebrate my 52nd birthday! I am Nigeria!!!.

I am divided into 36 unequal states, plus my capital territory, christened ABUJA . I have millions of acres of arable land and billions of cubic litres of water, but I cannot feed myself. So I spend $1 billion to import rice and another $2 billion to import milk. I produce rice, but don’t eat it. I have 60 million cattle but no milk. I have the capacity to feed the whole of Africa but I import most food instead. I am hungry, please help and re-build me. […]
I wanted change so I stood all day long to cast my vote. But even before I could vote, the results had been announced. When I dared to speak out, silence was enthroned by bullets. My rulers are my oppressors, and my policemen are my terrors. I am ruled by men in mufti, but I am not a democracy. I have no verve, no vote, no voice, please re-build me.
I have over 50 million youths with no jobs, no present and no future. So my sons in the North have become street urchins and their brothers in the South have become militants. My nephews die of thirst in the Sahara and their cousins drown in the waters of the Mediterranean.  My daughters walk the streets of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt , while their sisters parade the streets of Rome and Amsterdam. I am inconsolable, please re-build me.
Bend Skin
Bend Skin in Cameroon (known as Okada in Nigeria)
My people cannot sleep at night and cannot relax by day.  They cannot use ATM machines, nor use cheques. My children sleep through the staccato of AK 47′s, see through the mist of tear gas, while we all inhale Carbon Monoxide, poisonous CO-2 from popular ‘I better pass my neighbour’ (portable generators) and ‘Okada’ (motorbike taxis) The leaders have looted everything on ground and below. They walk the land with haughty strides and fly the skies with private jets (28 of which were bought in the last 12 months). They have stolen the future of generations yet unborn and have money they cannot spend in several lifetimes, but their brothers die of hunger. I want justice, please re-build me.
I can produce anything, but import everything. So my toothpick is made in China; my toothpaste is made in South Africa; my salt is made in Ghana; my butter is made in Ireland; my milk is made in Holland; my shoe is made in Italy; my vegetable oil is made in Malaysia; my biscuit is made in Indonesia; my chocolate is made in Turkey and my table water made in France. My taste is far-flung and foreign. I no longer cook at home but take pride in eating at take-away outlets fashioned after the Western style of living. Anything made in my land is inferior; I prefer those made in England, America or Europe . To crown it all, items made in my land but specifically sent abroad with made in England labels are brought back from ‘Oyinbo’ land at 5 times the original price it would have gone for had it been sold as home made, please re-brand me. […]
 … I have four (4) refineries, but prefer to import fuel, so I waste more billions to import petrol and diesel. I have no security in my country, but would rather send troops to keep the peace in another man’s land. I have 160 dams, but cannot get water to drink, so I buy ‘pure’ water that broils my inwards. I have a million children waiting to enter universities, but my ivory dungeons can only take a tenth (10 %).  I have no power (electricity), but choose to flare gas, and vote billion of dollars every year to generate electricity but not a single watt has come from it. So, my people have learnt to see in the dark and stare at the glare of naked flares. I have no direction, please re-build me.
Children begging
Children begging
My people pray to God every morning and every night, but commit every crime known to man because re-branded identities will never alter the tunes of inbred rhythms. Just as the drums of heritage heralds the frenzied jingles, remember – the Nigerian soul can only be Nigerianfighting free from the cold embrace of a government that has no spring, no sense, no shame. So we watch the possessed, frenzied dance, drenched in silent tears as freedom is locked up in democracy’s empty cellars. I need guidance, please re-build me.
But then, why can I not simply be me, without being re-branded? Or does my complexion cloud the colour of my character? Does my location limit the lengths of my liberty? Does the spirit of my conviction shackle my soul? Does my mien maim the mine of my mind? And is this life worth re-branding? Is it re-branding that I need or complete re-building?…
To re-build a wobbling structure, there is need for dismantling of existing one (remember, if the foundation can be destroyed, what can the righteous do?).. Shall I then consider the idea muted by some of my own who have fled abroad? Some call for ‘Separation for Co-operation’ , others call for true Federalism – while others are yet asking for the return to Parliamentary system. Which way do I go? on October 1, 2009, I celebrated my 50th birthday and my 52nd was just celebrated. I do not want to carry on in my golden age without direction, … so, please, help me God. Re-mould and Re-Build me.
PLEASE PRAY PERSISTENTLY FOR NIGERIA!
By Onyema Uche

Nigeria wins the African Cup of Nations 2013

Super Eagles lifting the trophy
Super Eagles lifting the trophy

I watched Nigeria’s victory yesterday with great delight. I must admit that after they defeated Cote dIvoire in quarter-finals. I already felt that Nigeria would be the winners and honestly, the Stallions of Burkina Faso were no match to the Super Eagles of Nigeria.  I am also delighted because this was Nigerias first victory since 1994 (19 years), and Stephen Keshi has become the first man to win the African Cup of Nations both as a player and as a coach. Truly the victory should be dedicated to him, and his hard work. He started coaching Togo and qualified them to the world cup  in 2010, and once the Togolese were qualified they sacked him to hire a European coach. Keshi went on to coach Mali, and now his beloved country Nigeria. At first the Nigerian federation did not want to give him the job, but it is hard to deny Keshi’s greatness. They finally gave him the job, and then did not pay him for 2 months prior to the cup (the Nigerian federation would have never dared doing that to a European coach).

Stephen Keshi, Nigeria's coach
Stephen Keshi, Nigeria’s coach

I am truly happy for Keshi, who, this week again, mentioned the fact that Africans coaches were just as good as European coaches, and could manage African teams and lead them to greatness. He did just that to a team which had known no real success since 1994 he redeemed Nigerias super eagles, and showed to everyone that Africans could and should trust African coaches just like the Egyptians used to trust Hassan Shehata who led them to three successive African Nationss cup (2006, 2008, and 2010). Truly, I dedicate this victory to Stephen Keshi, and to all the African coaches who love their country and only dream of being given the chance to take their countries to greatest heights.

Just for fun, somebody said on BBC, that “whenever Cameroon is not at the cup, Nigeria wins“… I didn’t know that we were the “bête noire” of Nigeria. I guess everyone knows their strongest opponents… even footballers!

Nok Civilization: The Era of Terracotta

Nok Sculpture from the Louvre museum
Nok Sculpture from the Louvre museum
Map of Nok area
Map of Nok area

Ever since I saw an image of a Nok figurine on the cover of my history textbook in 6eme (grade 5), I have been fascinated by this civilization. These neighbors of ours, had a civilization which flourished in the Jos plateau in the northern part of modern-day Nigeria between 800 BC and 600AD. The Nok civilization is considered the oldest African terracotta civilization. They were very advanced, and many people have mentioned similarities to the Egyptians. Their work shows great mastery of the firing process as emphasized in their sumptuous sculptures and artistry.

Nok soldier, dating 800 BC
Nok soldier, dating 800 BC

Nok art work is unique and detailed. Most sculptures found so far represent kings, queens, dignitaries, wizards, animals, etc. One thing that stands out the most when looking at the Nok sculpture of a woman is the hairstyle. It makes me feel so proud to see that 800 years BC, Nok women wore elaborate braids, cornrows, etc… the same way we African, no Black women wear our hair today. Imagine going back 2800 years ago and meeting beautiful Nok women with hazelnut eyes looking at you with the same hair-do as yourself!

Nok sculpture of a woman
Nok sculpture of a woman

Nok sculptures vary in size and can reach up to 1,20m. How were the Nok able to make such life-size terracotta statues without having them explode or shatter into pieces during the firing process?  Well… they used branches from trees and trunks as the central core of the sculptures.The website Memoire d’Afrique has a detailed account on the Nok Civilization ingenuity. Check it out: http://www.memoiredafrique.com/en/nok/geographie.php and wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nok_culture