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Fan mania, storms taking Russia 2018 by surprise

Socialisation, at whatever level, is enduring. This has been in full display at the World Cup in Russia that continues to excite and disappoint. For starters, there was an earthquake two days ago when tournament minions South Korea beat defending champions Germany, bundling them out of the competition at the group stage. 

Nigeria also left Russia at the group stage. But let us not be too hard on the Super Eagles—they put up a great show in their last match. It just happened that the team’s Chi—to borrow from Achebe—abandoned them on that day as they played Argentina.

Footballers and fans are probably not the most disciplined. They drink endlessly, shout ceaselessly and never stop dancing if the game is going their way. They don the most colourful of attire and are never shy to throw a barb particularly at those with whom they do not share a common cause. No wonder they are sometimes referred to as football hooligans.

Our own compare fairly well with any other fans anywhere. Watch the K’Ogalo fans in their green uniform on the day of a match congregate in the heart of the city; chant and pour libation on their way to wherever their team is set to play.

Then they start the match to the venue with drums and flutes. It is a daylong extravaganza that ends with disappointment or more celebration. Or if they play AFC Leopards then you are sure to have a cockerel in the mix.

But the surprise of Russia was on display when Japan took on Senegal. None of them is a serious contender for the trophy, so the game was a low-key. But the fans are never alive to such realities so they did their thing anyway.

The surprise came after the end of the match when fans from both sides did something unusual. They started collecting the litter that was at the stadium seeking to leave the place as clean as they found it.

That is not the stuff of which football is made. But it is the stuff of which Japan is made. A nation famed for its politeness and decency, Japanese are gentle to a fault. Their respect for elders is legendary as is their respect for time and general etiquette.

These are practices that children are taught from birth and grow up to internalise even in old age. The rabid abuse of national office that is the ambition of many African leaders in Japan is the cause for suicide. The sheer shame of having not lived up to the expectation of national decency would drive one to their grave.

If Japan and Senegal were showing the improbable face of football, then there were the descendants of the motley nations from the Balkans. Here you have, among others, Slovenes, Serbs, Kosovars and Croats.

Anybody who thinks Africans and their tribes are a complicated lot should study Europe. This region, with its ancient feuds and wars, never seems to tire of yet another war. Their battles flare up just when you think all has been forgotten and now they are at peace.

And they have been fighting since the Sixth Century. The wars can get really ugly. The reasons for the battles are too complicated to recount. In the mix is religion, politics and attachment to land. Due to the challenges, their descendants have spread and now live all over Europe where they play football. But it seems they never leave the demons of the Balkan territory in their ancient abode.

Football fans are familiar with players such as Nemanja Matic, Luka Modric, Ivan Pevisic, Miralem Pjanic, Ivan Rakitic and the men in the spotlight Xhardan Shaqiri and Granit Zhaka, the later who turns out for London team Arsenal.

Shaqiri and Xhaka are Swiss nationals appearing for the national team in Moscow. When they scored against, of all teams Serbia, they crossed their hands across chest and started flapping their fingers. To many it was an innocuous goal celebration, but not back in the Balkans where everybody understood what they did symbolised Kosovo Eagle and, therefore, a political statement.

When they were fined for their act, a movement immediately set in, not in their country Switzerland, but in Kosovo, to raise money to pay the fines. It speaks of the importance of socialisation. The Bible speaks of “train a child in the way…” The answer to addressing our national ills lies in how we raise the child. – Writer is Dean, School of Communications, Language & Performing Arts at Daystar University

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