African teams – Help bring back our girls by Segun Odegbami


My heart is heavy.

I am groping in the darkness that has enveloped Nigeria. In the past few days I have been unable to take my mind away from the new and senseless human carnage in Jos, a city in the heartland of Nigeria.

With less than three weeks to the start of the World Cup, Nigerian football players have had to deal with the unprecedented killings of their kith and kin in a senseless orgy of bombings around the country.

About a week ago, two bomb blasts occurred in a crowded market in Jos. When the dust settled on the rubble over 100 people lay dead among the ruins, with hundreds more carrying the scars of serious injuries. The entire country is thrown into mourning.

This is not an isolated case. Similar incidents have been happening in several other cities in the northern part of Nigeria on an almost daily basis since the start of this year. Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands scarred for life with physical injuries and millions saddled with the pain of broken hearts.

No one is immune from the consequences of the dastardly acts. Not even the country’s heroes – the Super Eagles.

Mikel Obi is Nigeria’s great hope at the World Cup but the terrorists do not care. His family lives in Jos. A few years ago they went through a traumatic experience when Mikel’s father was kidnapped by terrorists for ransom in the city.

Before that, Victor Moses’s parents were killed by rioters in Kaduna, another northern city that has also become a theatre of bombings and deaths in recent bloodletting by the Boko Haram.

It was that incident and fate that took Victor to the UK where his career in football took root and blossomed. The trauma of that experience is re-ignited every time he learns of a bomb blast or killing in Nigeria.

Ahmed Musa, a deadly striker upon whom the fate of Nigeria also lies this summer in Brazil, comes from Kano. That is another active centre in the senseless bombings and killings being unleashed by the same dreaded terrorist group.

This scenario and more are replicated in several other Nigerian towns and villages, leaving Nigerians flailing and groping, helpless against the rampage of the terrorists and kidnappers.

Meanwhile, the Super Eagles are going through the mental throes of these catastrophes.

In the past few weeks 276 young girls were kidnapped from their dormitory in a school in Chibok, Borno State, by the Boko Haram, and their school destroyed. This is a serious escalation of the crisis in Nigeria, instigating unprecedented global attention and outcry. The West, led by the United States of America, is now drawn into the effort to rescue the girls and stop the carnage that has claimed thousands of lives this year alone in Nigeria.

Even I cannot find the psychological balance to write about football today in the midst of the gory tales around me of blasted places and mutilated bodies strewn all over the country’s landscape. It is all so gruesome. I wonder how members of the Super Eagles are taking it and coping on the eve of their greatest challenge.

Segun Odegbami@Shengolpixs80It cannot be easy for them!

Having said that, I am wondering why they have not, as a team, lifted their voices and decried the unacceptably horrific situation. Their cry will reverberate more around the world.


The 2014 World Cup, with the power of its followership, can be used as a platform to make some powerful statements of immense global significance and impact and, hopefully, influence some positive change in world affairs beyond football.

Between the ideals of sports and the mired pits of political, religious and other internecine crises, football and humanity must find a common ground to celebrate the human spirit to conquer adversity.

All the African countries going to the World Cup must join the Super Eagles in lifting their voices and taking the message of millions of traumatised families in Nigeria to the world – ‘Bring Back Our Girls’.

Then, they should use that as psychological ammunition and fuel to do well in the World Cup and use their victories as a soothing balm for their bleeding continental neighbour.

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