DURO’S RUSSIA NOTES…

Before yesterday’s bruising battle between Nigeria and Argentina in St Petersburg, the Super Eagles and the Albiceleste have met at the World Cup stage on four different occasions.

Of course, as expected, those past encounters have often been dominated by hypes and tensions amongst fans of both countries. Four years ago in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Albiceleste fans dominated every space available in that city. Majority of them didn’t need to cough out huge sums to buy air tickets to arrive the Brazilian city. Several of them came by land transport. The Argentines outnumbered hosts Brazilians in pubs and bars 24 hours before that final group stage game. At a point, most of the inhabitants of the city began to openly complain of the nuisance some of them have constituted themselves.

Match day was not different. Several hours before the kick off of that memorable match, they literarily seized the arena and environ. For every national heading towards the stadium, the Argies tripled them! The Nigerian cheer party known around the world for its beautiful soul lifting songs was dwarfed by the noise and hollas from the Argentines.

Exactly four years and one day after that epic battle in Brazil, the Argentines were back again in their perennial struggle with Nigeria. Having drawn its first game against Iceland and lost the second to Croatia, Lionel Messi and his teammates were home bound until Nigeria’s 2-0 defeat brought them back to life. It was this scenario that was playing out before the evening game that created buzz all around the beautiful city.

Never has the city seen such an unending influx of Nigerians and Argentines before. Large contingents of nationals of both countries poured into the city through the Pulkovo Airport and by other entry points to be part of the much-talked about game.

Several Nigerians who particularly have their minds on the Nigeria/Argentina match poured into St Petersburg in their hundreds from several parts of the world.

Hotels in the city all were bursting at the seams as football-loving Nigerians and Argentines swooped on Russia’s second largest city.

Amongst top Nigerian bigwigs to be part of the game include but not limited to Senate President Bukola Saraki who led the cheers for the Super Eagles, alongside Ambassador Steve Davies Ugbah. Youth and Sports Minister Solomon Dalung who returned to Abuja for the NEC Meting and APC Convention returned to the city 24 hours before the clash.

Members of the National Assembly (Senators and House Members), NFF Executive Committee Members, Members of the NFF Congress and former NFF Presidents and General Secretaries were also at the venue.

Ex internationals like Segun Odegbami, Nwankwo Kanu, Emmanuel Amuneke, Wilson Oruma, Edema Fuludu and several other football stakeholders too numerous to mention were all tensed before John Mikel Obi led Eagles out of the dug out.

However, late strike from Marcos Rojo dashed Super Eagles’ hope of a second round ticket and assured Argentina a ticket into the next round and will face France next week.

However, late strike from Marcos Rojo dashed Super Eagles’ hope of a second round ticket and assured Argentina a ticket into the next round and will face France next week.