So, Harry and the boys are in Nigeria then, but ahead of the matches to be played over the weekend what do we know about what’s going on?
Who are we playing? Are they any good? Do we even care?
Like most I guess, all I knew was that Pompey are due to play a Nigerian team on Saturday and Manchester United on Sunday but it wasn`t until I delved a little deeper and had a look at some of the promotional stuff that I realised just how big this event is, primarily for Nigeria, but potentially for Pompey too.
The ‘Tinapa Invitational Soccer Fiesta’, (to give it it’s proper title), is to be an annual event aimed at establishing The Tinapa Resort, located in south-eastern Nigeria, as one of the top strategic business, leisure and tourist destinations in the world.
The marketing brochure states that ‘the fiestas’ objectives are to portray a positive image of Nigeria internationally, whilst furthering the development of sports, peace and tranquillity in the country. In stating the ‘purpose’ of the event it invites corporate brands (such as Pompey and Manchester United I guess!) to use the event to leverage and derive the same benefits and value as desired by Tinapa .. Whatever that means !
Having read the ‘marketing speak’ a few times, it became a little clearer. Basically, for all concerned this is an opportunity to be seen doing the right things, in the right place, with the right people and we shouldn’t really be that surprised that Pompey as a ‘corporate brand’ grabbed this opportunity with both hands.
I then read that ‘The fiesta’ is to be held in the 60,000 all-seater Abuja National Stadium, an ultra modern multipurpose complex and one of the greatest architectural landmarks in Abuja. My initial thoughts were along the lines of ‘seen one big stadium, seen ’em all’, but again on closer inspection I realized just how huge this place is. It seems to me that in Nigeria a ‘stadium’ is not a stadium at all, but a ‘complex’. The Abuja boosts: a Presidential suite, a helipad, a 3000 capacity indoor sports hall, a 2000 capacity gymnasium, a 3000 capacity hockey stadium, a lake (yes lake !) a raft of other amenities including and as they are keen to point out, ‘shops and kiosks for snacks’.
The idea it seems, when building the stadium, at a cost of $360 million, was to meet all the standards set out by the IAAF & FIFA in order to allow Nigeria to bid for virtually any future sporting event ever to be staged on earth. Even before construction was complete it had been designated, above 80 other bidders, as the host venue for 8th All Africa Games even though there was no ‘participant village’, but of course they built one. They built one to house the 6000 athletes ! and the games went ahead with 53 countries competing in 22 different sports. The event went so smoothly that Nigeria now has its eyes on hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games at the Abuja to coincide with the Nigerians Centenary celebrations. Their biggest rivals it seems are Glasgow!… umm.. I’m not entirely sure Ibrox is up to it !
Anyway, back to the football. I thought I’d dig around to see if the Nigerian team we are playing are any good, but that was easier said than done as it appears that nobody knows who it is we are playing on Saturday, either that or nobody is willing to confirm it.
Basically, once Pompey & Manchester United had accepted the invitation a national text poll was conducted whereby the footballing fans of Nigeria were asked to text the name of the team they would like to see represent their country against the Champions of England & Europe and the Winners of the most prestigious club Cup competition in the world, but I think they have the same problem in Nigeria as we do on our shores ..
One website I found said that we are playing ‘Enyimba’ as they won the text vote, another site details an interview with the Chairman of the Nigerian League winners ‘The Kano Pillars’ stating that they are going give Pompey a stern test. A third site claimed we were playing the Nigerian National team (Kanu against Distin, Utaka v Hermann??). Confused, I looked to the official Pompey site for clarification and it appears they will not confirm anything either !
My guess is that it is to be the Kano Pillars but interestingly, a look at the geography of the country shows (again) how big this event really is to Nigeria. Calabar (the city that houses the Tinapa Resort) is about 300 miles south of the Capital City Abuja which itself is 200 miles south of Kano, so that basically means that if the situation were reversed a team from Nigeria would be coming to England to play Aberdeen at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light in order to promote Gunwharf !
I thought I was just about finished with my research as I had I found as much as I could about ‘The Fiesta’ when I noticed that it wasn’t even a ‘Round-Robin’ event. Unlike the Asia Trophy last year there is no ‘semi’ and ‘final’, no cup to be won. It’s just two matches! Pompey v whatever Nigerian XI they decide on the day and Pompey v Manchester Untied. Why we are the only team to play two games I’ve no idea. Maybe Peter Storrie used some of that ‘leverage’ they spoke about in the brochure and ‘derived’ some ‘benefits and value’ in much the same way as ‘desired by Tinapa’!
Ah well, whoever it is I’m sure the spectators will witness what the literature describes as ‘the greatest soccer show Africa has ever seen’. I just hope the team don’t go down with malaria !
Written by Chix.
The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.