Life seems to have stopped in the West African country of Nigeria as millions await the first world Cup game of the Super Eagles.
In Africa, soccer is a religion. It makes people forget the daily struggles of life, the divisions, the poverty, the social classes and the tribalism. It brings people together for 90 or 120 minutes. It unites but can also divide, especially after a shocking defeat or a sweet victory. Law sometimes breaks down after those moments as people take to the streets to celebrate the players after victory or rage against government fecklessness after a bitter humiliating defeat.
In Nigeria, the Super Eagles are playing in Russia at 9 p.m. local time, and preparations are palpable everywhere in bars and open spaces as well as in homes. Drinks are not far away and tension and hopes and expectations are reaching to the skies.
But nowhere else is the wait more anticipated than in Lagos, the country’s smallest but most populous state in the Southwest.
There, the government has set up six viewing centres across the state to enable fans watch the ongoing World Cup matches in Russia.
The State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, had last month promised to set up viewing centres in key locations that would afford residents watch all the 64 World Cup matches live in a serene and secured environment.
The six centres currently up and running include Campos Mini Stadium Lagos Island; Teslim Balogun Stadium Surulere; Abesan Estate in Alimosho; Naval Yard Ajegunle; Bishop Aggrey School Mushin and Epe Recreation Centre In Epe.
At the Campos Mini Stadium, residents after the thrilling Group B match between Portugal and Spain, described the initiative as laudable and novel, the government said in a statement.
The said due to unstable electricity in some parts of Lagos Island , the Centre has given them the opportunity to watch the games.
For some other spectators at the Centre, it afforded them the opportunity of watching the World Cup matches in a relaxed mood with stable electricity.
A resident, Lukman Atanda said, “I enjoy watching football games among the people and the creation of viewing center by the Lagos State Government gave me joy because the atmosphere here at the Campos Stadium is lively. Kudos to the Lagos State Government.”
To Kelvin Obase, the viewing center at the Campos Stadium has guaranteed him that some of the matches he would like to watch during the World Cup is certain.
“I don’t need to worried about electricity for the period of the World Cup,” Obase said.
The Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission, Mr. Kweku Tandoh, quickly took credit.
He said because football is a unifying activity that brings the people together, football lovers therefore sees the government as one that touches other sectors such as sports.
He said the creation of viewing center by the State was also complementing the various grassroots sports development championships and competitions that the administration of Governor Ambode has solely sponsored, which according to him is an added advantage to the numerous achievements of the Governor in other sectors of the Lagos economy.
Besides, Tandoh said the Government has made adequate provisions for medical coverage, adequate security, traffic control and general sanitation at all the viewing centres.
He also disclosed that a Public Liability Insurance Cover is also in place covering the six centres for the period of the World Cup.
“Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who is a member of the Federal Government’s delegation to the Russia 2018 World Cup finals, wants Lagosians to have a feel of football action in the ongoing tournament and he believes the viewing centres will also serve as fun and relaxation spots for the people,” he said.