Winning in football ... winning in life

OPEC Bulletin Commentary February-March 2013

One goal was all it needed. This came in the 40th minute of the final and saw Nigeria crowned football champions of Africa.

Well done, Nigeria! OPEC lauds your success.

Such success galvanises the mood of a nation. This is especially true in a football-mad country like Nigeria.

And when the winner comes in the shape of an artistic flick of the ball by midfielder Sunday Mba over the head of a defender and then a powerful volley into the net, it is no small wonder that much of the country erupted into a frenzy of colour, noise and joyous celebration that lasted well into the night.

However, there can be only one winner in such a tournament. Thus we recall here too the meritorious efforts of the other OPEC Member Country teams that participated in the competition from the start - Algeria and Angola (who were in the finals) and Libya - unfortunately, to coin a phrase, the ball did not bounce in their favour this time round. But, true to their sporting natures, they will be already turning their attention to the next Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco in 2015.

Football has long since exceeded the bounds of being a simple, accessible and hugely enjoyable game.

Entire cultures can be defined by it in national and international arenas. Some countries are even referred to as 'footballing nations'.

Etched into their cultures in such a way, success on the sports field can be used as a spur to success in other areas.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan recognized this when his official statement after the match tied in the "team's amazing transformation from rank outsiders to champions" to "even greater successes the country can achieve in all other fields of human endeavour."

The OPEC Bulletin commentary that followed another sporting landmark last summer, the Olympic Games, where other Member Countries excelled, pursued a similar theme: "This is, indeed, what life is all about - the constant quest for improvement, realising your true potential and making the best of things, whatever your starting point."

This has special relevance at the present time. The widespread economic malaise of the post-2008 era, rooted very much in the activities of the industrialized world, has exacerbated longstanding problems facing many developing countries. These countries are highly vulnerable to the fallout from economic and political developments in far-off lands over which they have little or no say. This fallout has already affected many of them deeply and imposed added strains upon their impoverished societies.

Therefore, success in a high-profile international arena such as sport can work wonders for morale and self-esteem in such places.

More importantly, it can provide hope and encouragement to other ambitious, dedicated, hard-working young people in developing countries to pursue their own cherished goals in life, and not just those on the football pitch. And these goals - just like that of Sunday Mba - may too require a touch of artistry and a well-targeted conclusion.

OPEC Bulletin Feb-Mar. 2013

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