Football! The entire hall chorused. There was no doubt, no second guessing, the unanimous response of the over fifty guests that filled the art gallery at Freedom Park for Dr Wiebe Boer’s book launch signaled how integral football was to Nigeria as a nation.
Dr Wiebe Boer, the author of 'A Story of Heroes and Epics: The History of Football in Nigeria' asked, “What is something that’s positive, national, unifying and historical about Nigeria?” The answer he got, regardless of ethnicity, tribe, religion, age, gender and socio-economic class was a resounding football.
Few blocks from where the first Nigeria Football Association meeting held Dr Wiebe noted at the book presentation that only football unites Nigerians.
Despite the nation being split along different lines, Dr Wiebe’s observation will play out when the Super Eagles play at the World Cup in Russia. Hearts from different ends of the nation, regardless of divides will beat as one as they offer support to the team.
Wiebe said on Sunday, during the Book presentation, that although football was introduced by the colonials, it has grown to be a cultural force uniting Nigerians.
He explained that despite the disparity caused by Nigerian politicians, Nigeria can still survive on the strong foundation of football.
"Football will continue to play a vital role even though politicians are trying to divide us, football will continue to unite us together."
He noted that Nigeria needs to further discover things that foster unity, things that serve as a unifier just as football.
"We need to find more things that bring us together. But football has built a foundation for something to grow on."
The Book which was forwarded by former Cross-River Governor, Donald Duke, tells the hugely significant story of the rise of football in colonial Nigeria as a unifying cultural force in the country.
The origins of the game in Nigeria, the history of organised football, the institutions that produced the early football stars, the first Nigerian players to play abroad, Nigeria’s first international matches, the earliest rivalries and narratives on football’s incursion into the southern and northern regions, are some of the subjects that form the basis of this incredible social history of Nigeria.
Dignitaries at the event were the Nigeria Football Federation President and Vice, Mr Amaju Pinnick and Mr Shehu Dikko, Kunle Solaja, Femi Obong Daniel, MI Abaga among many others.