The field was set, everyone was ready. The spectators waited on the stands with bated breath. Some fans had their radio to their ears while others were glued to their television set. The opposing team/fans have positioned themselves, on both sides of the pitch, the linesmen stood on both ends waiting for the sound of the whistle to be heard. The Centre referee had thrown the coin and shaken hands with the captains of both sides, whose faces frowned with the uncertainty of what the match would be like.
The whistle was blown, it was kick-off. That was how the match between USSR and Nigeria started in 1989 World Youth Championship, in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Little did they know that this match would become the most pulsating quarter-final in the history of FIFA U-20 Championship. The match was going smoothly with players of both teams dribbling, running and trying to take the lead.
Then USSR scored the first goal of the match. As the flying Eagles of Nigeria were adjusting to this, there was another shocker, the rushing Russians rushed in 3 more goals into the net with few minutes to go, and Nigeria was four goals down. With no goals to show, Nigerian fans were leaving the stadium with their heads down. With teary eyes many who have watched the Eagles successfully glide through the championship to the quarter-final wondered if this was where the ship of their dream of winning the competition would drown, all hope vanished except the one the Flying Eagles had in themselves.
The determined look on their faces seemed to say: “Others may give up on us, but we won’t give up”. “Others may quit believing in us, but we won’t quit believing in ourselves”. “Others may not be patient to see our success, but we will fight to the finish, because it’s not over yet”. The thoughts of determination and resolve to believe, was the force that gingered them not to quit.
With less than 30 minutes remaining, the Nigerian team found its rhythm. Christopher Ohenhen was the first to convert the team’s spirit to two quick goals, Samuel Elijah hit the net in the 83rd minute, and Nduka Ugbade level up the score at 4-4, with just 6 minutes remaining. Those who have earlier given up on them shouted for joy at the top of their lungs. The match commentator almost lost his voice as he screamed the equalizing goal, those who left the stadium and heard the news on their way home rushed back to witness how the Nigerians trounced the Russians in the resulting penalty shoot-out. This event is what football history now calls: “The Miracle of Dammam”
You may say “what’s that to me?”, “How does it concern me?” The truth is, it is not only on the football pitch we play matches. We play different matches everyday of our lives on different pitches. On the academic pitch, we play matches against Mathematics, English and other subjects. On the health pitch, team sickness and disease try to outplay, weaken and defeat our immunity. On the mental pitch, the team of fear and low self-esteem engage the team of our confidence and self-worth in a subtle battle for control in the game of thrones of our minds. On the financial pitch, lack and the harsh economy have teamed up to deplete our bank accounts.
Your past efforts to succeed in school or business might have failed four times. Your goals to make it might have met obstacles. You might be 4 goals down and your shoreline is 0-4. But, 0-4 does not mean you have lost, 0-4 does not mean there is no more hope, 0-4 does not mean you are a flop, remember the Miracle of Dammam.
Like those who left the stadium thinking it was over for the Eagles. Some may think it is over for you, that going to school will do you, no good. That you should stop trying, that your effort is just a waste.
That you should lie down, do nothing and just wait. Maybe this is your destiny, maybe this is your fate. Don’t listen to them, because those who quit on you, when you seem to be whipped on the pitch, will be the same people who will sing, and say, “I said that he will make it”. 4 goals down does not mean you have drowned, you still have time. You might have wasted time, and might have left just a little time, but a little time, is still time. Give it your best, it is not over yet, and if you need inspiration when you are 4 goals down, remember “The Miracle of Dammam”.