By Chibuogwu
Nnadiegbulam
Today,
Africa was united in purpose, as Ghana looked to shock North Korea for a place
in the semifinal of the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup, Jordan 2016.
In
my heart, I already knew they won’t make it, but as it’s often said, nothing is
impossible in football, so I backed Ghana to go for it nonetheless.
In
class, Keir taught us more about WADA (World Anti-doping Agency), how they
operate and how they get their money. He further explained how Ben Johnson’s
doping case inspired WADA’s creation while emphasising that it is only a
supervisory body, and doesn’t do the testing.
After
Keir’s session, we had the honour of having the co-founder of women’s football in
Palestine and the first woman from the Middle East to work with FIFA, Honey
Thaljieh. She is as sweet as her first name.
She
shared her story of how she grew up loving football from a narrow street in
Bethlehem, stating that at that time it was about the entertainment as a kid
growing up in a war zone.
According
to her, football is about identity, breaking stereotypes and about hope. She is
one of those who represents the human face of FIFA, reaching out to the
refugees especially.
She
was instrumental in ensuring that 250 girls left the Za’atari Syrian refugee
camp for the first time in their lives, to witness the colourful opening
ceremony of the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016.
In
all, women’s football has remained her major priority. And just so you know,
she’s single, but not ‘searching’.
Irbid,
the second most populated city in Jordan, was where we were headed, to wrap up
the quarter final stage of this year’s FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup. North Korea
vs Ghana comes up first, before Japan vs England.
We
had taken our famous lunch boxes, but still opted to go for lunch at a mall not
directly opposite the stadium. A really magnificent mall it was from the top to
it’s underground.
Some
of us had to wait at the stadium in preparation for the first match of the day,
so we bought them what they needed.
As
we climbed the first escalator, Tracy reminded me of a video I had shown her
from Facebook, about a girl who tried severally to get on an escalator, and
eventually had to pull off her boots before squatting on it.
Anyway,
after the second escalator, we came to the floor where there were fast food
joints; Subway, MacDonald’s and even a Chinese restaurant. Everyone got what
they wanted. I bought Shawerma and French fries that I ended up not finishing.
We
were back in time for the match between North Korea and Ghana in which the
Africans fought a good fight but lost 2-1 at the last minute. It was really
heart breaking. I felt it.
My
assignment today was to do a “sweeper” on the Japan vs England match
and so I watched with rapt attention – from the pitch to the bench and even to
the stands for anything weird or not, but most importantly, eye-catching. I
concluded that I would write about Riko Ueki, the no 9 whose performance was
too good to ignore.
Riko
ended up becoming the Player of the Match (for the third time in four matches),
and I felt really good with myself having been able to predict it from the
first 10 minutes of the match.
Riko Ueki
So,
after watching how the Japanese goal scorers on the day took a bow in a circle
formed by their teammates, and all the players eventually bowing to their fans
in appreciation of their cheers and support, I dashed to the Stadium Media
Centre which leads to the press conference room.
I
stayed on for the England Post match Press conference – the losing team does
theirs first – and then for that of Japan, which I was more interested in. I
already had three questions lined up. One for the coach and two quick ones for
Riko. Questions that would particularly help me with my article. So I asked my
questions at once.
The
Press Conference which lasted for about 30 minutes, was the longest I attended
at this year’s FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup. Only the (Multilingual) Media
Officer of the team, did the translation from English to Arabic to Japanese, as
the case may be. I did admire him for that, but at that point, I did not envy
him at all.
Of
course, I knew he probably wasn’t saying everything the coach or player was
saying (not necessarily because there was anything to hide). So I did a cross
check with our in-house Japanese translator, Masamichi, when we got back to the
hotel. But before then, however, I explored the mixed zone for the first time
in the competition to ask Riko a few more questions.
It
was our last time in Irbid. We took photos to mark it.
As
we embarked on our two-hour drive back to the hotel, (before I slept), I first
observed in the dark, the different colours of lights (from houses, hotels and
all) scattered afar like stars in the sky.
We
got back to the hotel at almost mid-night. But I made sure I finished my
article before going to bed at about 3am.

 

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