By Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam
Friday! Game day! D day for the commencement of the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016.
Even with my eyes heavy from lack of sleep I was still looking forward to the opening ceremony. Oh my! I’ve never been to one before and ‘today had got to be the day’.
We had been told the previous day to converge at the meeting room by 9:30am sharp, meaning if you are interested in breakfast, you have to finish from the restaurant before that time.
With punctuality ringing in my head I was seated in the meeting room before 9:30 – this is also to prove Sonja wrong too, regarding her perception of Africans and ‘African time’.
Sonja works with the AIPS and she is also one of our mentors.
Roslyn who is like a mother to us Young Reporters, is Secretary General of the AIPS (International Sports Press Association).
My roommate, Paloma could not come down for the class, as she was still feeling jetlagged and was allowed more time to rest.
At the meeting room, we were given our assignments. While a batch would travel to Irbid for the two games to be played there, the other batch would stay back in Amman, where most importantly the opening ceremony would take place, and I felt lucky to be in Amman.
Then, I requested that I go see Nigeria’s training at the King Abdullah II International stadium, which is about 30 minutes from our hotel and also attend the press conference ahead of their game against Brazil afterwards.
In our coverages, there are rules to abide by, considering we are non-right holders, don’t take pictures or do a video inside the stadium, you can only do so outside it, don’t take photos at press conferences etc. I was disappointed by these restrictions, but even more so was Jillian, one of us from the United States of America, she kept questioning why she (or any other reporter) should be denied ‘action shots’.
The first set of YRs, under the tutelage of Keir left for Irbid at 11am, while the rest of us assigned to Amman had the luxury of resting until 2:30.
At that time Riccardo, one of our mentors and another YR from Jordan, Fara joined me and we took a taxi to KAS, while others went to the Amman International Stadium in a bus that was already provided for our movement to any stadium and back.
We got to KAS at 3pm and Nigeria’s team bus arrived moments later. we were allowed watch for 20minutes of which there was nothing significant to report.
At the Press Conference, after the many rules I heard, I didn’t know if I were to place my recorder on the table where the coaches of Nigeria and Brazil sat alongside their captains.
Well, to avoid stories that touch – because we were told your accreditation could be revoked if we defaulted – I held recorder through out the question and answer session.
Only three of us that had gone from the AIPS Young Reporters Programme, were present at the Press Conference and so we asked all the questions. We were told that no one had come for the English vs North Korea Press Conference the day before.
When the Press Conference was over, we got in a cab going to the Amman International Stadium so we could catch the second half of the Mexico/New Zealand game, enjoy the opening ceremony and watch Jordan/Spain. On our way, My Ag. Head of Sports at Today 95.1 FM called me on our show Today Sports Live to speak ahead of the Nigeria vs Brazil game and when I was done, AIPS mentor, Riccardo was impressed.
However that would eventually turn sour when he asked for my article from the press conference later and I could not present it.
Most of what I could hear from my recorder were echoes (of hard times, maybe) and this delayed my article, since I needed the exact quotes of coach Bala Nikyu and Rasheedat Ajibade to develop my story about Nigeria’s dependence on luck and prayer to succeed at this tournament. And even Fara could not send her own recording to me at the time.
So I enjoyed every moment of the historic opening ceremony that lit up the stadium with really beautiful colours. From showcasing their historical sites at the centre circle, to Lebanese superstar singer Carole Samaha and her Jordanian counterpart Hussein Al Salman singing the official song of the tournament, ‘Jordan Our Play Ground’, to lots of children dancing too.
The fireworks at the end of it all was electric and that atmosphere was taken in to the game between Jordan and Spain, which Spain easily won 6-0. The excitement faded at some point as fans began to leave the stadium.
Speaking of my story about the press conference, I ended up writing one without quotes but it was not published because it seemed more like a radio script than an article. Truthfully, I felt bad. It seemed like there was nothing to show that I had gone to the King Abdullah Stadium on the day. However, Sonja reminded me that I’m not only here for work but also here to learn. Most importantly, to learn.
I went to bed with mixed feelings about how my day was, but one quote which was shown time and time again on the big screen at the Amman International Stadium, meant a lot more:
“Football cannot solve conflicts, but it can bring joy to the children affected.”