Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos was agog on Wednesday, as football fans thronged the viewing centre put up at the stadium to watch the Super Eagles defeat Guinea-Bissau on giant-sized screens. And fittingly, the Eagles maintained a 100 per cent record at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon by beating their opponents with two unreplied goals.
The viewing centre is among several others provided for the viewing pleasure of fans by the Lagos State government under the supervision of the Lagos State Sports Commission with Coca Cola and 33” Larger Beer as partners.
Other centres include the Campos Mini Stadium, Lagos Island, Abesan playground, Naval Yard Ajegunle, Bishop Aggrey Youth Centre, Mushin, Epe Recreation Centre, Italewa Ikorodu, Badagry Grammar School, Badagry, Agege Stadium Agege and Mobolaji Johnson Sports Centre, Rowe Park, Yaba.
The fans, who were full of praise for the Eagles, were particularly elated that the team maintained its 100 per cent record in the qualifying round by defeating Guinea-Bissau 2-0 to amass nine maximum points en route qualifying for the Round of 16.
Speaking to The Guardian, a jubilant Mr. George Osagie, a resident of Surulere, described the ambience at the Surulere centre on the AFCON matchday three as electrifying. “This is what we’ve been used to since the AFCON began because the Eagles have been scoring goals to everyone’s delight. You can see everyone jumping up while celebrating the joy every goal scored brings to everyone’ faces.
“You can imagine, two guys of different tribes were quarreling and suddenly when Eagles scored, you can’t believe it, I saw two of them hugging each other before they realised what they were doing! Everyone around busted into laughter. Even the two guys didn’t know how it happened. That tells you the magic of football, which is a unifying sport among everyone in this country.”
According to another fan, who simply wants to be addressed as Morenike, watching matches at the Teslim Balogun centre rather than at home afforded her the opportunity to see the electrifying atmosphere each time Eagles score a goal, which she said comes with a lot of fun.
“I like the atmosphere here and I think everyone is enjoying themselves with the Eagles’ match as you can see. The environment is refreshing, interactive and fun-filled. I am here because I want to see people react before, during and whenever we score a goal. I love the shout of joy among the fans here. One rarely sees this if I am to watch the game at home.
“I think the Lagos State government has done a good job by arranging this for lovers of football. Fans here are from different tribes of the country, who converge here in one voice to support the Eagles to victory. I would not mind if the organisers can extend this during the World Cup in Qatar because I know the Eagles will surely be there by God’s grace,” she stated.
According to a statement by Lagos State Sports Commission, “The idea of the viewing centre is a private sector partnership with the state government to bring football closer to Lagosians. And this has been more fun and entertaining, as fans watch all games of the AFCON. And more importantly, to connect with one another as football cuts across class, ethnic and religious affiliations.”