The I.S.A. Collection

Friday, June 6, 2014

NIGERIA's Battle Cry: Make Sport, Not War

It would be difficult for anyone following world news today not to know the ravages of war and insurrection that plagues much of Africa. From the feloneous emails to the kidnapped school children, Nigeria has gained international noteriety for all the wrong reasons. But let the blame not fall on its footballers.
When the raveges of war struck Germany in the late 1930's, football became the least respected of the Nazi regime. The German's takeover and annexation of neighboring Austria was a disaster not only for the Austrians (who qualified for the 1938 World Cup), but the German National Team as well.
Several star players and clubs were also inducted under Germany's Federation. Although not the best goalkeeper in squad, Rapid Vienna's Rudolf Raftl was drafted to play between the posts for Germany in 1938 World Cup.  It proved to be a downfall for the "master race" and plummeted the sport even farther on the Third Reich's favor list. But German soccer survived to become the top league in the World and go on to win 3 FIFA Championships.
(photo - International Soccer Archives)
Austrian player on a 1938 German Cigarette card
However, not all dictators had negative results from the militarization of their football. Italy's Benito Mussolini heralded the nation's back to back FIFA Championships in 1934 and 1938.  However, the keepers of the game made certain separations that ensured that the sport survived, albiet with intermitten decades of corruption.
(photo - International Soccer Archives)
The 1938 FIFA Champions pose with Mussolini in full military dress
Nigeria, who has played more matches in The USA than any other African Nation, enjoyed its glory days in the mid-1990's with successive appearences at the 1994 World Cup, the 1995 US Cup and the 1996 Summer Olympics in America. They won their greatest title as Gold Medalist at the Atlanta Games.
(photo - Chuck Zsolnai - I.S.A.)
1996 Olympic Gold Medal Winners
Predictions of being crowned FIFA Champions and producing the world's greatest players have fallen short all too often. The corruption and governmental interfarence have been addressed by FIFA on more than one occasion.
Nigeria prepares to meet the US National Team in Jacksonville, Florida this week. Both squads will make the jump to Brazil for the FIFA competition afterwards.  What remains to be seen is the talent and drive that may overcome the political influences to achive football success.
(from the I.S.A. Collection)
Nigerian Star - Samson Siasia shirt from the 1995 US Cup match vs. the USA
Nigeria and the USA have a commonality which will forever live in football history.