Nigerian Soccer Fans Really Know How To Have A Ball

Nigerian Soccer Fans Really Know How To Have A Ball

8:06pm Jun 16, 2015
Nigerian fans stand and deliver cheers at a match against Australia, played during the Women's World Cup in Winnipeg, Canada.
Nigerian fans stand and deliver cheers at a match against Australia, played during the Women's World Cup in Winnipeg, Canada.
Russell Lewis / NPR

If you watch the United States play Nigeria at the Women's World Cup tonight — kickoff is at 8 p.m. — you'll keep your eyes on the field. After all, it's an important match. A win or a tie, and the U.S. is guaranteed to advance to the knockout round. Even with a loss, the U.S. could still move on. Nigeria is the best team from Africa.

But maybe you should look at the stands instead.

Nigerian fans are an attraction in their own right. Decked out in bright green T-shirts and waving flags, they stand, cheer, party, play trumpets and drums, dance and sing.

"That's the trick about Nigerians," says Dixit Iduozee at a game against Australia last Friday, which Nigeria ended up losing 2-0. "We're always like go, go, go, go, go. No matter what, we don't give up. And until the end, we don't stop."

Nigeria is a fixture at the Women's World Cup. But even though the team has only made it out of the group stage and into the semifinals once, the fans are still enthusiastic.

"You can't come in expecting to win always," says Farouk Salam, a student at the University of Winnipeg. "You come, you win, you lose or you draw. So regardless what happens, you have that mentality to go there to support them. If you're down, they're also down, who's going to keep them moving?"

At a match between Nigeria and Australia, the players notice, too, looking up several times into the small Nigerian cheering section. Even though it will be a tall order for Nigeria to advance in this year's World Cup, fans are having too much fun to care.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

It's the U.S. versus Nigeria tonight at the Women's World Cup in Canada. With a win, the U.S. would advance to the knockout round. But even with a loss or a tie, the U.S. could still move on. Nigeria is the best team from Africa, and its fans are a lot of fun, as NPR's Russell Lewis found out during Nigeria's last game in Winnipeg.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Some World Cup spectators cheer for their team's country quietly. At a few of the Canadian stadiums, it can be so quiet you can listen to the players shout on the field. When Nigeria plays, this is what you hear.

(APPLAUSE)

LEWIS: Don't expect to watch the game sitting down, either. Their fans stand, cheer and party the whole time - trumpets, drums, dancing, singing.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in foreign language).

LEWIS: This was at the end of Nigeria's game against Australia. Despite the celebrations, Nigeria was about the lose 2-0. Dixit Iduozee moved to Canada from Nigeria four years ago.

DIXIT IDUOZEE: That's the trick about Nigerians. We're always like, go, go, go, go, go. No matter what, we don't give up. And until the end, we don't stop.

LEWIS: The Nigerian fans, decked-out in bright green T-shirts and waving flags, have so much fun it can be difficult to watch the action on the field. Nigeria is a fixture at the World Cup, playing every tournament since it began in 1991. Their fan enthusiasm hasn't translated to success on the field - Nigeria has only made it out of the group stage once. Farouk Salam is a student at the University of Winnipeg.

FAROUK SALAM: You can't come in expecting to win always. You come, you win, you lose or you draw. So regardless of what happens, you have the mentality to go there to support them. If you are down they're also down. Who's going to keep them moving?

LEWIS: The players notice too, looking up several times into the small Nigerian cheering section. Even though it will be a tall order for Nigeria to advance in this year's World Cup, fans are already thinking ahead to the next tournament in 2019. Russell Lewis, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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