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No Redemption

Joe Opio/TwentyTen

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

SCENE I: Roberto Baggio misses a penalty, costing Italy the 1994 World Cup. He is treated with sympathy and celebrated as a hero, going on to redeem himself four years later in France.

SCENE II: Pierre Wome misses a penalty which denies Cameroon a ticket to the 2006 World Cup. He is declared Public Enemy number one. His property is vandalized, his relatives hounded, his wife’s business torched and his international career brought to an abrupt end.

Football fans are, by their very nature, a notoriously fickle lot. Yet even by prevailing standards, fans in Africa are capricious to a fault. Like a woman trapped in that proverbial time of the month, moods among African fans don’t just swing; they veer from one extreme to another with no warning signs whatsoever. Multitudes of African footballers have gone from hero to zero in a split-second. And while fans from other parts of the world give their disgraced heroes a chance to redeem themselves, Africans afford fallen idols no such charity.

Unconvinced? Perhaps a case study will suffice!

In 1994, Roberto Baggio cost Italy the 1994 World Cup by dispatching his spot-kick into the Californian skies. Baggio’s dreadful 12-yard failure wrung compassion out of Italians who forgave The Divine Ponytail since he had been the reason they reached the final anyway. Four years later, Baggio scored a penalty against Chile at the 1998 World Cup in France.
The Italian public hailed him...

FOR THE FULL STORY OF 2432 WORDS CONTACT pictures@africamediaonline.com

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