Lagos alive with Champions League fever

Adeleke Afolayan - Lagos, Nigeria

For the very few who did not know the big event that was going to take place last night, a look at the shirts and attire most people wore on that day would be good enough clue for them. From the Okada (motorcyclist) man and his passenger to the recharge card seller on the roadside, to the local bars all the way into various schools in the city and the canteen of a Chelsea fan who served only blue plates and cups, virtually everyone was caught in the buzz one way or the other.

That fateful day was the match of the European Champions League final between top two English clubs Manchester United and Chelsea at the capital city of Russia, Moscow.

But from the run-up to that moment in history around the commercial capital of Nigeria, Lagos, one would not be blamed for thinking the match was actually going to take place at the National Stadium or Teslim Balogun Stadium.

For the fans of the London side Chelsea, it was as if they had seen the outcome of the match hours before its commencement as they proclaimed their confidence of their dear club lifting its first ever European Cup.

Their confidence was evident in the horse that was painted all blue, the colour of the Stamford Bridge side as well as the cow draped in a custom made jersey of the club.

Those brought memories of the 2006 final of the same competition which saw Arsenal fans in Lagos paint two cows in the colours of the club along with an entourage of vehicles.

In Port-Harcourt, the Chelsea fans went round town garnering people to support the club come May 21, leaving a neutral impressed by the solidarity for a London side; and at the same time sad that such is hard to come by for Nigerian clubs.

Anyway, fans of Manchester United in Lagos were not so silent as they expressed their own confidence of winning the Cup and further piling misery on Chelsea after piping the Blues to the league shield in England.

Speaking with some of the  "Red Devils", they placed their hopes on Cristiano Ronaldo and captain Rio Ferdinand to form the foundation for the team on the night in Moscow.

They also opined that the vast experience of their long-serving Scottish manager Sir Alex Ferguson would tell over that of Avram Grant the Chelsea manager in his first season at the London club.

And so the moment of truth came, anyone that was not in front of a television set was rushing to the nearest View Centre to watch the match or had a transistor radio nearby.

Some even found television sets by roadside shops and kiosks and took advantage of a  "free view" not minding to stand through the duration of the dramatic encounter.

The best part was when the game went into penalties, the nerve-wracking tension in Moscow could be felt across the seas in Lagos, and when Ronaldo missed Man U's third penalty, the roar of approval from Chelsea fans was deafening.

Then Chelsea captain John Terry stepped up for the penalty which if converted would win the Cup and begin celebrations in Lagos for the followers of the Blues.

The silence that engulfed the following seconds itself heightened the tense atmosphere and Terry must have felt it as he slipped just as his foot hit the ball, sending United fans into ruptures with their team back in the picture.

The dramatic ding-dong shootout was completed when Edwin van Der Sar saved Nicholas Anelka's spot kick; firecrackers cracked all around Lagos and chants of  "One United",  "Red Devils for Life" and so on rent the cool Lagos night, Manchester United had won their third European crown.

Sadly for the Chelsea fans, all their preparations for a long and victorious night came to nothing as most sulked and sauntered home amidst United fans who taunted the now sullen folks of Chelsea.

The morning of May 22 saw people greeting themselves with  "Up United",  "Man U for Life" and so on, even those who could not care less what the greeting actually meant.