Brave faces in Lagos after Nigeria lose Africa Cup of Nations finalMon, 12 Feb 2024 03:13:47 GMT

With the game beamed onto a huge screen in a Lagos stadium, Nigerian football fans put on brave faces as they watched their side lose to Ivory Coast in Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final.Some spectators though began to trickle out of the Onikan stadium even before the final whistle sounded on Nigeria’s 2-1 defeat. Nigerian fans were out in force in the country’s economic capital and continent’s most populous city, hoping for a rare moment of good news as the country struggles under an economic crisis.But hosts Ivory Coast dashed those dreams and won the tournament for the third time.”Some have to lose, some have to win”, said Lagos spectator John Olabiwi.”We are the best team, (but) it’s a game of chance. They were excellent,” said fervent fan Lorreta Ishola, who has watched every match in the competition.It would be an understatement to say Nigerians had been looking forward to the final.African champions in 1980, 1994 and 2013, Nigeria had not participated in an Africa Cup of Nations final since their last title. But beating the Elephants on home soil in Abidjan proved too great a challenge.William Troost-Ekong headed Nigeria in front late in the first half, but Franck Kessie equalised on the hour and Sebastien Haller poked in the winner with nine minutes left.Nigerians have been hit hard by the economic crisis that has seen inflation and the cost of living soar over the last eight months, and many had hoped victory would bring some much-needed cheer.There was so much excitement in the run-up to the match that the Lagos health ministry issued advice to fans, warning them to “stay calm”, take breaks, keep hydrated and “be prepared for emergencies”. When defender Troost-Ekong headed Nigeria in front late in the first half, it electrified the crowd watching on the screen in Lagos.Fans chanted star goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali’s name with each of his saves: “Nwabali! Nwabali! Nwabali!”  But Ivory Coast’s second goal dampened the crowd’s spirit. “I’m feeling bad, I’m disappointed,” said Becky Jimoh, who had come to support her team. The stadium was already almost empty when an automatically programmed firework display went off for the remaining disappointed fans.