… And that’s when she lit the blue touch paper.
It was Nigeria’s fault for playing so poorly in the World Cup.
Ironically we both wanted Nigeria to beat Argentina but as the game progressed our paths took different directions.
Where I saw Nigeria underperforming. She saw injustice and prejudice… fuelled by sniping comments on the Twitter feed she was watching more than the match.
“Ah, I see what’s going on here,” was uttered more than once.
I knew exactly what she was suggesting. But all I could see on the screen was a team in self-destruct mode.
The flash point came during a call for a penalty to Nigeria which, quite rightly, the referee waved away.
“The referee is racist,” came the instant accusation. “I can spot all the signs.”
She went on to read out similarly accusatory comments from her Twitter stream.
“Unless those are from Gary Lineker, Rio Ferdinand, or anyone who knows anything at all about football I’m not really interested,” my patience had worn thin. “It wasn’t a penalty. And, anyway, how can you say the ref is racist?”
“He’s making decisions based on subconscious prejudice.”
“No he isn’t. He’s making decisions based on the laws of the game. Nigeria aren’t losing this game due to prejudice, they’re losing because they’ve played shite. They don’t deserve to win.”
“How can you say that? You’ve no evidence at all.”
“I’ve years of experience in this area and I can spot it.”
We disagreed some more, heatedly, before she hit me square in the jaw with “Yours is a typically defensive and argumentative reaction by middle-aged white men when the question of racism is brought up.”
At that point what had been a heated debate turned personal… ugly… into something far more serious.
Many times during the week we’d talked of instances of gross injustices, prejudice, racism and had been in accord every time. Insisting Nigeria’s downfall had not been caused by a racist ref but by themselves was the first time I’d disagreed.
“Oh, come on.” I was furious. “That’s bullshit. If you view this match without labels, without seeing colour, then the team which has played better is winning. It’s as simple as that. There’s only one person in this room who’s allowing prejudice to influence their judgement.”
I was hurt and angered by her barbed accusation. In my mind anger jostled with the slightest niggle of self doubt. I firmly believed Nigeria had lost because they weren’t good enough and there was no way she could know if the referee was racist, subconsciously or otherwise. But then again, there was no way I could know for sure he wasn’t.
There was one thing I was 100% sure about. I wouldn’t be watching a football match with this particular friend again. The match had been totally ruined. Hopefully our friendship wouldn’t meet the same fate.
Thanks for that Nigeria.