As I was making my way through the thick post-game crowds at Otrikiye Stadium, I noticed two peculiar jerseys in the back. Of course, throughout the course of the Poland-Senegal game, I had spotted an array of interesting kits, from one featuring Senegal’s backup defender Kara Mbodji, to one featuring Argentina’s 2nd choice goalkeeper Willy Caballero, to one USA kit with the word “COVFEFE” on the back, referring to President Trump’s misspelled 2017 tweet which has since ascended to Internet fame. But the ones that most caught my eye were the beautiful Nigeria kits, which featured Russian letters on the back.
I stopped to chat with the two men, twin brothers who had flown over 11 hours from Bangladesh, to witness the World Cup in person. The two had gone to Russia and purchased Nigerian kits, often regarded as the most beautiful jersey from the 2018 World Cup, and then printed their names on the back, but with Russian letters. The Cyrillical writing is what caught my eye and peaked my interest, and it was refreshing to see a break from the traditional Latin alphabet on the backs of the kits. It’s just another example of the cultural fusion that has grown to become a common theme of this World Cup. When I went to the Poland-Senegal game, most of the people wearing the Senegal kit were Caucasian, with plenty of volunteers from a Christian missionary in Australia wearing the Lions of Teranga shirt, as well as getting their faces painted with Senegal colors. When I went to the Portugal-Morocco game, most of the Portugal fans were of Asian descent; in sharp contrast to the completely native-speaking Moroccan fanbase that bellowed their voices out in the metro stations and the stadium.
After the Poland game, the majority-native Poland fans sought to congratulate and converse with the few and far between Senegalese fans. Before the Morocco game, a handful of Morocco fans commenced to boo the Portugal anthem, but they were promptly hushed down by another group of Morocco fans, who then proceeded to applaud the Portugal anthem. It is a testament to the World Cup’s unique ability to bring together people from all over the world, bonded by a fierce, unyielding passion. It is a testament to football’s power to unite different people, different cultures, and different regions. It is a testament to why football is the most powerful unifier the world has.
By: Zach Lowy