After nearly a month, we have finally concluded the 34th Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2024, and we couldn’t have asked for a more worthy final game.
A second-half dramatic comeback crowned Côte d’Ivoire as the African champions, defeating Nigeria with a 2-1 score. It was a fairy tale scene to lift the third continental title triumph for the Ivory Coast national team, and that too in front of the home crowd no less.
The game took place at Alassane Ouattara Stadium, also known as the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpé. The stadium hosted a number of high-profile guests during the auspicious closing ceremony.
Besides the CAF president, Dr. Patrice Motsepe; CAF invited former AFCON-winning skippers, including Roger Milla, Kanu, and Bouazizi, for the 2024 AFCON final event. FIFA president Gianni Infantino was also captured in the stands. Legends of the game like Drogba or Arsene Wenger were also spotted.
Sure, the game compelled everyone to be glued to the screen, but a funny clip capturing Gianni Infantino and Arsene Wenger seated behind him caught the attention of social media. And the memers have already gotten to work.
What really happened?
During the 1st half, when Nigeria was still in the lead, the camera panned towards the FIFA president for a few seconds.
Gianni Infantino was captured engrossed in his phone in the stands. But the reaction of the former Arsenal manager caught the attention as he was trying to have a sneak peek at the president’s phone from behind. Arsene Wenger was captured having his eyes fixated on the phone screen as he even came closer to the edge of the seat to have a better look at it.
What’s so interesting on the president’s phone that Wenger couldn’t stop looking? We can’t know that for sure. But social media has surely developed their theories about it.
The fans have publicly called out FIFA and Gianni Infantino for always intentionally favoring the former Barcelona man during the awards ceremonies and recognitions. Unsurprisingly, they did not miss this AFCON moment of opportunity to again take a dig at Gianni Infantino.
Commenting on what’s so important about his phone, fans have humorously asserted that Gianni Infantino must be busy preparing a way to present Lionel Messi as the AFCON Player of the Tournament – a league where Messi has no connection whatsoever. This playful commentary hints at the perception that FIFA always finds a way to favor their supposed favorite player.
Arsenal Winning UCL
This year, under Arteta, Arsenal has qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17. Interestingly, Arsenal was under the helm of Arsene Wenger during that time. Notably, even after reaching to the finals in 2005-06 under Wenger, Arsenal never lifted the UCL.
But fans seem to believe that this time will break the norm, as Gianni Infantino has apparently already come up with a script that will see Arsenal as the UCL champion, and Arsene Wenger was thus intently trying to have a peek at the script from behind
Wenger Copying Ferguson
While the previous ones were a dig at Gianni Infantino, people did not forget to poke fingers at Arsene Wenger as well, bringing back the context of the early 2000s.
During that time, Premier League was synonymous with the epic rivalry of Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson. While both of them have marked an era in their respective clubs, Manchester United fans have often cited Wenger as a copycat for emulating Ferguson’s tactics.
However, these are just silly conjectures coming from a Manchester United fan.
Both Wenger and Ferguson are legendary managers for their respective clubs, each with their own distinct approaches. Wenger is renowned for his adherence to a fixed style of play and emphasis on positional tactics, while Ferguson was known for his pragmatism and adaptability.
But a particular United fan seems to believe otherwise. He has jokingly taken a dig at Wenger, suggesting that when Wenger glanced at Gianni Infantino’s phone, it was akin to how he used to sneak a peek at Ferguson’s tactics.
Undoubtedly, Ferguson holds the advantage over Wenger in various aspects of the game, including silverware achievements and head-to-head statistics. However, it’s important to recognize that creating an invincible team requires more than just copying others’ tactics.
Mourinho Was Right Afterall
Jose Mourinho was well ahead of his time for a reason, and the photo of Arsene Wenger peeping just reminded the internet of a Mourinho quote from back in 2005.
Arsene Wenger and Mourinho were known for their contentious relationship, and Mourinho, true to form, never hesitated to openly criticize others.
Bothered by Wenger’s remarks concerning Chelsea’s dressing room and performance in 2005, the Portuguese manager publicly labeled Arsene Wenger as “a voyeur” during a press conference. In a thinly-veiled jab, he ridiculed his Premiership rival’s struggling start to the season, suggesting that Wenger ought to focus less on Chelsea and instead work on enhancing his own team’s results.
Mourinho responded in characteristically outspoken fashion, saying, “Wenger has a real problem with us, and I think he is what you call in England a voyeur. He is someone who likes to watch other people. There are some guys who, when they are at home, have a big telescope to see what happens in other families. Wenger must be one of them – it is a sickness. He speaks, speaks, speaks about Chelsea.”
While the “telescope” comment may have been considered out of line back in 2005, in hindsight, we can now see what Mourinho meant by it.
This brings us back to the question of what exactly the President was looking at that caught Wenger’s undivided interest? Perhaps the press will address this with Arsene Wenger in the next press meet. However, until then, we can let social media take on the responsibility of figuring it out.