For the love of the game: confessions of a Gooner

WHEN I was about ten years old there used to be a woman who roamed our streets muttering to herself. She wore a dirty green dress and draped herself with a thin grey blanket. Legend had it that Enjura (that was her name though I am sure we did our usual “Shonalisation” and maybe she was Angel), was once a nursing sister (a very prestigious job to us in Rho-Rho-Rhodesia).

She never spoke to anyone else and she seemed locked up in her own world. I wish some of our leaders could be like Enjura and spare us their violent forms of mental illness. But alas, we have not yet succeeded in committing them to the psychiatric ward and so we may have to bear the pain for a little longer.  

\r\n

Just the thought of that makes want to me wade into saner matters. If you are an Arsenal Football Club fan are you also feeling what I am feeling? Shouldn’t we ask our team manager, Arsene Wenger, to be head of the Gunners academy and we get some other coach? Don’t get me wrong. I genuinely feel for Wenger these hard times. I have seen the lines on his face deepen until it looked like someone was playing with a chisel and sculpting his face (maybe one of our famous sculptors is behind this? Could it be Tapfuma Gutsa?) In our physical geography class in high school we learnt about inselbergs (those rocky outcrops that stick out in plains) and how they had been formed due to various natural forces (water and wind) that worked to denude the stone structure. In this case the human forces in the form of Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona have conspired to wear away Mr. Wenger’s face.

\r\n

To understand the depths of my misery you have to know that it has been Seven Years of Famine. Yes, seven long years wandering in the desert hoping for manna – sorry, waiting for a simple glittering trophy. And to think at one point this season we were even beginning to imagine bagging four jugs and then what happened? Birmingham flushed us out of the League Cup and ManU knocked us out of the FA Cup. Following the script, Barcelona did their perennial wizardry and kicked us out of the Champions League. And now will I have to endure the sore sight of Shrek (Wayne Rooney) holding the Barclays Premier League trophy come May 22?  Does the Gunners’ barren season have anything to do with climate change? Is this written in some ancient text? The pain and anguish of being so near and yet so far?

\r\n

But Comrade Wenger should know that Arsenal is causing me many sleepless nights and making me hear the same ghost as in Macbeth – “Arsenal doth murder sleep!” (I seriously think Shakespeare should be made compulsory reading for all tyrants – they could identify a lot with the mental anguish of insecurity when you have stolen the crown by hook or crook).

\r\n

Anyway, the dilemma I have is that soccer is very tribal in terms of loyalty and emotional attachment and so I can’t begin to ask questions like Shakespeare’s vacillating Hamlet:   

\r\n

\r\n

To still be a Gunner or not to be? That is the question.

\r\n

Whether it nobler in mind to suffer

\r\n

The slings and arrows of outrageous collapse

\r\n

Or to take it on the chin and continue fighting the Red Devils and Barca

\r\n

And by opposing end their hopes?

\r\n

\r\n

Unfortunately, once a G(unner) always a G. So I have to assume the false bravado and machismo of Lakunle, Wole Soyinka’s comic character in the play The Lion and the Jewel and shout: “Not for nothing was I born a man. I shall hazard the slippery slope of matrimony.” Oops, mine is the slippery slope of being a Gunner.

\r\n

Just this past weekend I had to stop watching as Asernal played Liverpool. It was as if I knew that a draw was in the offing. That sly Kop manager Kenny Dalglish wore a devilish expression like he was cooking some juju. Now the English will deny that they use juju. They may try to remind me of the days of Umtali United and Wattle Warriors when we had our own sangoma who would dispense herbs for stuffing in socks during play and the same guy would surreptitiously plant some close to the opposition’s goal. Before the whistle blew for the game to start, goal-keepers would scour their territory trying to pick out any evidence of muti or juju (at times all they saw was some liberal dose of wee sprayed by the goalposts). But like my uncle Wenger and I now have to try and find an excuse to explain the fizzing out of yet another promising season. Anyway I digress, as usual.

\r\n

So there is Wenger behaving like he is the financial director of Arsenal FC. He talks of frugality and then he brings back Lens Lehmann as stand-in goalkeeper at the amazing young age of 41. Is the same person who sold Hleb, Flamini, Pires, Henry, Adebayor, Viera and Campbell?

\r\n

Hear this Arsene, we wish to be more than just a facility to groom young players for other teams. I hope that now that we have found our own billionaire to invest in the team we could begin to buy real players that cost real money and play real soccer to win real trophies.

\r\n

Arsene, you should understand that we have always loved English football and the jingles on sovereignty and anti-colonial-blah-blah can’t break that love. Zimbo Gunners are weary wiping tears of frustration using our red and white jerseys.  It’s not  a kenge thing, Arsene.

\r\n

 Publisher: Chris Kabwato (chris@digitalartsafrica.org )   

\r\n