Football is a religion in many parts of the globe. Its followership cuts across all races. The English people invented the sport, although they have been awful at it at the global level. Whereas, Brazil that “stole” the invention from them have won the FIFA World Cup for a record five times, the inventors needed to lure the entire world to their soil in 1966 to be able to win the trophy. In doing so, the English men, led by the late Bobby Moore, had to incapacitate the Giant of Brazil (Pele) in their quarterfinal encounter with the Samba Boys on their way to winning the trophy. Pele was the life wire of Brazil, having led them to win two previous championships – 1958 in Sweden and 1962 in Chile. After the 1966 debacle, Pele came back to inspire the compatriots to snatch the trophy again in Mexico in 1970 before he retired from international soccer at the age of 30.
After their 1966 triumph, the English folks have laboured over the years to further prove that they gave birth to the sport and that their first ever victory was not a fluke but the likes of Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Germany, Italy and even neighbouring France, have been sharing the trophy among themselves for decades now.
Even at the Europe level, the inventors have not been as successful as Spain and Germany that have won three trophies each between them. The Netherlands, Denmark, Soviet Union, and even Greece have won the trophy. From available records, England have never got to the grand finale of the championship let alone sight a consolatory bronze medal in the history of the tournament introduced in 1960.
However, the English Premier League has remained the most popular football assembly in the whole world. Other foreign leagues like the Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, Brazil Serie A, Argentina Primeira A, Portuguese Primeira Liga and French Ligue 1, vibrant as they can be, patter into insignificance comparatively in terms of followership.
What prompted this piece was the episode that took place in faraway Kenya last weekend. That Saturday was another day the followers of Arsenal all over the world will hate to remember for a very long time to come. The cause of the episode took place at Anfield where Liverpool FC, also known as the Reds, hosted the Gunners during which the visitors were gunned down four times within the first 20 minutes of the dizzying encounter that ended 5 – 1.
Last weekend’s debacle was not the first embarrassing loss the Gunners have served their teeming fans scattered all over the globe. In the 2011/2012 season, arch rival Manchester United disarmed them at the Old Trafford and hit them 8 – 2. That was when I turned my back on them. Somehow, their pattern of play keeps re-seducing me into their fold. This is because in the EPL, the Gunners’ style is unique. They are exponents of method and they remind me of my playing days.
According to Reuters, a bitter argument had brewed during the match that saw the Gunners being put to the sword. The Gunners’ supporters, named David Mwangi, produced a knife and drove the cold blade into Anthony Mutethia. And the fan died.
Most Africans are fervent EPL fans as there are millions in the other continents. Every weekend or match days, public viewing centres, bars and eateries host scores of fans who throng to watch their favourite clubs. They know, like the back of their hands, names of players in the foreign clubs more than those playing in their own domestic leagues.
The report also recalled how a Man U fan resident in Nairobi, Kenya, committed suicide last year after his darling club lost to Newcastle of all clubs. Earlier in 2009, a Gunners’ fan had tied a rope around his neck and dangled to his death after the defeat by the Red Devils in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal encounter.
Coming back home also in 2009, a Man U fan killed four inhabitants of Ogbo community in the Niger Delta region when he rammed his minibus into a crowd of Barcelona supporters after his team lost 0 – 2 in the Champions League Final decided in Rome. The driver had passed the crowd but could not stomach the wild jubilation that he saw. So, he made a quick U-turn and plunged into their midst. He also left 10 others severely injured.
Only recently, a 17-year-old fan of Man U voyaged to his early grave when he hanged himself at the fringes of Dutse Alhaji, a sprawling settlement located in Kubwa, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, owing to the Red Devils’ recent poor run of form that culminated in their 1 – 2 loss to Swansea in the FA Cup 3rd round joust decided at the Old Trafford on January 5.
I have two boys who are dyed-in-the-wool fans of Man United. I don’t know how they got involved with the Red Devils but I think their elder sister recruited them into the bandwagon. Somehow, one other sibling (a girl) has stuck to Chelsea, ignoring all persuasions. You need to see how the boys mock me anytime the Gunners are outgunned.
The younger of the duo, who is hovering around 12, has even formed the irritating habit of pulling my leg even when the Gunners triumph in a match he is sure I was not opportune to watch by telling me “Guess what, dad… Arsenal lost!” Despite Man U’s continuous mediocre presentations in and outside the Old Trafford this season, the kids have refused to abandon them. But it has been my pleasure to mock them back.
Nevertheless, I have warned them not to hawk their passion for Man U beyond my doorstep. Surely, there must be a peripatetic Devil out there that possesses Man U fans, causing them to murder someone or commit self-murder anytime his Old Trafford cousins lose out in a match.