Monday, 21 May 2012

Lessons from the Dangerous Football Obsession

This has been a great year for me as a football fan. First Chipolopolo wins the African Cup of Nations for the very first time in Gabon. Then this past weekend Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League for the very first time too. Chelsea had won everything there was to win the Premier League, Carling cup and the FA Cup. The only trophy missing in their cabinet before Saturday’s final was the UEFA Champions League cup which was been considered as the holy grail. It is a trophy that had eluded the club for close to a decade since it was bought by billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. On Saturday against Bayern Munich coincidentally in Munich they were to rectify that error in the history books. While Chelsea and Bayern were locked in battle on the pitch, fans around the world were religiously glued to their TV screens. It is this football obsession that has me bothered somewhat.
I am certain that any bar with a TV screen was filled to the last space available, Chelsea fans and none fans were all watching the game in anticipation. Then there were those who were waiting to see if the rumoured prophesy by TB Joshua would come to fruition. I will not dwell on this because it is a topic for another blog. Chelsea fans, I included were clad in our replica jersey our symbol of devotion to the club we have come to love. As the match progressed, I was there screaming at the television on the errors I spotted, shouting at the referee for not calling a foul, which players were underperforming and which player should be substituted. When Bayern Munich scored the first goal my heart sunk and a sudden cloud of sadness covered me. The hope of grabbing the elusive title was slowly vanishing. Then within a space of five minutes it was quickly erased by Drogba’s equaliser which sent me into jubilation and brought back the sense of belief once again. I continued to cling on to every pass, held my breath when the penalty was struck and clapped by hands when it was saved. The penalty shootout brought back a wave of emotions that were reminiscent of Zambia’s penalty shootout against Ivory Coast in February. My pulse raced as blood and adrenaline rushed through my veins, heart furiously pounding against my chest restraining itself from exploding and stomach tied in a nervous knot. It all culminated into a fantastic release of sheer joy and excitement as I was hitting up my friends on their mobile that we had finally won. After all the drama it left me wondering what would happen if this passion was channeled elsewhere too.
It is indisputable that football is the number one sport in Zambia. I only started watching football in my teens simply because I tended to be left out of conversations. Unlike me there are people who have been football fans from the time Leeds once ruled the Premier League and Zambia famously defeated Italy at the Olympics in 1988. I wonder the strides that this country would make with the same commitment shown by football fans, if only it would be transferred to the different spheres of our lives.
No More Zambian Time Nonsense
People would always be on time. I can guarantee you that almost every football fan was on time when the game began. I am certain that they were conscious of time prior to the match. We called and texted to make sure of the kickoff time. We texted again just for clarity and constantly looking at the watch. We wanted to see the first strike of the ball. I long for the day when this time consciousness would be translated into everyday life instead of explaining our tardiness with the default phrase of Zambian Time. When someone says that you should meet at 3 pm it will be 3 pm and not an hour later.
You Will Know Your Trade
I would not classify myself as a diehard fan but out there in this country there are diehard fans. Even when they are not professional football players in their own right they have studied the beautiful game from years of watching it. They know the players from way back to the 90s, the classic goals they scored and all that nitty gritty. You do not dare start a football argument with them because you will only expose your ignorance. In the same manner that the game is studied we need it to be replicated in the fields of engineering, business, education, art and many other fields.  The advancements and experts that we would have in all these fields would be miles ahead from where it is currently.
Thou Shall Be Loyal
You definitely have to admire the loyalty of football fans. It is a literal through thick and thin, through victories and losses, through trophies and tears. A Liverpool fan will not change allegiances just because they have lost; there is absolute commitment that is unshaken. It is something that some of our politicians can definitely take a leaf out of. There is too much hopping from one political party to the next scavenging for opportunities and all of a sudden realising that the policies you once believed in were lies. Maybe when that day comes we will find true men and women of integrity who stand firm to their beliefs and defend to the death their conviction to believe it. Zambia needs such men and women who will not be afraid to take a stance for what is right. Loyal to the core.
Dare To Dream
                If there is one thing that football tends to teach us time and time again, is to dare to dream. So often the football gods will throw up a David and Goliath story. A team with all its gladiators and trophies against one with no history to write about. This was the storyline of Zambia’s AFCON and Chelsea’s wins. Few would have predicted they would be standing at the pinnacle lifting the trophy. However, they dared to dream and the dream obliged. Sometimes I feel that some Zambians are afraid to dream because when they wake up they are faced with their reality. At times it is important to throw caution to the wind no matter how ridiculous, outrageous or impossible we should still not stop to dream and work towards achieving them. It will only take an ounce of courage to dare to dream and maybe like for many others the dream will oblige to turn into reality.
                Football will continue to have a loyal following worldwide. It is the beautiful game of drama, wins, losses, reminders of dreams do come true and almost universal topic for conversation. My only wish is that the same passion and vigour that Zambians support football could somehow squeeze its way into different arenas of our lives. Even if it is just an ounce it will be worth the difference. For now I will bask in the joy of Chelsea’s maiden win.

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