I’m not much of a soccer fan. Unless it’s the World Cup, I get surprised when people get excited for a soccer match. Sometimes I say that to avid soccer fans… and then I say “kidding!” really quickly, even though I’m not really kidding at all. Everyone knows that as long as you say “kidding” afterwards, you can say pretty much anything to people and they can’t do anything about it. But the key is to say it straight after the insult, before people get too angry and try to kill you and stuff.
That said, I’ve started warming up to soccer a bit in recent years. It probably has a lot to do with South Africa hosting the World Cup last year and the fact that I’ve come to associate the game with a free license to be unruly, which I’m always game for. It’s also partly because I find it funny when people try to express their deep and undying love for soccer because I just can’t relate. And I also find it funny when people cry when their team loses, which seems to happen more with soccer than with any other game. I don’t laugh at people crying though, because even saying “kidding” in those circumstances wouldn’t stop them from killing you. I learnt that lesson the hard way in the 2006 World Cup when a couple of my English guy friends cried when England got eliminated. After that, my rule of thumb became: if there are tears, don’t laugh.
Dramatic Zimbabwean commentary on soccer is another reason why I’ve begun to like soccer. It makes it so much more entertaining. Robson Sharuko often writes soccer opinions, and his stuff clearly doesn’t get edited as his pieces often run to five full A4 pages of rambling. In 7.5 font. With no spaces between paragraphs. But what he says is pretty awesome. Actually, no, it’s the way he says it that is pretty awesome, it’s definitely the manner and not content. He wrote about the recent Zimbabwe Warriors vs. Mali Eagles game in Harare, which not many people were even aware was being played, but you would swear that it was the game of the decade… nay, of the century.
Robson starts off describing the tension at Rufaro Stadium, “I began to doubt the mission, when the clock hit the 85th minute mark, and the silence inside the stadium began to speak volumes about the emotional trauma that was crushing the spirits of everyone in the stands. Only five minutes remained, in regulation time, and the brave Eagles of Mali, having been given a way back into the match through a goal as soft as the cheeks of a newly-born baby, were holding on comfortably for a point that would effectively close the door for us. The scoreboard doesn’t lie, and it read Zimbabwe 1, Mali 1, and the clock wasn’t lying too and, as true as the fact that this was a winter’s afternoon in the capital, there were only five minutes left in regulation time.”
Then he recaps the Warrior’s play during the game, praising the Khama Billiat, who he calls Khamaldinho (*eye roll*), who has apparently become a star at Ajax Cape Town, as well as the Warrior’s efforts over the last few years, mentioning a few of their highlights, but mainly complaining about how match officials, “for all the tragedy of wrongness” and “for all the tragedy of its fatal consequences” on the Warriors’ campaigns, always mistakenly blow against the Warriors. He lambasts basically every ref who has ever blown against the Warriors, in particular the ref who, in the Zimbabwe vs. Guinea game two years ago, disallowed a headed goal from the Warriors “for reasons so strange the rules that were being used by the pathetic referee could only have been borrowed from Mars for use in that one and only game”.
With his ref tirade over, he returns to the game at hand and continues, “So here we were, five minutes to go, and still failing in our mission and you could see the door closing on our hopes of making it to the 2012 Nations Cup finals, you could see all the dreams turning into a nightmare, you could see the ugly post-mortem that would follow and how characters were going to be assassinated. But something stood out for me at that moment. The fans, I realised, were not leaving the stadium. No one was abandoning the Warriors, even when it was clear that time was no longer friendly to our cause, and an estimated 35 000 people inside the old stadium stayed rooted to their seats believing that something would happen.”
Robson’s excitement must have then got a little much for him, as he says, “It was as if we were all bound by our fate that we would win this game, no matter how cruel time was playing games with our chances, and so we waited, and hoped, like those people trapped on the Titanic waiting, and hoping for, help.” Yes, the Titanic. Robson reckons that the Warriors’ supporters were suffering in the same way as those waiting to be rescued from the sunken Titanic. #toomuch.
“”Fifteen hundred people went into the sea when Titanic sank from under us,” the elderly Rose said as she narrated her incredible tale at sea in that mega movie. “THERE WERE TWENTY BOATS FLOATING NEARBY AND ONLY ONE CAME BACK. ONE! SIX (PEOPLE) WERE SAVED FROM THE WATER, MYSELF INCLUDED. SIX . . . OUT OF FIFTEEN HUNDRED. AFTERWARDS, THE SEVEN HUNDRED PEOPLE IN THE BOATS HAD NOTHING TO DO BUT WAIT. WAIT TO DIE, WAIT TO LIVE, WAIT FOR AN ABSOLUTION THAT WOULD NEVER COME.” She could have been talking about us at Rufaro on Sunday.” Hmmm, I don’t know man, I just think that it’s awkward comparing waiting for regulation time to finish in a Warriors game to dying in the freezing ocean after slamming into an iceberg. And I also think that it’s awkward that he felt the need to write all of that in capital letters. But maybe I’m just being a hater, considering that I wasn’t actually there at Rufaro and all. Maybe times were, in fact, that desperate.
Obviously, with such a ridiculous narration of the game, it could only be that the Warriors pulled ahead of Mali in those dying moments. “With time up on the clock, it happened and – just like Agent Sawu heading home a last-gasp goal to help the Dream Team beat Cameroon 1-0 at the National Sports Stadium – Musona was there to convert that penalty and give us a win that our performance deserved and which this special group of supporters deserved. Sometimes, good guys can also come first.” Ah, bless, what a happy ending. Well done Warriors, you made us proud. And, with such riveting commentary, how can I not begin to love the beautiful game?