When football becomes his religion - Evewoman

My Man

When football becomes his religion

I know last week I wrote about that royal wedding, and although it was aimed mainly at the female readers of this column, I got a few fan mails (including one from young Sam Odeni who said the article was a great inspiration to him).

Honestly, maybe the Wanga called Beryl upstairs will explain to us one day why that royal wedding, and even the mundane local wedding TV shows, are such a hit in Kenya. I honestly don’t know, because the main event for me last Saturday was the FA Cup final!

I even ran away from a funeral committee meeting (supposed to be from 5-7pm, but typically began at 6pm, yet the final was kicking off at 1915 hours, local time). Because although football isn’t a matter of life and death, it is life – and is more important than death, especially if Chelsea FC is playing a final.

Let’s just say when I do get formally married, it will have to be in a football off-season month!

Anyway, we thumped Manchester Utd one/nil, thanks to a penalty awarded by referee Michael Oliver in the twentieth minute, after a coffin-faced zombie called Phil Jones of Man U brought down twinkle-toed Eden Hazard as the Chelsea whizz kid whizzed towards goal.

This was the same referee who, six and a half weeks ago, became the Most Hated Man in the World for three days, after he unfairly awarded Real Madrid a last gasp penalty to controversially knock out ‘Old Lady of Turin’ (Juventus) from UEFA Champions’ League.

Legendary just retired Juve goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, said of the buffoon that he has a ‘bag of trash where his heart ought to be’, and was given a red card for his troubles. (Michael Olivier, all is forgiven. And that Buffon line ought to be in a pop song). Which is one of the only two reasons that, tonight, Real Madrid plays its third consecutive CL final, against Liverpool who were last in a CL final exactly fourteen years ago.

On that occasion, they were down three/nil to AC. Milan by half time, but rallied in the second half to equalise, then went ahead to win the game. This is generally considered the greatest day in the history of Liverpool.

It even has a pseudo-religious title – ‘The Miracle at Istanbul’ – among fans of Liverpool FC.

On google search, it comes in second only to ‘The Miracle at Dunkirk’ (and ahead of ‘The Miracle at Fatima,’ which just goes to show that for many men, football is more sacred than Our Holy Lady, which is why we have written this particular piece today).

My own miracle moment in soccer was on another May 19th football final night in 2012.

This was when Chelsea took on the merciless Bayern Munich at their own Allianz Arena stadium, with our legendary Didier Drogba going on to save us with an 88th minute equaliser – then winning the Big Ears’ (CL) trophy with the final penalty of the game.

I recall being on my knees on that rainy night at the Carnivore (the event was sponsored by Heineken) with my forehead touching the Chelsea flag, that I’d spread on the ground just before Drogba took that penalty. ‘Please Jesus,’ I whispered. ‘Don’t let him miss!’

Like childless Hannah who swore to God that if he gave her a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord (and indeed she returned Samuel to the temple), I promised Didier that if he scored, I’d name any future boy after him.

Which is why young Leo’s second name is ‘Drogba’ (and the first has nothing to do with Leo Messi of Barcelona, and everything to do with his maternal grandfather, Leonard, except no modern parent calls their children long names like Leonard, Nehemiah or Habbakuk).

Ace, Che, Max, Obe, Ras, Tre, Toy and even Zed are now official boys’ names; although if you get boy twins and call them Guy and Kye, don’t be surprised to hear an aunt go ‘Ngai!’

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