It is that time of the decade again. That time when hearts are broken and dreams come true on the world’s biggest football stage.
And with a viewership of about 3.4 billion people, the FIFA World Cup turns living rooms across the globe into miniature stadiums, ours included. But the last thing a football fan whose blinkers are glued on the TV needs are seemingly-obvious questions from their clueless loved ones.
In our crib, I am the go-to-guy, while Pudd’ng is the green girl. The green girl has no timing. She shoots questions, which often interrupt me from following the flow of the beautiful game.
Because Pudd’ng likes to hog my phone when I am watching football, I have given her one condition: Each time she takes my phone, for about 45 minutes, she must go onto YouTube and learn about countries in the African continent.
Here’s what led me to take this action. I had mentioned to Pudd’ng that one of the countries representing Africa in the 2018 FIFA World Cup is Senegal.
Here’s her query: “Is Senegal in Africa?”
The qualification question
“Why didn’t we send Gor Mahia to the World Cup?” Pudd’ng innocently asked.
I really wanted to laugh, but I understood where she was coming from. With the sorry state of our football, and our national team’s performance going south by the year, the only football jersey that many children can cling to is that of the football team on most people’s backs.
“Countries are divided into groups, and the countries that top the group represent the continent in the World Cup,” I tried to summarise the qualification quandary as briefly as I could.
In the English Premier League, every Kenyan ‘has’ a team. Some Kenyans are ride-or-die fans. Others switch sides like Kenyan politicians during the electioneering period. And others are just in it for the heck of it, and cannot name two players from “their” team.
Even after explaining to Pudd’ng how teams qualify for the World Cup, she asked this question when she heard me saying that some of the Gunner’s players were in this year’s FIFA World Cup: “Is Arsenal also playing in the World Cup?”
A country called Muslim
There are football players who have cult status and capture the imagination, not of just the most ardent fans, but also casual observers.
One such player is the ‘Egyptian King’ Mo Salah.
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When Egypt was playing Uruguay, Pudd’ng, who had wandered into the living room, caught the sight on TV of the Egyptian King seated on the bench.
“The Egyptian team depends so much on Mo Salah,” my brother-in-law noted, “ If he was playing, things would be different.”
“Mo Salah is an Egyptian?” Pudd’ng wondered. “Kwani he’s not a Muslim?”
Pudd’ng shot this question when she saw a player scoring a goal, then hanging onto the net.
“Dah-dee? When a player scores and the ball hits the net and they also hit the net, is that a penalty?”
Game of GOATs and sheep
The debate has been going on about whom, between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, is the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T).
Pudd’ng was shocked when she heard me saying that, according to me, CR7 is the G.O.A.T.
“Why are they calling him a goat? Si you told me that it is not good to call people names?”
“G.O.A.T stands for, greatest of all time.”
I thought we had that part of the Q&As covered, until she asked: “And what does sheep stand for?”
(Psst. I think we are the sheep, all 3.4 billion of us).