I love football. It would be difficult to take that away from me. Football is associated with passion, emotion, excitement. I always feel joy and exhilaration when I am at, or I watch, football games. I experience the catharsis of tears through both joy as well as despair. ‘‘Football is an opportunity to let go emotionally and release the frustrations of everyday life. It is an important means for people to form and maintain strong friendships that might otherwise not exist. These social bonds are so strong that many describe them in familial, kinship terms. ‘Football friends’ are different from friends in other areas of life. Something special is shared and exchanged by them. The football team is also a ‘friend’ to many fans’’, says The Social Issues Research Centre, Oxford, UK. I can attest to this because I can relate with it.
But I do not only love football. I love sports. Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary- General, said ‘‘sport is a universal language that can bring people together, no matter what their origin, background, religious beliefs or economic status and can play a role in improving the lives of whole communities.’’ This is absolutely true.
There’s something about the sports factor. It transcends all social, political and ethnic barriers. Its appeal crosses educational levels, religious preferences and all language groups. Its easy ability to bring people together makes sport a powerful communication tool. It ‘‘brings people together with the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the light of reflected glory and the humanity of a shared experience.’’
Today, I travelled down memory lane to scoop sports news flashes that made me to think real deep. I’m still thinking. And will yet think. Perhaps they will set you thinking, too.
‘‘Thierry Henry paid an emotional tribute to Arsenal and his former team-mates after seeing himself immortalized by a bronze statue outside Emirates Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Henry – who left for Barcelona in June 2007, where he would go on to lift the Champions League before moving to the Major Soccer League in the United States with New York Red Bulls – said he had initially been left “speechless” by the whole tribute.
‘At the very beginning, when I heard about it, I honestly thought it was a joke, until I realized it wasn’t,’ said Henry, who netted 226 goals as the Gunners won two Premier League titles and the FA Cup twice.’’
-December 10, 2011
Henry had a glittering career at Arsenal. The Gunners’ all-time leading goal scorer who was signed from Juventus as a 21-year-old in the summer of 1999, displayed clinical finishing during his eight years at the club, during which he scored 226 times in 370 appearances, to eclipse other Arsenal legends Ian Wright and Cliff Bastin, before moving to Barcelona.
Can I be so passionate about a cause and literally give everything to it? When I move on from any place, will I leave a mark there like Henry did? Would they miss me when I leave? Would they long for me to return? Would they even be happy if I stopped by?
‘‘Chelsea forward Juan Mata insisted he would not celebrate ‘out of respect for a club and supporters that always treated me well’ if he scored against his former club – Valencia, during a UEFA Champions League game. He was given a hero’s welcome at the airport on arriving Spain.’’
-September 28, 2011
Juan teaches me that in life, relationships come to an end. That to enter the next season, I must learn to exit properly. That I should never slam the door when I leave, but close it. Gently. In love. For I may need to walk back through it someday. I may. That I should close the door with grace. That I should close the door, but keep open a window.
When ill and misfortune tumbles into the tents of former friends and colleagues, should I throw a party? Should I rejoice at their calamity? Should I blurt out when adversity struts in, and bellow, ‘‘Nice; it serves him right?’’ Would I ever remember any good, even if it’s just one, that he did to me?
‘‘Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has donated a coaching trophy awarded for his treble-winning season with Inter Milan for auction in memory of Bobby Robson, his mentor and boss at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona. Before becoming one of the world’s great coaches, Mourinho had a low-key playing career and his break in football came as a result of being hired as an interpreter by Robson at Sporting Lisbon in 1992. Robson took Mourinho with him when he was hired as coach of Porto and the duo also worked together at Barcelona during the 1996-97 season. Mourinho moved into management at Benfica, but made his name back at Porto where he won the 2004 Champions League, before joining Chelsea and winning the Premier League twice. Mourinho became Real Madrid coach in 2010.
An outspoken admirer of his former mentor, he has donated arguably the most prestigious personal award of his glittering career. Real Madrid’s Portuguese manager, 48, was awarded FIFA’s Ballon D’Or World Coach of the Year award in 2010, the year he won the Champions’ League with Inter Milan.
Former England and Barcelona manager Robson died of lung cancer two years ago at age 76. He is credited with helping launch Mourinho’s career in football. Mourinho has recognized the part Sir Bobby played in his own football development by giving the wonderful money-can’t-buy prize – to the delight of organizers and the Robson family alike. ‘The entire family is completely astounded by this generous gift from Mourinho. We are thrilled and so thankful to him’, Robson’s son Mark said.’’
-September 17, 2011
Mourinho’s character is absolutely astounding, something I keep pondering on. If he so honoured his mentor in death, then this magnanimity is an undisputed pointer to how much he must have honoured him while he was alive.
This guy challenges me by this rare lesson in gratitude. I don’t ever want to forget the fingers that have fed me. I don’t ever want to forget the rock from where I was hewed. I don’t ever want to forget the people who have given me opportunities in this life. People who have given me their shoulders to climb on to get to where I am today. People who have given me their houses to ‘squad’; at whose homes I have variously eaten. People who have made recommendations about me to others, on which recommendations doors opened for me. People who have given me platforms to express my gifts and talents, from which platforms I have built many relationships. For no matter how ‘lighted’ I may have been, if I were not ‘heighted’ by them on those platforms, then I would probably never have been ‘sighted.’ I don’t ever want to forget people with whom I have shared crying moments. No. People who have encouraged me to cross valleys. People whose thunderbolts of flaming words smoked this bloke to victory. No. Relentless cheerleaders at the stand who bellowed, ‘Go for gold.’
If you have ever done any of these to me – for me, it is to you that I write. Feel my ink. Feel my pulse. Feel this teary gratitude, but don’t clean the tears. Bask in the bliss as the tears cascade down and roll off my cheek. Hear the beats from this grateful heart. I alone know the cost of this teary perfume.
If I got a trophy I would gladly donate to you. But please accept this trophy of words. I want you to know that you mean so much to me. I’m not a self-made man. Never will I be. No one has ever been. For the input you’ve made into my life – this year and in the past years – no matter how small, I will someday hand you a ‘trophy’. Not after you die, but while you are alive.