"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."
The first time I ever saw an English football match was 20th of May 1995. That was the day ABG came to install our ‘cable TV’ (which was really an antenna) in Lagos, just in time for us to catch the FA cup final. Everton was playing Manchester United, and Nigeria’s Daniel Amokachi was playing for Everton, so of course I was rooting for the boys in blue. The antenna was not set up properly, so we watched the whole match with a very grainy, snowy picture. 4 days later, we got to watch Ajax lift the Champions League with a win over AC Milan, with 2 Nigerians in their team (Finidi George and a very young Kanu Nwankwo). Yes, those were the good old days, when Nigerians were ruling the football world, but I digress, let me get back to where I was heading. (I have a post in my head about this, coming soon)
Anyway, the next season, we got to watch the English Premier League live. I didn’t support any team in particular, I just loved watching the football. My uncle lived in Liverpool, so I assumed he was a Liverpool fan, and was very disappointed that he turned out to be an Evertonian (In 2001, when I went to live in Liverpool, I found out that almost EVERYONE who lives in Liverpool is an Evertonian !!) So, my natural affinty to Liverpool began, they had some really good players in their squad, most notably Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman. And McManaman was the reason I eventually started supporting Liverpool.
Liverpool was a ruthless team, and their passing game reminded me of the clinical. methodical game Ajax played in the 1995 and 1996 Champions Leagues finals. But as we didn’t get the Dutch league on TV, Liverpool became my Ajax. And on the 19th of August 1996, it was sealed. Liverpool beat Arsenal 2-0 at Anfield, and McManaman gave one his best performances ever. The rest of the team were playing a one touch passing game, but once McManaman got the ball, the ball seemed stuck to his feet, he dribbled like a master, went past anyone who dared challenge him. ESPN’s Tommy Smyth said “He’s a good player, but he doesn’t score enough goals”. And Stevie scored 2 goals, and shut him up. Mangerless Arsenal were no match for the men in Red. And that was the day I started to support Liverpool “Full time”. (Bruce Rioch was sacked by Arsenal at the start of that season. In October, a few weeks later, Arsene Wenger became Arsenal manager)
Anyway, the next few years saw more and more Nigerians get access to cable TV, satellite TV, and most importantly, Premiership football. Most people started ‘supporting’ the teams who were winning things at the time, namely Arsenal and Manchester United. I stuck with Liverpool. After researching the history of the club, I couldn’t let go. All you need to do is read one Bill Shankly quote, and you’re hooked. The history around the club is inspiring, and their record second to none in England.
Over the years, it’s been an interesting journey, I went to University of Liverpool in 2001, and finally got to watch a few matches at Anfield.
So, why did I give all this ‘history’?
Well, last week, after Arsenal lost to Manchester United, a Kenyan Arsenal fan hung himself. He was still wearing his Arsenal shirt.
This has shocked people in Kenya, as to why he took this so far. But coming from a similar background, I can understand where the passion came from. But I would obviously not go that far (following Liverpool, I would have killed myself a million times in the last 14 years!!).
When I went back to Nigeria in 2003, I was surprised to see how well the Sky/Premier League marketing machine was working. Everyone was a fan of a club in England. Arsenal, Man. United mainly. We watched so much Premier League, it felt like we were English. In 2006, sports shows were inviting listeners to dial in and debate who would be a better England captain, John Terry or Steven Gerrard. I remember listening to the show online, and amazed at how people called in to argue their points, even more effectively, than the people I listened to on English radio !!
In the last few years, fights have broken out when the big teams have played each other, and people have been killed. Africans are very passionate people, and sometimes, all we need is a cause to fight for, and we’ll fight it to the end.
Sadly for Suleiman Omondi, it’s too late. What a tragic waste of life. Reading this blog post, apparently, there have been Premier League related brawls in Kenya as well, so it’s not a uniquely Nigerian problem. Sadly, you can still see the Africna passion of the writer :
PS: This is a wake up call to Arsenal. This is how much it hurts all the fans when you play hopelessly. It might just be financials for the Arsenal stakeholders, might just be business for the Arsenal Board of Directors, might be just another job for Arsene Wenger, might just be a career for the players … but this club is the LIFE for all the supporters…! May Suleiman Omondi R.I.P.
Taken from here.
I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.
Arsene Wenger and any one of the Arsenal players probably make more in a week what this guy makes in a years, and that’s assuming he’s either abroad, or has a very, very good job. And the people who can claim to have a real connection to Arsenal, the North Londoners, when the team loses, they drown their sorrows with alcohol, and are back at work with a hangover the next day.
Please. It’s a beautiful game, but it’s just a game.