That’s why we love it

2008-05-23 00:00

AND then it was over. A mixture of torture, skill and scandal — the best that sport can offer. And a terrible ending for those in blue.

I must admit, on Wednesday night I favoured the underdog, the blue machine that had snapped ferociously at Manchester United’s coat tails during the climax of a truly amazing season. Oh so close, they will say.

When these two had emerged from their respectively intriguing semi-finals, my first thoughts were of that sticky porridge of an FA Cup final they had produced a year ago. Thankfully, the continental showpiece in Moscow was a veritable feast of enthralment, as the best players in Europe showed just why the English game is the most fervently followed in the world. For sheer drama and reckless entertainment, there is no better ticket.

My workmates looked on puzzled, as I winced and yelled at every close call and missed opportunity. My body was in the office, but my mind was in Russia. Such are the vagaries of night work, that on the biggest night of the season I was torn between labour and love.

I fell in love with the British game when I spent nearly three years there. It is more than a fleeting passion in those parts; it is a religion. On a weekly basis, the masses congregate to celebrate their idols, or chastise the villains.

Didier Drogba’s moment of madness may yet be the Ivorian’s final act in a Chelsea shirt — what a way to go.

And, yet, he was almost the hero, smacking the post with a swerving drive past United’s eventual hero, Edwin van der Sar. Such is the fine line between glory and despair. Fate, it seemed, was against Avram Grant’s side. But how they had fought to defy the odds, in a season where Stamford Bridge has resembled a soap opera, with its near daily dose of drama.

The purists will say that United deserved it, that the strutting peacock of a Portuguese that is Cristiano Ronaldo was destined to crown his dazzling season with club football’s ultimate prize. Try telling that to John Terry, the epitome of Chelsea’s resilience, to whom destiny came knocking, but his poise betrayed him. It takes much for one to feel sympathy for today’s overpaid prima donnas, but no human would have not felt a twinge of pity for the inconsolable Chelsea leader.

An old man once asked me how a game that takes place thousands of miles away, between clubs that few of us have seen in the flesh, can so transfix an African audience. I would like to think that Wednesday night’s events answered that question most eloquently.

It is simply because when it comes to sheer entertainment, the best in the world always deliver. And that’s why we love it.

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