I don’t consider myself a football man, mainly because the first sport I ever played was cricket.
Other factors – like the pointlessness of trying to control a ball with your feet, a “manly” aversion to faking injury to draw a foul and a struggle to make sense of why South African fans bring cabbage to games – only came in later, with the discovery of rugby sealing the deal.
Yet, for 30 years, I’ve supported the same football team religiously (spoiler alert, it’s not Kaizer Chiefs, who lured me in as an impressionable youngster in the late 80s by selling me dreams through the peerless Doctor Khumalo and lost me by selling funeral policies). At this juncture, I should probably explain that I don’t dislike the game.
For a few years, I was a sought-after media league defender (well, by the team I played for, anyway) simply because, when I was on the field, I actually had no intention of playing football, and I loved physically abusing wingers.
What I always liked about playing football was that, as simple as it looked to play, it’s actually an intellectual’s game.
If you aren’t prepared to think in football, you have no chance of doing it well, which is unlike rugby, where having a high work rate and pointless aggression will get you places most of the time.
As the anecdotes above suggest, my relationship with football has largely been casual – except when it came to Liverpool Football Club.
Ever since I clapped eyes on John Barnes – who was wearing that strip with the word ‘Candy’ on the front on that day – as a teenager some 30 years ago, I’ve always kept tabs on Liverpool.
Unfortunately, ever since I began supporting them, I have never seen them win a league title.
The best way to encapsulate how long this has been was the tweet one Liverpool Twitter troll posted on Thursday, which was in the time the Merseyside side hadn’t won the league and bitter rivals Manchester United signed goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who won the league five times and had a son, Kasper, who, in turn, won it once.
There have been cups, two Champions Leagues, three FA Cups, four League Cups and a Fifa Club World Cup, among other winnings, along the way, but nothing says you’re consistently the best like winning a league title.
It’s a satisfactory feeling that has eluded all Liverpool fans until Thursday night, when Chelsea’s unlikely 2-1 victory over defending champions Manchester City broke a title drought that appeared to have designs on rivalling the Chicago Cubs’ 71-year-long World Series curse.
And when it happened, nobody could really celebrate it because we’re all in some level of lockdown or other due to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.
In some weird way, it makes sense that it would take winning the title on the unprecedented day of June 25, and a whole pandemic, for Liverpool to break their title curse, with their fans limited to celebrating on Zoom or on social media.
But try telling that to those of us who have epic memories of some seriously gallant failures over the years.
We were there when the pressure of restoring Liverpool to their rightful place led to Gérard Houllier having a heart attack.
We were there when Rafa Benítez cracked and infuriatingly brought out his “facts” dossier about Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United.
We were there when Stevie G implored his team, and us by extension, to “go again”, before that slip against Chelsea gave the last title shot away.
And here we are taking in the tears and maniacal smile of Jürgen Klopp – a man whose league title near-misses in Germany and England (by a point last year) and cup final failures have turned him into the spokesperson for going again – after a championship win well worth the wait.
In today’s social media-fuelled world of sure things and instant gratification, for some reason, there’s an even greater satisfaction to this title than just the long wait.
- Follow me on Twitter @simxabanisa