If you were to pick a song to describe this football season, what would it be? For me, Nishachoka by Harmonize perfectly sums up my frustrations. We always have such high hopes for our teams when the season begins. With great optimism we declare; “This will be our season.” Oh, and how the teams lure us to support them with promises of big victories. We believe it when they say: “When you give your heart to me, Wey I no go do you wrong no Baby trust in me.”
With reckless fandom, we given in and give the relationship another chance. Halfway through the season, they have done you so wrong you can barely sit through watching Tottenham mercilessly beat your team at home for the first time in 28 years. Credit to Tottenham, they did beat Real Madrid 3-1 at Wembley in the Uefa Champions League group stage. Painfully, you accept that maybe you deserve this loss if they beat the current and probably after today three consecutive champions of Europe. In what appears to be the last time you will ever support them because of the unbearable losses, they go ahead and beat Liverpool. Oh there is deep, deep seated love, and love won. So, you begrudgingly forgive them and give them another chance. In this understanding and optimistic state, you recall that Mo Salah did play for Chelsea! Why did they sell him to Roma? And so the vicious love, lose, hate, win, love, draw, indifference relationship continues.
But, alas, news that your fellow countryman Tottenham’s Victor Wanyama has scored a sensational goal against Liverpool, which won him the February Carling goal of the month award, reminds you of your love for the game. Lest we forget the phenomenal bicycle kick goal by Cristiano Ronaldo against Juventus, which did not sound feasible until he did it. You see, it is not always about your team; it is also the beauty of the sport and charismatic players who go on to the pitch even after losing more games than Burnley.
Football is not just a relationship, it is a culture. Watching it is being part of a large worldwide community that is free, indiscriminate of gender, age, religion or language. As a football fan, you are accepted as you are and for those 90-plus minutes, “We are Shark Team, Magpies, Hammers!” All we want is a win but sometimes we will settle for a draw.
It does not matter that Chelsea played an undeniably below average FA Cup final, or Manchester City were leading Manchester United, all that matters is that you won! So let us put to rest the argument on whether beautiful football is worth watching over a mediocre, boring winning match. The grace with which your team plays does not earn you points; we remember the goals and the winner: The golden boot that went to Mo Salah, after scoring a record 32 goals, the 18 clean sheets by David De Gea and the almost perfect score of 100 points by Manchester City.
And so, as the season officially ends today with the UEFA Champions League final, it has reminded us that there is hope. Burnley was promoted to the Premier League in 2016. Their season was a perpetual fight to avoid relegation and Burnley managed to finish 16th. This season, Burnley finished an impressive seventh, in the Europa League and will join Chelsea and Arsenal who have just secured a sponsorship deal with Rwanda. For the next three years, “35 million times a day around the world”, people will see on the left sleeve of the Arsenal jersey the logo, 'VISIT RWANDA’ and I bet you they will!
But picture this. Victor Wanyama moves to Arsenal and wears a jersey bearing the words ‘Visit Rwanda’. How does that make you feel as a Kenyan? For me, it is akin to scoring an own goal. Why couldn't this be ‘Magical Kenya’? At the risk of making assumptions, did the Kenya Tourism Board seek the sponsorship deal and failed to win? If not, why?
At this point, it is uncertain who causes you more hurt in this love, loss, hate, win, love, draw indifference relationship; my football team or my country. We chose to put up with our teams; but do we have to do the same with our country? The season might be over but feelings of anger and irritation still linger!
Burini works with international businesses on commercial litigation. [email protected]