Thursday, December 4, 2008

DIARY OF A MAD FOOTBALL FAN

Numbers don’t lie, so they say; 65 days is the total number of days that I’ve spent in the doldrums. But then again, what goes around comes around. I’ve finally been forced to make my long overdue return to the staple. Let me explain. I say ‘finally’ because in this era of grand ‘homecomings’, (and shabik being my ‘baby’) I was duty bound to make a comeback at some point. And ‘forced’ because were it not for Redondo’s persistent tongue-lashing, then may be this post would never have seen the light of day. To put it another way, this brother literally fast-tracked my return into the fold.

Can you imagine the guy has been on my case in the past few weeks desperately trying to woe me back? No offence, but at some point I was thinking to myself “… this Redondo guy is now becoming a real pain in the a***” But then when after all his cajoling proved fruitless, he finally put it to me this morning in clear and certain terms. And boy, it was one hell of a dressing-down I took from this jolly good fella. “Am concerned that you’ve not made any attempt to write even a single article for this long”, were his final words in a terse and curt monologue. To say that I was jolted would be an understatement – I was stung beyond words! Folks, am back!

For starters, I believe its quite in order to begin with an apology for my rude manners and lack of courtesy. I should have had the decorum to begin with pleasantries before engaging you in the nitty gritty. Or may be even a ‘While You Were Away’ debrief wouldn’t have been such a bad idea after all given my prolonged and unexplained absence. Anyway, I hope you folks are (and have been) well for all that while, just like myself.

Its not like I didn’t miss this platform, but an unfortunate combination of lethargy and lack of inspiration is what accounted for my self-imposed exile. There is this thing called the writers’ block which occasionally inflicts every scribe. For some reason, I get this obnoxious feeling that maybe this is just a classical example of the so called writers’ block. Even now that I’ve finally resolved to put pen to paper, I feel abit rusty as I struggle to choose the right words to construct this paragraph while cobbling together this disjointed piece of an article.

Wait a minute! Did I just say pen to paper? Yap, you got me right. I beg to be forgiven for being too indiscreet as to enclose that lately I’ve been some sort of a journeyman with no permanent residency. For that very reason, accessing modern by-products of technology in the form of PCs and laptops is no an everyday thing for me. So as I sit with a pen and note book in hand scribbling away the piece (which I hope to typeset later on at a nearby cybercaf√©) am not even sure if at all its going to make an interesting read by the time it gets to the shabik platform (all my troubles not withstanding). But just to give credence to a cheeky remark I overheard from certain jamaa recently, “Mwanaume sio jina – ni vitendo” (I know Redondo gets the joke), I guess I just have to show the vitendo here.

Now that I’ve given a written explanation for my AWOL (Absence Without Leave), I suppose we can catch up on the more important matters – Football! So what’s been cuttin’ in Premiership? Of course after an initial slow start, Man U has slowly crept back into the top three bracket. I hate admitting this, but from the looks of thing, the Red Devils yet again look like the team to beat as far as the title race is concerned. Meanwhile, Arsenal continues to capitulate alternating some very good football at times with not very impressive displays on other occasions at a frequency that baffles more than annoys. How else then would you explain this a 2-1 loss to Stoke City, followed by a 2-1 win over Man U, then 2-0 and 3-0 losses to Aston Villa and Man City respectively, and then a 2-1 win over Chelsea…? Not a very impressive resume by all standards. And going by the disgraceful manner in which former skipper William Gallas was stripped of the armband, its not very hard to see that the Gunners troubles run deeper than the skin. I’ve said this here before and I’ll repeat it again for the umpteenth time; Arsene Wenger has done a lot for the London club, but perhaps its high time a change of tact (or even guards) would be what is needed to alleviate the worries of the longsuffering fans.

Across town, inspite of the wide squad at the disposal of Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Blues still don’t look like a team capable of sustaining the momentum over the long haul. They strike me as a team that will falter badly sooner rather later. In as much as their record on the road has been without blemish, their home form (they’ve already lost at home to Liverpool and Arsenal and drawn with Man U) should be a cause of worry for Big Phil. The only gem in their crown is the great form of their globetrotting French striker, Nicolas Anelka. And for once in so many years things are looking up and bright at the Merseyside. Liverpool who’ve traditionally had a slow start seem to be doing it differently this time round. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a Liverpool triumph in the Premiership after 19 long years, if only to break the Man U-Arsenal-Chelsea monotony. At the bottom of the pile, Harry Redknapp’s remarkable turn around of Tottenham is worthy to mention too. Though not yet out of the woods, some bookmakers are betting on the Spurs to survive the drop in the summer. Enough said about the Premiership.

Elsewhere in Europe, it looks like the Barcelona of old is slowly re-emerging from the ashes after two turbulent seasons. It might be early days yet but judging from their current form, the la liga is only theirs to lose. What with their strength in depth the Catalans might even do a Manchester United (League & Champions League Double) come May 2009, unless a disaster of catastrophic magnitude hits them. Interesting the way Barcelona’s fortunes almost always translates to a turndown at the Santiago Bernabeu and vice-versa. As much as am a die-hard Real Madrid fan, the los Merengues are playing so awfully, they don’t deserve anything! May be a fifth or sixth place finish and non-participation in the Champions League would be just what we need to be stirred back to reality.

But the revelation of the European season so far has got to be a certain Hoffeinhem – a virtually unknown village outfit in Germany that is giving the likes of Bayern Munich, Leverkusen and Schalke 04 a run for their money in the Bundesliga. What I can’t understand though is how perennial Champions League also-rans like Inter Milan still manage to hold sway in the Serie A. Thankfully, city rivals AC Milan and Juventus are not too far off in what could turn out into a close race to the Scuddetto.

Finally, something for the experts of the game to crack their heads over; what happens in a scenario whereby two players finish joint top scorers, say with 30 goals a piece, but with one of the two players having scored an own goal along the way? Does the other player keep the award to himself or do they get to share the honours?