Too much love will kill you . . .


“I packed my things and left. The sun was coming up. I couldn’t think where to go. . .I couldn’t have stayed on in that House of Hunger where every morsel of sanity was snatched from you the way some kinds of birds snatch food from the very mouths of babes. . .” So begins that scorching novella, House of Hunger, written by the late Dambudzo Marechera. I felt like doing the same this week. To just pack my bags, leave Africa and go somewhere. Brazil? Argentina?
There I was, wearing my flaming orange jersey waiting for Côte d’Ivoire to do the deed against Denmark. End result Denmark 3, the former mighty Elephants 1. And what happens to Nigeria (150 million people on Mother Earth and counting) and Yakubu conspires to make the most amazing miss of all against the South Koreans.
Bafana Bafana goes on to make history for the wrong reasons — Mzansi becomes the first host nation to get bundled out in the first round. But everyone is putting on a brave face – “Eh, you see, there are a lot of positives to take out from here. We can only build from here since the team is young…” We have heard that before.
Let’s not forget the nation’s aim was clear: reach the second round and it’s as good as winning the World Cup. I have never heard of such magnificent modesty. Don’t try to win the cup — it’s not ours, just get us to the last 16. As the great English football manager, Bill Shankly, put it. “Aim for the sky and you’ll reach the ceiling. Aim for the ceiling and you’ll stay on the floor.”
Being a fair-weather Pan Africanist, I went to watch Côte d’Ivoire in action against Portugal. I took my 16-year-old confidante and we even bought bright and loud orange jerseys.
We had to do this because there seemed to be hardly 50 people wearing the Elephants’ colours and, of course, the other 35 000 people seemed to be all Portuguese fans.
My confidante and I tried to put on brave faces but when Salamon Kalou started firing blanks we knew our goose was cooked. The mighty Drogba’s introduction towards the end of the match could not turn things around. He clearly wanted to protect his fractured arm.
Slowly the flags are coming down. Ghana remains the Great African Hype – sorry Hope. But we have to worry if a team gets beaten by Germany and we still celebrate because after all we are through to the next round. Well, I would be more worried with the way the Black Stars missed so many chances. The guys seemed to have forgotten their shooting boots in some shebeen in Diepkloof, Soweto.
And it’s not just Africa that is on the ropes. What is the world coming to? Is this written in any ancient text? Or does it have anything to do with climate change? You will agree it has been a rollercoaster of a World Cup. North Korea — the “kamanists” — gave Brazil a scare but then got walloped so bad by Portugal that I am afraid for them. Fellow Africans, can we not give these Koreans asylum. I mean can you imagine conveying the dreadful news to the Supreme Leader:
“O Supreme One, we regret that your men did not die with their boots on. The port-drinking and garlic-chewing sons of Vasco da Gama whipped the backsides of your children. In humble language, Omniscient One, they lost.” Donors and embassies do something.
But the big story must be about France — how do you win the World Cup in 1998 and in just over a decade you conspire to implode and exit with such ignominy? The players’ revolt and main striker Nicolas Anelka is expelled and wisely heads to England and not to his Parisian home. But who in the first place appointed Raymond Domenech as coach of Les Bleus? The guy would not look out of place in Cirque de Soleil or he could simply replace Jojo the Clown and entertain our children in the northern suburbs.
Having been betrayed by Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa I had thought that, being an Angophile, I could gravitate to Mother England but that team has actually been worse than most of the African teams.
I went to watch the England-Slovenia match. Something unprecedented happened. Wayne Rooney got substituted in the 72nd minute – you should have seen his shoulders sag and his young-old builder’s face take on the hue of dejection. Civilisations rise and fall. Now you can’t sing, Rule Britannica, rule the waves on some rectangular patch of grass — you have to kick that inflated leather spherical and do some tricks.
England may have the best league in the world but they have very mediocre players. It also does not help that they took an Italian — taught him a little bit of English and said now teach us some soccer. This is very much the way we took a Swede who does not speak any French beyond “bonjour” and said use sign language to teach Ivorian Kolo Toure to block Brazilian Fabiano. So disjointed was England that the fans clapped with relief whenever their player managed to tackle some Slovenian and got the ball anywhere — even if they kicked it to Bindura.
Now being unable to migrate from the continent I need doses of Prozac if I am to survive till July 11. But another voice says to me: “Remember Socrates said ‘if you think you have troubles exchange them with your neighbour and you will gladly take back your own problems’.” Maybe I should just stick to reading the Book of Job and have the satisfaction that someone had it worse than me?
Says my confidante, “Baba, it’s just a game of football.” No, mwana, the last word belongs to Bill Shankly: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.” Amen.
l Chris Kabwato is publisher of