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Confessions of a Football Truant

Mon, 12 Jul 2010 Source: Nkrumah-Boateng, Rodney

Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng (rodboat@yahoo.com)

Four years ago, when the football world’s bright lights and cameras were focused on Germany during the world cup there, I shared my thoughts on ghanaweb.com as a person who had just discovered the joys, the oohs and aahs of what is universally known as the beautiful game. I called myself a football virgin who was spellbound by the antics of Big Phil Scolaris and all that drama on and off the field. I hoped my newfound joy would endure at all levels of the game. I was fired up. I had arrived. Many sent me messages of goodwill and a hope that I will discover even more joys with football.

Alas, within a month, I realised that for me, the shine, the magic and the razzmatazz had worn off. I am not sure at which point I lost it, but my ardour fizzled out without as much as a whimper. The pain of Ghana being booted out of that World Cup by Brazil soon became a dull, if not blunted, event shrouded in the mists of the passage of time. My sense of amazement in observing deft footwork culminating in goals or near-goals slowly morphed into intense boredom at the thought of 22 grown, pampered men kicking a piece of leather around at the English Premier League and being paid obscene amounts of money for doing so. The names of the big time footballers eased themselves gently out of my memory. Initially I was even blissfully unaware that Ghana had qualified for the 2010 cup.

My crush on football, which I had foolishly perceived as true love, had disappeared slowly but surely, like a wispy cloud in the sky. Clearly I had been infatuated, the bane of many a nervous and inexperienced teenager. Thus jolted, the game, for me, once again reverted to my original view of it as overhyped and unduly high-strung on passion. I had become like those types back in secondary school who became zealous members of the Scripture Union (SU) overnight, only to end up a few weeks or months later behaving worse than they had before giving their lives to Christ. Yes, I had become a football BACKSLIDER.

Then South Africa 2010 rolls around and I decide to watch the opening ceremony just because it is on African soil. I had no plans of watching any of the matches-I had better things to do with my time. But then something drew me to the opening match between Mexico and hosts South Africa. Ah well, just the opening match, I said to myself, and then that would be it.

It must have been the name of Tshabalala that did the trick. The name seemed to roll off my tongue with aplomb and had a certain rhythmic, almost musical feel to it. Something snapped within me as I soaked in the game, the crowds, the drama and the ambience. I did a quick brush-up of the offside rule and tried to understand what gives rise to a corner kick and a goal kick. I grabbed the group charts to figure out who was playing who, when and where. I began to speculate on who would win the cup. I searched high and low for a vuvuzela, that enduring symbol of the world cup which annoyed the Europeans with their delicate ears. I was back, a prodigal fan, and I could not afford to miss a single match. Pathetic, I know...

There was of course the human drama to give the whole event a little enjoyable frisson. Maradona was on hand to provide the passion and theatrics from the sidelines, gesticulating wildly and smothering his boys in bear hugs and wide grins as they cruised through the stages. Up against Germany, his face turned to stone though, when the Europeans gave the Argentines a 4-1 thrashing they won’t forget in a hurry. Then there was the German coach with his unique fashion style, as well as the farce that descended upon the French camp with the resulting humiliation. I felt England’s acute pain as Frank Lampard’s obvious goal against the Germans was disallowed, before they were annihilated by their old enemy. Global stars like Wayne Rooney, Messi and Ronaldo simply failed to sparkle. Ah, and Portugal’s ridiculous 7-0 win over North Korea was simply a piece of cake for them.

Of course, like many Ghanaians, I declared Uruguay’s abominable Suarez public enemy number one and ‘persona non grata’ for ‘suarezing’ our chances at progressing to the semi-finals. The image of Asamoah Gyan’s Rivers of Babylon cascading down his face like the Boti Falls shall be with me for a long time. And how can I forget the funniest name in the tournament, that of the German player Schweinsteiger? His name actually translates as ‘pig mounter’! Much as I have enjoyed each game, I am not sure if my interest levels can and will be maintained over the next four years until Brazil 2014 rolls around. I have this feeling that I will go into extreme hibernation over this period without giving a monkey’s derriere as to what happens in between in the world of football-I am not going to pretend otherwise and build up an unrealistic expectation of becoming a football pundit. I am coming round to the full realisation and acceptance that I am a quadrennial football fan.

In this regard, I am reminded of many of my countrymen who have only a faint and hazy recollection of what the inside of a church looks like. But once a year, at Christmas, they will turn up faithfully in church, hijack the front seat and dance in loud praise of the Lord till their shirt or blouse is soaked in sweat and their voices are hoarse, forgetting that the Lord is not to be mocked. I am not sure there is much of a difference between truants of the football and ecclesiastical variety-in fact; I believe mine is much less serious in the pecking order. At least I don’t have to explain myself to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Now that the world cup lights are out, I am off to bed as far as the game is concerned. Will someone please wake me up when the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro is about to start sometime in summer 2014? I trust the Brazilians to put up a spectacular party-after all, they are carnival experts...

Source: Nkrumah-Boateng, Rodney