Maybe, we should all support Arsenal
Sharuko on Saturday
IN an ideal world, this should have been a landmark year, with celebrations around the world, to mark the 65th anniversary of the year black footballers finally came of age.
At the ’58 World Cup, a teenage black athlete provided both the motion picture soundtrack, and the golden touch, which illuminated a summer the Swedes will never forget.
He was just 17.
Remarkably, he was playing in his first major tournament but managed to transform himself from a boy to a superman and, in an instant, became football’s most recognised athlete.
Three World Cups, more than a thousand goals and a profile still unmatched, in both appeal and achievements, Pele remains football’s ultimate face and name.
Last year, we lost him, at the age of 82.
But, rather than spend weeks mourning his departure, we celebrated the life he lived and the magic he produced on the grand green fields of our football arena.
Pele’s ascendancy to the throne, at the Rasunda Stadium in the ‘58 World Cup final, was the finest hour in black footballers’ quest for respect.
In his golden moment, he didn’t only represent Brazil but millions of black people crying out for a football hero who looked like them.
That it came on the 20th anniversary of the year Jesse Owens shattered the myth that white athletes were superior, by delivering his masterclass in front of a racist like Hitler, at the Berlin Olympics in ‘38, made it even sweeter.
So, in an ideal world, we should have been celebrating, as black people, marking the 85th anniversary of that moment when Jesse won four gold medals as Hitler, about to start a World War in which his sickening racism will be a major theme, watched from his VVIP seat.
But, this isn’t an ideal world.
That’s why we are not celebrating because, as black people, we seemingly quickly forget our past and the value of our history, the challenges we have faced and the hurdles we have cleared.
We live in a world which is largely hostile to our interests.
I am proud that I am a black man just as much as I am proud of that I am a Zimbabwean and very proud of my humble roots in Chakari.
But I am alive to the history of my people, the only human beings to be traded to wealthy white plantation owners as labourers, who were not meant to be treated as people, but animals.
Remarkably, from those slaves emerged a cast of elite athletes who transformed football into the beautiful game that it is today.
Pele is their King.
Garrincha was awesome and had he not lived in the shadow of Pele, his global profile would have been massive.
Ronaldo, Romario, Ronaldinho, Didi, Cafu, Robinho, Jairzinho, also known as “The Hurricane,” he remains just one of two players to score in every game he played at the World Cup, are some of the Brazilian Afro stars.
Brazil has not won the World Cup since 2002 but history still records that the Samba Boys set the benchmark of excellence in this tournament, and their haul of five titles is still to be matched.
No football nation, in this world, is associated with football more than Brazil and, even though the game wasn’t invented there, it was perfected on its shores and beaches.
Somehow, among the best footballers in the world, there is always a Brazilian in the pack and, right now, that slot is occupied by a guy called Vinicius Jose Paixao de Oliveira Junior.
The world simply calls him Vini Jnr.
He is a millennium boy, born on July 12, 2000, to a poor Catholic family, in Rio de Janeiro.
This week, his name was trending around the world after he was, for the umpteenth time, racially abused at a football match in La Liga.
THEY CHANGED VINI JNR INTO A MONKEY
The latest abuse came during a league match in which his club Real Madrid were taking on Valencia away from home.
The referee’s report captures it all:
“Racist insults — in the 73rd minute, a spectator from the southern ‘Mario Kempes’ tribune directed himself towards player No 20 of Real Madrid CF Mr Vinicius Jose de Oliveira do Nascimiento, screaming at him: ‘MONKEY, MONKEY’ monkey’ which led to the activation of the racism protocol, notifying the pitch delegate so that a corresponding warning over the loudspeaker would be made.”
How does a 22-year-old athlete who has already won two La Liga titles, who scored the winner when his team won the UEFA Champions League last year qualify to be called a monkey?
The tragedy about all this is that it was coming from someone who probably thinks he is right.
That is what this cruel and brutal world has conditioned him to think that, because we are dark, it means we are monkeys.
He was not the first to bombard Vini Jr with that nonsense, in a La Liga world which is clearly racist, and he won’t be the last.
Three people were arrested this week following this shameless hate crime and they won’t be the last because these racists will not be changed by the fear of being nabbed.
We are being blinded by our romance with these European clubs to such an extent that we don’t even see the sickening racism which is prevalent in their structures.
Just four years ago, a Kick It Out report showed that supporters of Manchester United topped the table of football-related arrests involving racism between 2014 and 2018.
Twenty seven United fans were arrested during the seasons from 2014/15 to 2017/18.
The irony of it all is that this is the most supported team in Southern Africa, according to a BBC survey, a region which bore the brunt of racism through apartheid and other forms of segregation.
Leeds United and Millwall, the usual suspects, came second with Leicester (14), Chelsea (13), West Ham (11) Barnsley, Manchester City and Middlesbrough, all on 10, occupying the other slots.
I am a United fan, have been one for as long as I can remember and it’s a special lifelong romance which keeps getting stronger with each passing year.
But, it doesn’t mean that I’m blinded by love to see that there are some elements of the Old Trafford establishment which appear very racist.
It’s a club that doesn’t invest in African players at the level which is seen among their biggest rivals although it can hit back by saying that it poured a world record £93.2m to sign Paul Pogba in August 2016.
But I can also argue that the same Pogba had been frustrated to such an extent he was forced to leave United, four years earlier, because of limited opportunities.
He will probably argue that if he was white, the chiefs at Old Trafford would have seen his potential and not let him leave only to buy his back, four years later, for close to £100m.
Pogba might play his international football for France but he is from Guinea and his brother even plays for the West African nation.
It’s also important to note that the Pogba record-breaking deal was sanctioned by Jose Mourinho who, in his previous life as coach at Chelsea, had already seen the benefits of huge investment into black players.
Didier Drobga is a case in point.
Maybe, in an ideal world, all the 1.2 billion people, who are classified as black men and women in this world, we should all be supporters of Arsenal.
Maybe, that’s why most of the black men and women, who have excelled in their fields, have an attachment with the Gunners because, in a way, they see themselves in the London club.
Jay Z, Spike Lee, Mo Farah, Idris Elba, Jamie Foxx, Sean Combs, Idris Elba, Lewis Hamilton, Allyson Felix, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, David Rudisha, Giannis Antetokounmpo, David Robinson, Anthony Joshua and Joel Embiid, the NBA’s MVP this season, are all fans of the Gunners.
This is a club which represents black people like no other football team has done before or will do in the future.
On September 28, 2002, the Gunners became the first English team to field NINE black players in a competitive match in what was a seismic moment.
Thierry Henry, Sol Campbell, Lauren, Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure, Patrick Vieira, Gilberto Silva, Sylvain Wiltord and Kanu featured in that first XI in a 4-1 thumping of Leeds.
This iconic moment came on the 30th anniversary of Brendon Batson becoming the first black player to feature for the Gunners, against Newcastle at St. James’ Park in March 1972.
In 2005, on Valentine’s Day of 2005, Arsenal became the first English club to name an entirely foreign Match Day squad.
Six years earlier, Chelsea had named an entirely foreign XI but this was the first time that an entire foreign Match Day squad had been named by an English team.
Maybe, in an ideal world, all the black people of this world, we should all be mourning Arsenal’s failure to win the league championship this season.
WHAT ABOUT A BLACK FIFA PRESIDENT?
But, it’s not an ideal world and that is why it even becomes fashionable to term an elite footballer like Vini Jnr a monkey.
In June 2005, some Algerian fans turned on Shingi Kawondera and termed him a monkey during a 2006 World Cup/AFCON qualifier in Oran.
He responded to the abuse by scoring and celebrating like a monkey in a match that ended 2-2.
“The fans were making monkey chants to try to unsettle us and that is why I celebrated like a monkey because I was hitting back at them,” he told this newspaper back then.
God has a way of punishing such racists.
In January 2019, a country whose fans thought a black footballer was a monkey, got a black Miss Algeria.
Khadija Ben Hamou was abused by her own people who said her dark skin colour meant she didn’t qualify to be called Miss Algeria and represent them on the international scene.
“Do not judge people without their knowledge, there is no difference between black and white,” she said.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has thrown his full support behind Vin Jnr.
But, the changes should also start at the top, in the FIFA offices, where a black African should also be allowed to be the president of the organisation.
There have been 12 FIFA presidents since the organisation’s founding on May 21, 1904, including two who spent a combined 57 years in charge, but never has there been a black president.
Only once, did FIFA have a black leader, Issa Hayatou, but he was just working in an acting capacity and, after just 141 days, he was gone.
Those racists, when they read the history of this game, and its leadership, they think it’s a white man’s sport.
That is what fuels them to go on this madness rampage.
They forget this is Pele’s game.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton, Daily Service, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and all the Chakariboys still in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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