SHARUKO ON SATURDAY
Vietnam, SEVEN Million, Rufaro, Villa Park, Old Trafford, Ali, Son, Spurs, it is what it is
WHETHER by design or default, SuperSport TV repeatedly played a promotional video featuring a bragging Muhammad Ali in the background on a Sunday that would make a mockery of logic.
A defining day when fantasy would collide with reality.
Maybe, the producers knew the month of October retains a special place, in the history of the finest boxer, this world has ever seen.
For, it was in October, 1960, that Ali fought his first professional fight in Louisville, and it was also in October, 1970, that he made his comeback, three years after being stripped of his world heavyweight title for refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War.
It was also in October, 1974, that Ali fought one of his finest fights, becoming only the second boxer, since Floyd Patterson, to regain the world heavyweight boxing title.
They called it the “Rumble In The Jungle’’ and the 32-year-old Ali defied a SEVEN-year age difference, in Kinshasa, to stop the 25-year-old defending champion, George Foreman, in eight rounds.
A year later, again in October, Ali stopped Joe Frazier, in the “Thrilla in Manila,’’ in the Philippines, in a duel of such intense brutality and profound ferocity, the two boxers appeared on a mission to try and kill each other.
And, again, it was in October, 1980, when Ali’s illustrious time in the ring, virtually ended, after he lost to Larry Holmes in Las Vegas.
Of course, for Norwegian coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it has already been an October to forget.
Manchester United’s record-equaling 1-6 thrashing, at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, was as much a nightmare as it was a humiliation.
Ironically, all the embarrassing defeats, suffered by United, have come in October — 3-6 against Southampton on October26, ’96; 0-5 against Newcastle on October 20, ’96; 1-6 against Manchester City on October 23, 2011 and 2-6 against Tottenham on October 24, ’62.
Three months after that six-goal humiliation, at White Hart Lane in ‘62, Jose Mourinho was born on January 26, ’63.
And, a year later, on February 25, ’64, Ali, then just 22, became world heavyweight championship title, after defeating Sonny Liston.
On Sunday, as I surveyed the wreckage of my slain Red Devils, I thought, what if Mourinho had, in the spirit of the Ali soundbites which SuperSport TV had used, in the countdown to the match, borrowed a leaf from the boxer’s speeches, as he toasted his hour of glory?
“We’ve just wrestled with alligators, we’ve just tussled with whales, we’ve handcuffed lightning, we’ve just thrown thunder into jail, we know we’re bad, very, very bad,’’ Mourinho would probably have said.
“We’ve just murdered some rocks, injured some stones, hospitalised some bricks, you know, we are so mean, and so fit, we really make medicine sick.
“Heung-min Son was so fast, tonight, he even turned off the light switch, in his hotel room after the match, and he was already in bed before the room had turned dark.
“It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as brilliant as we were today, at this tempo, if anyone is even dreaming of beating us, anytime soon, they better wake up and apologise.
“Son was floating like a butterfly, Harry was stinging like a bee, look, we’re amazing, we struck with the left foot, we struck with the right foot, by half-time, we had already knocked them down.
“At the end, some of their defenders were crying, their faces had turned so ugly the tears appeared to be turning around, and coming down the backs of his heads.
“Like Joe Frazier, they had turned so ugly, as every goal went in, they should have donated their sorry, and sad faces, to the National Geographic Society.’’
VIETNAM, SEVEN MILLION, RUFARO, YOU NAME IT, EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON
I have always believed everything happens for a reason and that — beyond the borders of our human understanding and imagination — lies a very powerful force which defines how the events should unfold.
And, that a lot of what eventually happens, would have been scripted elsewhere, beyond what we, as mere humans, can comprehend, let alone influence.
For, how do we explain the regular, and dominant, feature of the number SEVEN, when it comes to Ali’s illustrious career, from the moment he won Olympic gold, in 1960, shortly before he turned professional?
SEVEN years later, on April 28, ’67, Ali refused to be inducted into the United States Army, to fight in the Vietnam War, and was stripped of his world heavyweight title.
And, SEVEN years later, in Kinshasa in ’74, Ali won back his world heavyweight title, in the “Rumble In The Jungle.’’
SEVEN years after that, he fought for the last time, against Trevor Berbick, on December 11, ’81.
It’s impossible to separate the Vietnam War from Ali, the two, in a way, defined each other:
SEVEN years after 3500 Marines arrived on the shoes of Red Beach, on March 8, 1965, becoming the first American combat troops to be deployed in Vietnam, an AP photographer captured an image which, some claim, helped end this brutal military conflict.
On June 8, 1972, Nic Ut, captured the image, dubbed the ‘’Napalm Girl,’’ of a naked nine-year-old Vietnamese girl, who was fleeing from an area that had just been hit by napalm bombs.
The photograph won a Pulitzer Prize, for Spot News Photography, and the World Press Photo of the Year award and, according to some analysts, it was the image which convinced the world, the time had come to end this war.
By some coincidence, the iconic image was the SEVENTH picture Nic shot, with his Leica camera, that day.
It was captured exactly SEVEN years after his brother, Huynh Thanh My, also a war photographer for the Associated Press, was killed during the same Vietnam War, in 1965.
Nic only took up combat photography, to honour his late brother who, as fate might have it, had been the SEVENTH child, in their family of 11 kids.
SEVEN months after his iconic photo, was splashed on front pages of newspapers around the world, officials from the United States and North and South Vietnam signed the Paris ceasefire agreement.
I’m not sure how events, faraway in South East Asia, and the number SEVEN, ended up having such a profound influence on the identity of the most famous stand, at the spiritual home, of domestic football.
They call it Vietnam!
It’s a bastion of loyalty to the cause, and commitment, of this country’s biggest, and most successful football club — Dynamos.
Rufaro was officially opened in 1972, the very year Nic shot his iconic photo, exactly SEVEN years after the American combat troops had landed at Red Beach.
Both the stadium, and the club, are located in the heart of Mbare, a settlement which was established SEVEN years, into the last millennium, in 1907.
Some things are just mind-blowing:
Between the introduction of the Soccer Star of the Year award, in ’69, and the turn of the millennium, SEVEN Dynamos players — George Shaya, Ernest Kamba, David Mandigora, Japhet M’parutsa, Moses Chunga, Memory Mucherahowa and Tauya Murewa — won the prestigious award.
After the turn of the millennium, the Glamour Boys had to wait exactly SEVEN years, for one of their own, Murape Murape, to be crowned Soccer Star of the Year, in 2007.
SEVEN years have now passed since the last Dynamos player, Tawanda Muparati, was crowned Soccer Star of the Year in 2013.
During the Glamour Boys’ most dominant decade, between ‘80 and ‘90, they won SEVEN league titles in ’80, ’81, ’82, ’83, ’85, ’86 and ’89.
Back in those days, DeMbare were called ‘’SEVEN Million’’, as their fans claimed the club was supported by virtually the entire country, when our population was around that number.
The Glamour Boys’ worst defeat was a SEVEN-goal thrashing, at the hands of CAPS United, exactly SEVEN years after Independence, in a ’87 Africa Day Trophy semi-final, at Rufaro.
Their biggest victory, in the CAF Champions League, was a SEVEN-goal thrashing of Reunion side, St Louisienne, at the National Sports Stadium which, like many other sports records, came in October, ’99.
Since the turn of the millennium, DeMbare have won just five league titles, the same number of championships they won from their establishment, in ’63, to Independence in ’80.
Their five league titles, in the new millennium, all came within a SEVEN-year period, between 2007 and 2014.
The number SEVEN has also, at times, been synonymous with tragedy, for the Glamour Boys and, in June 2016, a number of their fans were killed, in a road accident, near Battlefields.
The number of those killed, on the spot, was SEVEN.
FROM BARCA TO BAYERN, LIVERPOOL TO RIO AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN
Until their SEVEN-goal thrashing by Aston Villa on Sunday, Liverpool had last conceded SEVEN goals, in a league match, on April 15, ’63 — ironically, the year the Glamour Boys were formed.
The team which hammered Liverpool, back then, was the same team which hammered United, on Sunday — Spurs.
Then, just like now, Liverpool scored twice, in reply and, on both occasions, their two goals came from the same source — Roger Hunt grabbing a brace in ’63, while Mohamed Salah scored a double on Sunday.
The final two goals, for the opposition, were also scored by the same player — Greaves for Spurs in ’63 and Grealish for Villa in 2020, as if Liverpool, once in a while, gets affected by an allergy about facing forwards, whose names start with a ‘G.’
During the ‘62/63 English top-flight season, when the Reds conceded SEVEN goals, Everton won all their first four league matches — beating Burnley 3-1; Manchester United 3-1; Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 and, again, Manchester United 1-0.
And, this season, when the Reds have against conceded SEVEN goals, in a match, Everton have again won their first four league matches — thrashing West Bromwich Albion 5-2; beating Crystal Palace 2-1; hammering West Ham 4-1 and dismissing Brighton and Hove 4-2.
It’s easy, to rush into premature, if not foolish conclusions, that Liverpool’s humbling defeat by Villa, represents a sign that their recent dominance, which has seen then become England, Europe and World Champions, in the past two years, is coming to an end.
It’s also easy, if you are a Red Devil like me, to quickly rush into such comforting, if not misleading, conclusions because, for us, these Reds aren’t just a rival but an empire, whose presence on the global football landscape, is always a source of discomfort.
After all, given our fascination with numbers, it’s now SEVEN years since we last won the league championship.
But, before we all get lost in all this madness, maybe, it’s important for us to take a step back and note that this has happened before, to some similar powerful clubs, in the world.
And, it didn’t signal the end of their empires.
Maybe, what should really be of interest, here, is why Bayern Munich’s record defeat, in the Bundesliga, also has to be the SEVEN-goal thrashing they suffered, at the hands of Schalke 04?
And, just like some of the football records, that defeat came in October, 1976.
Or, why is it that Barcelona’s record defeat, in the UEFA Champions League, was also a SEVEN-goal aggregate thrashing, at the hands of Bayern, SEVEN years ago?
Why is it that Juventus’ record defeat is a SEVEN-goal (1-7) thrashing, at the hands of AC Milan, during the ‘49/’50 season?
And, why is it that Real Madrid’s record away defeat, in the league, was also a SEVEN-goal (1-7) humiliation, at the hands of Espanyol, during the 1929/30 season?
Alfredo Di Stefano is the greatest footballer, in the history of Real Madrid, and he holds the record for most goals scored by a player, from the club, in the European Cup finals (SEVEN).
The club’s longest streak, without conceding a goal in La Liga, stands at SEVEN games, during the ‘97/’98 season and the club’s fewest league wins, in a season, also stands at SEVEN, during the ‘29/’30 season.
There have been SEVEN players, who have won the Ballon d’Or, while playing for Real Madrid — Di Stefano, Raymond Kopa, Ronaldo (Brazil), Luis Figo, Fabio Cannavaro, Ronaldo (Portugal) and Luka Modric.
So, before we starting dreaming that the events last Sunday, as wild as they were, represent the end of an era, for United, or the start of the decline, for Liverpool, let’s remember Brazil conceded SEVEN at the Maracana.
It was a landmark triumph for the Bundesliga, and SEVEN of the players Germany fielded in their starting XI that day, were contracted to clubs in the league.
And, it was just the perfect result to bring a close to the Bundesliga celebrations given the league was celebrating is Golden Jubilee.
Formed in 1963, just like the Glamour Boys, its fate, it appears, was also forever linked with the number SEVEN.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno!
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