IT was William Shakespeare who gave us that classic line in “Twelfth Night”: “If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die.’’
That was in 1602 when the comedy was first released, and 417 years later, that powerful line still holds true with music still playing such a massive part in our lives whether we are in church, watching football or even relaxing in our homes.
I have always been a music fan, and one of my biggest regrets is that I was never given a voice to match my passion for singing, even though that hasn’t stopped me from writing songs, many of them, which remain locked up in my vault at home.
My favourite local musician has always been the good pastor, Charles Charamba, as talented a singer and songwriter as we have ever had emerging from our country, his voice a blessing and his singing a gift.
One of his finest songs for me has to be “Rufu RwaMwari,” where he provides a narration of where and how the lives of the 12 disciples ended after Judas betrayed Jesus Christ with that kiss of betrayal and, as of yesterday, it had more than 100 000 views on YouTube.
From the heroism of Peter refusing to be crucified in a similar fashion to the Lord and, instead, choosing to be nailed on the cross with his head down and his legs up as a last parting show of respect to Christ, to Matthew being killed in Asia where he was preaching, the pastor takes us on a tragic journey in which the world turned against these disciples.
But, it’s the story of one of them, Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel, which really touches me as the pastor tells us he was skinned while he was still alive before they chopped off his head.
That tragic ending came in Baku.
“Bartholomew, wainzi Nathaniel, akavhiyiwa ganda ari mupenyu, akazogurwa zvakare musoro, kumuuraya, muguta reBaku,’’ sings Pastor Charamba.
Some religious leaders also agree with him that Bartholomew was, indeed, killed in Baku, and unless you are a Formula One die-hard fan, or before the Europa Cup final bandwagon rolled into that town this week, it’s fair to say many people didn’t even know there was such a capital city in the world.
Well, it’s there, and it’s the capital of Azerbaijan, a country on the edges of Eastern Europe and Western Asia of about 10 million people, and it sits on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
It is the city that has been hosting the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, whose glitz and glamour and all the madness that accompanies the show packaged as aristocracy, rolled into these shores two years ago.
The Baku leg of Formula One is quite a spectacle for those speed merchants who make millions trying to show the world they are the fastest and smartest drivers around, negotiate their super cars 28 metres below sea level in the lowest lying capital city in the world.
And, on Wednesday, the Europa League roadshow rolled into Baku for the first time in its history, and remarkably, there was an imperfection to the perfection — an imperfect venue, but in some weird ways, the perfect outpost for the reading of the last rites as was the case with Bartholomew, on a grumpy chain-smoking Italian coach.
The imperfection of Baku as a host city took an even bizarre angle when the two competing teams from the same country and same city, their stadiums separated by just 16km via the A40 in London, now had to travel a round trip of more than 8 000km for their final showdown.
The Arsenal and Chelsea fans simply stayed at home, with only 5 000 making the trip to Baku, an insignificant number when compared to the more than 100 000 travelling Liverpool and Tottenham supporters expected to pour into Madrid for tonight’s Champions League final.
The horrible sight of thousands of empty seats inside the stadium in Baku was an insult to the status of such a huge match, a reminder to the leadership that they can’t have their cake and also eat it too, and a triumph for reason over the dark merchants of madness.
For many pundits, this was going to be the sorry ending of Sarri’s term as Chelsea coach after just one season, with the Italian gaffer — an unpopular choice at a club that has in the past invested in such charming characters like Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte — set to be divorced in shame.
They told us this would be the end of a turbulent season for Sarri at Chelsea because, according to their brutal assessment, he has been poor at the Blues, has played Kante in the wrong position, was responsible for the four-goal humiliation at Bournemouth and has reduced the team into a very average side.
Where Bartholomew’s honour in being skinned alive and having his head chopped off because he couldn’t disown his strong religious beliefs, one of the tales that will always define Baku’s history, had cast some light on the virtues of loyalty, the pundits said Sarri’s messy divorce, because he had failed, would provide the same city with another defining tale of shame.
And, in a world that considers those who smoke or drink alcohol as not being righteous, the sight of a chain-smoking Italian coach finally being kicked out in shame in the city synonymous with the sainthood displayed by Bartholomew, could not have been more appropriate.
SARRI SURVIVES TO LIVE ANOTHER DAY IN ANOTHER BLOW TO THE PUNDITS
But, on Wednesday night, Sarri refused to be consumed by the weight he was carrying from some fans who have never liked him, to some pundits who have been calling for his head, and in one of the finest demonstration of defiance amid pressure, he found a way to celebrate, typically smoking a cigarette on the bench when the job had been completed. Baku didn’t provide the burial ground for Sarri that many pundits had predicted, and at the end of a strange contest in which five goals were scored in the second half, it was the Italian coach who was celebrating his first silverware in his career as a professional coach at the age of 60.
Chelsea’s starting XI in Baku didn’t feature even one Englishman, the first time a team has started a major European final without a player from their home nation since Inter Milan took on Bayern Munich in the 2010 Champions League final, but no one cared at the end.
Sarri has been a victim of some savage attacks from the know-it-all English pundits who had been setting an agenda all season that he wasn’t the right man for the job, even after he led Chelsea to third place in a race dominated by Liverpool and Manchester City, lost the League Cup on penalties to City and won the Europa League.
I’m not a Chelsea fan, but I was always a human being before I became a football supporter and journalist and, where I see unfair criticism, especially by some people who believe because they simply have the space to write their thoughts, as flawed as they might be, in newspapers, or say it on radio and television, I call it out. There is a mistaken belief among the pundits, especially in football, that they are be-all-and-end-all of everything, the beginning and the ending of opinion, the alpha and omega of views, the special ones who were given the talent to provide analysis, the only ones whose views should matter. Some of us even believe we own the game, we should always own the discussion, we should always dominate the opinions, we should always be the ones who must be believed.
We never accept that we sometimes also get it wrong and our inflated egos, more often than not, even lead us astray.
We like to speak with authority as if we are some little football gods. We hate those who come with a different view, even if they might be right. We quickly block those who think otherwise on our social media platforms so as to sustain our narrative that we are always the right ones and we have no tolerance for opposing views.
We love it when the feedback is complementary, when those who read or hear our views on newspapers and on radio and television tell us they agree with what we would have told them, but we have no space for those who think otherwise, even when they could be right, and we shut them out of the debate.
Of course, there are some vicious stalkers, those who don’t know the value of debate, who will — in the cover of their anonymity, pound you with all sorts of insults simply because you happen to write for the newspaper they don’t like for one reason or another or you are someone they hate for one reason or another — and there is no point wasting time with that lot.
But, remarkably, the majority are good people who mean no harm and that’s refreshing. Sarri might not stay longer at Chelsea. Reports indicate that Juventus officials are targeting him, but even if he was to leave, the beauty about it all is that he will go with his head held high because he delivered for the Blues in his first season and gave them a European trophy.
He took on his army of critics and defeated them, and that’s a beautiful story.
SARRI, JUST LIKE SUNDAY, APPEARS FATED NOT TO BE LOVED
Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa isn’t a Chelsea fan either, even though their blue kits, the colour of his DeMbare side, have attracted a huge constituency of his Glamour Boys family into the Blues fold.
But, just like Sarri, who shared a second name that rhymes with his first name Sunday, Mhofu has suffered a lot over the years from armchair critics who believe he is an outdated coach who uses outdated coaching methods and should have long slipped into retirement rather than being handed the responsibility of coaching the Warriors.
They argue his football is boring, there is too much emphasis on safety-first, on defence, on trying not to concede than trying to score goals, and it lacks style, it lacks appeal, it lacks swagger, it’s very boring, it’s one dimensional, it’s old-fashioned, it’s from the Stone Age.
That, whatever he does, has been effective in bringing the results doesn’t seem to matter to them, and at times one even gets the feeling these vicious critics, like those who have been stalking Sarri since last year, would rather prefer seeing his team lose so that they can get their points across so that it fits into their toxic views.
That he became the first coach to find a way to take the Warriors to the Nations Cup finals, where the likes of Fabisch and company had failed, doesn’t mean anything to them. That he remains the only domestic coach to take a team to the final of the Champions League final doesn’t matter to them.
That he is the only coach to take the Warriors to two AFCON finals doesn’t matter to them. That he is the first coach to guide them to a win in Kinshasa doesn’t mean a thing to them, that his so-called negativity has delivered what the style of those they prefer failed to doesn’t matter to them.
The other day, at a media conference in Harare, he was reduced to a man who had to issue a personal appeal to the local media that while he might not be their preferred coach, they have a responsibility to support the Warriors and said while his type of football might not appeal to them, at least, it should not distract them from what this team represents.
Mhofu, as a Manchester United fan, should know that’s the way it is with some of these pundits, the same people who were calling on the United hierarchy to quickly give Ole the job after the Miracle in Paris are now the same people saying the decision to give him a contract was a premature one.
“People try to identify me as a coach that sold Salah,” Mourinho said on his first appearance on beIn Sports in Doha, Qatar. “I am the coach that bought Salah.
“He was just a lost kid in London, he was a lost kid in a new world. When the club decide to sell him — it was not me. So I bought him, I didn’t sell him.”
That Salah is in the Champions League final tonight and his coach Jurgen Klopp had an interesting response in March when Sky Sport pundit Gary Neville suggested Liverpool’s league championship campaign could be helped by crashing out of the Champions League.
“That’s the reason why they don’t have a job on the sideline – one of the reasons,” said Klopp. “It is so easy to sit in a studio and talk about things like that.
“You draw a season and say the best way to go through it is to go out of all the cup competitions early. You do that and the same people go for you like mad.
“Now it is closer to the end of the season and it is allowed to go out of the Champions League without even trying? That’s really mad.”
Of course, it is, even Sarri agrees and Baku, of all cities, couldn’t swallow him.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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