Sunday May 15 2016

A long boring wait for men


By Dennis D. Muhumuza

The 2015/2016 season of Barclays Premier League ends today after 10 sizzling months, leaving many Ugandan men wondering how they will be passing their weekend afternoons before the new season kicks off on August 13.

Soccer, women, money and politics are the top interests of men, no doubt, with soccer having an edge over the others. Even deep in my village in western Uganda nine out of every 10 men who have never stepped in class reel off the names of the star players in the premiership.

It is just amazing how English football has stolen the hearts and minds of Ugandan men. Everyone is a pundit; everyone has a jersey of his team, with his name or the name of his favourite player and his jersey number conspicuously on its back. As a Gunner, I too have an Arsenal shirt with my name and number [16] of Aaron Ramsey on it.

It is show time every weekend, and our wives and girlfriends suffer unless they pull off great pretence as soccer lovers too; pulling on jerseys of our favourite teams, jumping and shouting with us when our team scores, and commiserating with us when we lose.

The women who have failed to train themselves to love football know nothing but misery on weekends because that is why their lovers spend a lot of money on betting and return home too drunk to spend quality time.

Why is soccer so obsessive?
Men are natural hunters; they love the challenge, they love the chase, they love the competition, they love risks; any adrenaline-inducing venture and adventure excites them. The English Premiership gives them an opportunity to wind down; a delightful break from the drudgery of life.

Men identify with rivalry, and the fiercest rivalry is served steaming hot in the Premiership. It begins with top managers bullying one another with words and actions; each trying to establish himself as the real bull of the premiership kraal.

Tempers flare on the touchline as managers throw tantrums like Arsene Wenger shoved the pugnacious Jose Mourinho who called him a “specialist in failure”. It is funny watching star players pout when a dent in form gets them benched.

One time Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp broke his glasses celebrating a goal while Louis van Gaal dropped his pants to show his critics that he has balls.

The rivalry trickles down to clubs in close proximity, for example, Manchester United calls Manchester City “the noisy neighbours” while Arsenal shares a neighbourhood with Tottenham Hotspurs and for 20 years the latter has been trying to finish above the former in vain.

This extends to fans as we barb one another depending on how our respective teams are performing.
The teams attack with a romantic eagerness or defend with extraordinary resoluteness or they are punished.

The tempo, the surprises, the howlers, the class acts and the overall intensity and unpredictability leave you drunk with excitement or disappointment as you watch your team shred its opponent. These are moments that make even grey-haired men weep with joy or with pain, shamelessly.

This keeps on looking forward. Leicester City gave us the best tension this season. This is how BBC Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine described the Foxes’ Leicester’s performances in February: “You are performing the kind of high-wire act not seen since the French daredevil Philippe Petit strung a cable between the Twin Towers and crossed it without a harness. Every week we expect you to fall…but every week you stay on that cable.”

The Foxes who had gone from last to first in the league in just 12 months went on to win the trophy for the first time in their 132-year history. They did that in style; upsetting the status quo; making the established top teams look like “a bunch of bungling amateurs” as one pundit put it. The underdog had grabbed its chance with aplomb; stirring us with inspiration that we too can make it big time.

In life rarely is the underdog given the chance to prove himself, but in Premier League anyone has his chance. The injury of a big star is an opportunity for an often disregarded player to prove himself as a diamond that was hidden in the rough. All this is why it will be a tough wait for most men out there before the top English professional football league resumes.