Friday, April 20, 2018

Tribute | Gracias, Arsene

Resigned. Fired. Gone. Whatever. Yes, Arsene Wenger leaves Arsenal at the end of the season – that’s the latest news from London Colney. The long wait is over. Finally. Mama has given a signal.

Whoah! We can now watch football again.

With us, he leaves memories. The memorable quotes. The transformation. The sleek football. The training methods. The diet regime. The 3-1 against United in that Fabian Barthez show. The 5-1 away against Inter Milan. The 3-1 win against Juventus. The 4-2 against Liverpool. The duels with Fergie. The catfights with Mourinho. The cheekiness. The stubbornness. The innocent water bottles kicked from the touchline. The bad signings. More transformation (the bad one). The 8-2 horror show at United. And everything else in between.

We are now ready for the transition. They’ll mock us, the naysayers. A season or two, and we’ll find our feet again. Thierry Henry, Mikel Arteta, Patrick Vieira, Diego Simone, Leonardo Jardim. Anyone. Someone with an ounce of a football brain. Anyone that is not Brendan Rogers, Mourinho, Moyes or Sam Allardyce. Anyone decent enough. Maybe Maurizio Sarri. Or Eusebio Di Francesco. Or Zidane (allow me to dream, people. With Wenger gone, anything is possible).

"This is one of the most difficult days we’ve ever had in all our years in Sport blah blah blah […]", cooed Stan Kroenke. He lied. What’s difficult about letting go of an abusive partner –  Breaking the news to them, perhaps? Maybe he’s been practicing how to say: "au revoir" and make it sound like an all-expenses-paid holiday to Ibiza.

I feel more excited than a juvenile on a typical 1990s Christmas day. More elated than Piers Morgan will ever be. I am in the mood for a #WengerResignationParty. Invites, anyone? We’ll foot the bill.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Tribute | Adios, Winnie

South African anti-apartheid activist. That’s the phrase most widely used to describe the Xhosa woman born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela, the woman the world grew to know as Winnie Mandela.

Social worker by training and political activist by trade, Winnie met Nelson Mandela when she was only 22, in 1957. They would live together for a paltry six years before Mandela was jailed in 1963.

She didn’t escape the coolers herself, doing a good 18 months in 1969, undergoing torture, house arrest, and solitary confinement in the process.

While that didn’t kill her zeal for activism, it certainly took a toll on her struggle, eventually driving her to certain extremes.

One of these was founding of Mandela United Football Club, the gang that was responsible for the murder of a 14-year-old Stompie Moeketsi. Stompie had been kidnapped with three other boys.

In April 1986, she appeared to endorse the practice of necklacing (burning people alive using car tyres and petrol) in a publicized speech.

"With our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country”, she said, triggering a chain reaction that would result in dozens of deaths either by stoning, shooting or outright torture.

She was sentenced to six years for kidnap, which was reduced to a fine on appeal. It was only a portion of truths she never wanted revisited. She would later blame Mandela for a series of truces that the latter got involved in, much later.

"This name Mandela is an albatross around the necks of my family. You all must realize that Mandela was not the only man who suffered. There were many others, hundreds who languished in prison and died", she once said, in an interview The Standard, a UK newspaper.

She was unamused that a giant statue of Mandela had been erected in central Johannesburg. She wanted everybody else involved in the struggle given equal recognition. Steve Biko, Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe and the rest of them all.

Winnie blamed Mandela for having negotiated a bad deal for the blacks. She believed they were not as economically empowered as she had envisaged.

Her transgressions could only serve to prove that Winnie was as human as they come. While she was no saint, her erstwhile secret-now-turned public love affair with Dali Mpofu – a bubbly lawyer 26 years her junior – only served to wreck her marriage.

The eventual revelations appeared to effectively crush Mandela, driving him to finalize the couple’s much-publicized divorce in 1996.

"Can I put it simply, my lord? If the entire universe tried to persuade me to reconcile with the defendant. I would not. I am determined to get rid of this marriage", he said, effectively ending their 38-year relationship.

Today, Winnie Mandela signs out having been unwell since the turn of the year. She was 81.

Nomzamo, one of her names, means "She who tries". And try and fight she did, eternally etching her name in the pantheon of South African greats. What a heroine! What a colossus!

Rest thee well, Winnie Mandela.