The passion, emotions and love that are manifested by people of all ages makes me come to the conclusion that football is the world’s most popular and loved sport.
Currently the World Cup trophy is on a tour on the African continent for the fans whose national teams may not win it in the nearest future to look at and only admire.
Personally, I have “played” the lovely game at a serious level and I have also shared with you in this column the many friends it won me, you should know their gender by now.
In 1990 as fate would have it, I travelled to Italy for a conference focusing on the post Cold era since the Germany wall had collapsed. At this time the World Cup tournament was underway and I had to go watch in my free time.
The only match I watched was the final between Brazil and Germany; even then I only watched the first half.
It so happened that I sat amidst the Brazilian fans and I didn’t mind an inch anyway since it was not against Rwanda.
I don’t speak Brazilian and I am not sure if she would speak English. I started putting my head to work. Nonetheless, I am not one to coil my tail between my legs.
“Hey I am not Brazilian but I love your beautiful game,” I initiated a conversation with this African-Brazilian whose beauty was recognized and felt amidst the wild and uncoordinated noises from the drunk supporters of both teams.
“Eit zee ouke” trying to say its okay but it was said in the most soothing of the voices that I had ever heard and I could somehow comprehend the Brazilian accent. I lived in Brazil for three months just like I have shared with this experience in Brazil.
“Am Shooter, Sharp Shooter, from Africa,” I introduced myself as I always do before my target falls victim. “I love soccer and particularly Brazil,” I lied just to snatch a bit of her attention. I support their number one rival Argentina so she would kill anybody in support of that country.
“That is wonderful, in Africa people know Brazil?” she asked with surprise and by now the attention had shifted from the football stars to this African who ‘loved’ her country.
We talked a lot about African football, people and international soccer as well. She was impressed to see this African who new the entire Brazilian squad and I even suggested substitutions which the coach went ahead to coincidentally make just like I had suggested.
It was such a hot summer and by half time, it was so hot that I suggested a cold coke outside. “Sure, coke is fine.”
So there we were sipping our cold drinks. I rarely use soft drinks but I had to. “You didn’t tell me your name,” I put my ammunition in chamber. “Oh, am suri” for sorry “am de mello” football talk shifted instantly to personal life.
She told me about her life and a broken relationship and I promised to be the man she has been missing who would not treat her bad.
We didn’t go back to the stadium for the second half but were busy planning a family. “Shooter, I want to trust you and hoping African men are serious in relationships.” I suggested a drink that evening and we were at it.
We didn’t bother about football results after the game but we were in a bar feeling cozy, Italian beer coupled with Italian music spiced up our romance.
I invited her to my hotel room in Florence, one of the Italian cities yet I was staying in Udinez and spent the night there.
We later came to Africa together. She returned to Brazil but we continued our distant relationship before she tragically died in a plane accident on her return to Africa to visit me!!!!!
De mello, the trophy you won in 1990 is in Rwanda and I dedicate it to you. I want you to know that I miss and love you so much.