Tag Archives: MVP

THAT LIVERPOOL PERFORMANCE WILL LEAVE YOU SECOND-GUESSING YOUR ALLEGIANCE

That Liverpool game was everything!! At first, I was not going to watch it. PSG vs Real Madrid was on at the same time, and this is the game that everyone was talking about. Ronaldo vs Neymar/Mbappe/Cavani, people, what could be more exciting than this tantalizing clash of the titans? Turns out, Liverpool vs FC Porto, baby!!

I watched the RealvsPSG match for the first 10-12 minutes, and I kid you not I was getting bored. Plus, I was not really feeling Cavani on that Wednesday night, I just did not like seeing him on the screen for no apparent reason. Then, a small voice inside me told me to switch to the Liverpool game for just a few minutes then come back to this ‘main event’, hopefully, more refreshed. That small voice was like a calling! People, I never went back to that PSG game, and I do not regret it for a second! Liverpool was on fire, and if I wasn’t such a staunch Arsenal supporter, they would have converted me.

I’m talking about moves that could give a girl straight orgasms; goals that could give a healthy 26-year-old, heart palpitations, a game that moved so fast, there was hardly any time to breathe or blink, an intense coach who hardly sat for the entire match (I love Klopp’s theatrics on the sideline, they are always entertaining), a defensive wonderkid who is delicious to watch (and he gets better every game), and a midfielder who, for the life of me, has not let age define him. Yes, that was what the Reds brought to Porto on Valentine’s day. That and much more!

Let me begin with James Milner, this midfielder who seemingly re-invents himself every season, nay, every match! Every time I see him play, I make fun of him for being too old to be on this particular team. I know that is kind of mean, but in football years, Milner is ancient! I first heard about him in 2010 when he was moving to Manchester City from Aston Villa where he had spent two years. Before that, I came to find out, he had been in Newcastle, preceded by a loan transfer to Aston Villa, which was after his first stay in Newcastle who had bought the then 18-year-old from Leeds United. In short, he’s been playing professional football since I was a pre-teen, and my head just cannot get around that!

But, here is the funny thing about Milner that leaves me in awe. He is doing what normal 32-year-old professional footballers cannot do. He’s changing roles on the field on a regular basis making him one of the most versatile footballers some of us have ever come across. Last season, he was playing in the left-back position; this season, he’s playing as a midfielder! How absolutely amazing is that?

Another fun fact, he currently holds the record for the most assists in this Champions League season. He set up two of the five goals scored by Liverpool on Wednesday taking him to the top of the assist table. Imagine, he’s ahead of players like Kevin De Bruyne! Wow.

That’s not all! Milner (alongside Henderson) clearly dominated that midfield and controlled that game. He showed so much tenacity and maturity that promulgated throughout the Liverpool team. Milner was not allowing any of his teammates to make mistakes, not on this day!

Milner was not the only one showing maturity on such a big stage on Wednesday. Mo Salah, the King of Egypt, demonstrated that exact sentiment throughout his game, and he was so impressive to watch. I find the way this man moves with the ball, dribbling across defenders, and linking the ball up with teammates, at times who are in his blind spots, so enticing. Like, I cannot resist him when he is on the field.

And did you see his goal? This was one of those orgasmic, heart palpitation causing moments I was talking about earlier. That goal wasn’t just magical, it was pure art! How can he have such composure to score a goal like that? To me, it’s just mind-blowing! Can Salah do anything wrong at this point? I doubt it!

Firmino was also on point in this game, and what a spectacular goal that was. I loved his celebration after he scored, it was so boyish (I also like his teeth, but this is a story for another place). And, I have to be honest. I fell in love with the Firmino-Salah combination in their match against Southampton last Sunday. They played off each other so well at the front during this game, and it was exciting to see them doing that again in the Porto game.

The duo seems to have so much chemistry, and so much fun playing together and scoring amazing goals. That is why it was so surprising to learn that they are not best friends. Guess who is Salah’s closest friend at Liverpool?

I’ll tell you. It’s the man who completely destroyed Porto on Wednesday. Sadio Mane, baby!! What a performance! What a way to seal the destiny for your team in the Champions League. Mane’s three goals against Porto is another testament of how mature, and composed these boys have become under Klopp, and how precise their game is. It also shows the breadth of talent within Liverpool, wow!

Of course, Mane’s performance on Valentine’s day was also testament to the player’s self-belief and self-awareness. Just a couple of weeks ago people were talking about how he sucked because his form had nose-dived a little. But, now look at him, scoring hat-tricks in one of the biggest competitions in the world! That is truly inspirational, and Liverpool is a wonderful team for giving him the space and the encouragement he needed to recover and reach these new heights.

So, yeah! I am basically in love with everything about Liverpool including their coach and their orange kits. It was the perfect match to watch on Valentine’s, and I hope performances such as those keep coming from Liverpool. (Don’t worry, I have not converted yet. Once a Gunner, always a Gunner, but a little flirting with a rival never hurt nobody).

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Have amazing, safe, and love-filled weekends, people!!

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INGWE LET IT SLIP- WHO’S TO BLAME FOR DROPPING THE BALL THIS TIME?

The CAF Confederation Cup campaign began on a slow note for Kenya with Fosa Juniors managing a draw with AFC Leopards last Sunday. It was imperative for the Kenyan team to win the game in order for Kenya to have a good chance at advancing in the competition, and fan support was essential in boosting the players’ morale on the D-day.

There was so much hype about the game with Ingwe’s head coach pleading with fans to throng the Bukhungu stadium earlier last week. Calls for fans to attend the game were also made by former AFC Leopards’ players such as Joseph Masiga and Ingwe chairman, Dan Mule.

The emotional appeal worked with an impressive turnout of fans at the legendary Bukhungu stadium. In addition, the County Governor of Kakamega, Wycliffe Oparanya, vowed to foot all of the bills of the Leopards during their stay in Kakamega as they prepared for the first leg of the preliminary round of the CAF Confederation Cup.

And then the D-day came! To our dismay, the Leopards could not get the job done with the highly anticipated game ending in a 1-1 draw. The game had started brightly enough with Ingwe‘s goal coming early in the game as Yusuf Mainge scored in the 3rd minute for the home team. But, even before the 20th minute of the game, Fosa Juniors had already equalized. The rest of the game must have been difficult for the fans in attendance to watch as Ingwe players struggled to keep up with the visitors throughout the game.

Please remember that before the game, the Fosa Juniors’ coach had described AFC Leopards as highly disorganized, and to our surprise, Ingwe seemed determined to prove him right throughout the match. Now fans are furious, and understandably so, owing to the fact that this game was a must-win if we had any hopes of bagging the continental championship.

There have been several apologies issued by the team including sentimental messages issued by both the team’s keeper trainer and Ingwe’s coach. And true to Kenyan form, the blame game has begun. Who is to blame for the woeful display of Ingwe at Bukhungu?

Well, many die-hard Ingwe fans believe that the blame for Sunday’s off the mark performance lies squarely on the feet of Robert Matano, the current coach of AFC Leopards. Matano has maintained that he is in charge of recruiting players, but his choices so far have not worked so well according to several fans across social media. Some have even gone so far as calling some of the pre-season signings as utterly bogus!

Also on the players, many fans have voiced their frustration at having different starting lineups at every game. The lack of an almost regular Starting XI reduces the chemistry and familiarity amongst the players. This makes it extremely difficult for the players to gel well with each other, and lack of coordination in the team is the only expected result here.

There are also some people who firmly believe that the problem is not with the choice of players recruited, fielding, or the gelling of the members of the first team. This camp of AFC fans opines that there is lack of a tactical approach when designing game strategies. Going by the disorganization demonstrated by our players on Sunday, this theory holds a lot of water for me.

The National Executive Committee, the management of AFC Leopards, also came under fire for the poor results and the disorganization that seems rampant across the entire team.

Whoever is to blame, the fact remains that that away goal that Fosa Juniors managed to secure will cost Ingwe greatly in the second leg. Unfortunately, that is the least of our worries for the Leopards. The team has demonstrated fielding issues, problems with players connecting with each other, performance problems, lack of technical strategies, and lack of coordination across all levels of the team. If Ingwe has any hope of clinching this title then these issues have to be addressed pronto before the return leg in Madagascar.

What did you think about Ingwe’s performance against the Juniors? With all these recurrent problems in the team, do you think the Leopards have a chance to beat Fosa Juniors in the return leg?

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PETR CECH-ARSENAL’S SAVING GRACE ONCE MORE-BUT FOR HOW MUCH LONGER?

Well, clearly Tottenham and its fans were more ready for their clash with Arsenal than I had earlier anticipated and I would gladly want to be in the shoes of a Tottenham fan right now. This means I have to eat crow, and actually applaud the team for a job well done. (I would also like to send a special thank you to Arsenal for breaking a piece of my heart yet again this season; kudos, you guys! You’re totally on fire and I hope you are really proud of yourselves)

What can I say, Tottenham outplayed us everywhere it counted, and we did not help our case when we made blunder after blunder throughout the game. At least in the first half, we tried to make the game work, but in the second half, we lost all composure. It was downhill all through the final half, and it was one of the most gut-wrenching performances I had seen all weekend.

I do feel that Spurs could have scored more goals, especially Harry Kane. Majority of the Arsenal players had obviously checked out of the game by the start of the second half, and Tottenham should have worked harder to take advantage of this. That being said, another important reason there wasn’t a bloodbath at Wembley on Saturday, and I still have the strength to write today, my main man Petr Cech.

I did not even expect to see him play in this North London derby, but, boy, are we glaaaaaaad he did! Otherwise, we would have been looking at 4-0 or more in favor of Tottenham. I mean the Lilywhites had 18 shots at goal with six of them on target while the Gunners had six shots at goal with only one…ONE shot on target!

And I know what you are thinking right now. Cech is currently in bad form and making him my man of the match is a classic case of a deluded girl desperately trying to clutch at straws. This is Cech’s worst run across all competitions having conceded a goal or more in each of the last nine consecutive matches. But, whichever way you look at it, he was our saving grace on Saturday, even after conceding against Kane. I mean he saved us from that powerful, goal-bound Eriksen free-kick amongst several other attempts! For me, he kept eyes his eyes peeled the entire game, unlike some other people (names withheld, but you know who I’m talking about)

I firmly believe that our defense has contributed significantly to the veteran goalkeeper’s poor form lately. The state of affairs in our defense department is appalling, to say the least, and I’m sure this was not what Cech was expecting when he came over from Chelsea. He is working overtime in every game just to cover their asses, and it’s just sad!

However, we need to be real here. Cech is not growing any younger, and it seems his best goalkeeping years are well behind him. To be honest, when he was brought in, I was just expecting that he would be a short-term fix until we could get someone more suitable (age-wise) for the position. The minute Szczesny was through with his loan spell at Roma, we should have made him our first choice, first-team goalkeeper. Then Cech would have just been in reserve, until his retirement, only being called upon when it was absolutely necessary. But, as you know with Arsenal, we are in the business of selling our best talents and not providing the ones who stay with the kind of support they need to be at their best.

I really hate saying this, but I think it is time to let go of the aging goalkeeper and purchase someone younger who is able to cover the asses of our disparaging defense, get those boys in check while on the field, and make crucial saves regardless of the opponent. Someone who is just aching to make a mark in the EPL and beyond, and someone who is not afraid to take charge when things are going south.

Problem is even if we do find the perfect replacement for Cech, it’s going to take a miracle for Arsene Wenger to actually spend the kind of money required for such talent. Luckily, that is a problem for another day, I just hope Petr Cech can hold on a little while longer without us completely tanking!

What do you think? Is it time for Cech to leave? Do you have a replacement in mind? Comment below and do not forget to subscribe.

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Have amazing weeks people!!!!

PS: If you are an Arsenal fan, and are religiously inclined, say a word of prayer for Lacazette. I do not know if he will ever be able to redeem himself after his ghastly performance this weekend, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!!

 

Jaume Domenech-the goalkeeper with Acrobatic finesse!!

Let me begin by saying I loathe Barcelona FC. If Barca were food, they would be a mixture of bananas, green grams, peas, and carrots (foods that I absolutely hate). That’s right! I have a distinct hatred for one of the most successful clubs in history. Why the passionate dislike for the Catalonian team? Well, for starters, I don’t like how they play, especially how controlled their game is. Oftentimes, it feels predictable and lacks the kind of spontaneity I like seeing in a football match. I can equate all that passing that Barca players do in one match to using too many words to say something, or using too many sentences and ending up not saying anything meaningful.

And don’t get me started on their talisman, Messi. I usually feel that there’s just something off about him, but I cannot put my finger on it. To tell you the truth, I also find him quite uninspiring. The minute people started comparing him to the love of my life was the minute I lost complete interest in this man! He just doesn’t rock my boat like other players do.

Anyway, we are not here to talk about my feelings, there will be a time and a place for this (during my weekend rants to my dad about how much I hate Barcelona).

Today we are here to talk about the Copa Del Rey semifinal match that was played yesterday night. Did you catch it? I did, and I enjoyed bits and pieces of it.

My man of the match was one, Jaume Domenech, Valencia FC’s amazing goalkeeper. Barely eight minutes into the game, and he was called into action, ACROBATICALLY saving a Messi free kick. He was literally mid-air, stretched to the limit across the goal post, and still had the gusto to volley that ball out. It…was…wonderful!! For real, a GIF needs to be made out of this moment. Oh! You should have seen the look on Messi’s face…absolute frustration, and surprise that that did not go in. I loved it!!

And then came the 36th minute where Domenech and Messi were one on one. Diminutive Messi got hit, he got hit bad. He got a knock on the head so bad, that I winced when he came tumbling down. The pair collided, but I feel like it was Messi’s fault. He was too close to goal, and you do not back up when you are inside your opponent’s goal area and not expect the goalkeeper to have something to say about it. It had to get messy, Messi!! I was kind of shocked that there wasn’t a card or a penalty, or anything at that point. I feel like Messi always gets his way, except this time, and I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

There were numerous other times Domenech Suarez impressed me, but what I loved was his acrobatics when saving the ball, and his confidence in within his post. I cannot say the same for the other Valencia players. It’s like everytime they approached the opponent’s goal, they would get scared. Every freaking time!

I am not a complete Barca hater, Messi did cause a tingle to go down my spine. Only once!! It was around the 29th minute. He kicked an amazing long range kick that was almost like a curveball that missed its mark only so slightly. Ai! Talk about aim!! I was so glad it didn’t go in, but I was impressed, not a lot, just a little.

And then there was that brilliant mid-field run from Iniesta near the end of the first half. That was quite impressive! Didn’t amount to much, luckily, but it was a good try!

I loved Suarez’ run at the beginning of the second half, and how he managed to weave himself through the Valencia midfielders and defense. He shot the ball across goal, and the icing on the cake was that Coutinho was right there to kick the ball into the back post of Valencia’s net. Isn’t that sweet? But, honestly, I am really really happy that Coutinho saw goal yesterday! I hope this is the beginning of the end of Messi’s era. Speaking of which, did you catch the rumors about a certain Chinese team wanting to sign Messi? I know it won’t go through, but a girl has the right to hope (pray, fast and do some voodoo chants as well).

Even though Valencia did not go through to the finals, they really impressed me. They have an awesome goalkeeper, and they created amazing chances. They just had a bit of a confidence problem going for goal. Barcelona was, for me, not a delight to watch as usual, except for a few dazzling moments here and there. I do have to point out that even with all the possession and theatrics, Barca was getting kind of confused near their opponent’s goal post, otherwise, we would have seen many other goals.

Now, we just have to sit back and wait for the Copa Del Rey final between Barcelona and Sevilla FC on 21st of April. I want Sevilla to win, obviously!!

What was Your best moment of the match and who do you think will be the next Copa kings? Be sure to subscribe, and leave a comment below with your opinion!! You can also give me a shout here, here, and here.

PS: I do not know what’s going on in the Barcelona locker room, but, y’all need to shave your stubbles!! It’s not a pretty sight at all, well, except for Suarez. You look rugged and handsome, but the rest of you, don’t. So, please shave!!

WE NEED A KADENGE MOVIE LIKE YESTERDAY!!

Maragoli United. Abaluya United. Two legendary football clubs that were part and parcel of the exciting, politically tumultuous, football scene in a recently-independent Kenya. Honestly, I had never heard of Maragoli United until a few days ago, but back then, it and Abaluya United, among others were the ish! They were among the first official Kenyan football clubs and from these two clubs, a hero, no, a legend, emerged!

It was the 60s’ and football was the most popular sport in the country (definitely still is). Nairobi was the epicenter of the football scene with many of the football teams that were part of the first Kenyan championship based in the city. The football clubs in Nairobi back then were extremely tribal, and in most instances, all the players in a club would be from the same ethnic community (go here if you want more information on how ethnicity played a part in early Kenyan football)

 

Back then, Kenya was just an infant nation trying to find its place in this new big world and trying even desperately harder (and failing miserably) to unshackle itself from the reins of colonialism. Back then, our economy was thriving, with an average GDP of 6.6% p.a., and we had the opportunity to become one of the wealthiest nations in the continent.

One name stood out during this era, a name that has become engraved in our history books. A name that is still heard today when we talk about true Kenyan legends. A name that had Kenyans speaking in one tongue every time he kicked the ball, scored a goal or dribbled past a defender.

This is a man who almost single-handedly catapulted our nation to football dominance in the region from the very first international game he played.We associate this name with the beauty that can be Kenyan football, or Kenyan anything if we could just put our mind to it and love our nation.

Who am I rambling on about you ask? Joe Kadenge, baby!! Yes, he of the ‘kadengenampiraaaaaaaa….kadengenampiraaaaaaa’ fame. The man who was instrumental in the early successes and exploits of AFC Leopards (formerly Abaluya United) back then making it into one of the most successful Kenyan football clubs of all time. In addition, he was our powerhouse when it came to our participation in regional competitions such as the Gossage Cup and the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup, which were the precursors to the CECAFA Cup.

He burst into the limelight when he scored the fastest goal in Kenya Premier League history while at Maragoli United. He has gone on to win numerous other accolades throughout his career and even after retiring from the beautiful game.

Did you know that the 1958 Gossage Cup was unofficially referred to as the ‘Kadenge Tournament’ owing to the massive popularity, skills, drive, and passion of the Kenyan right winger? Well, I thought you should know!! In the final match of the cup, his goal, and later his assist helped us win the 1958 Gossage Cup. Wow!!

This was just the beginning of a lustrous football career for Kadenge, as a player, and as the coach of our national team.

I am even getting goosebumps just writing about this man!! Now, can you imagine watching him play? Watching him move? Seeing his story, his battle, his wins, his tenacity, and the moments that made him, him? If eyewitness accounts and oral narratives are anything to go by, this man was pure magic on and off the field, and I wanna see it, I wanna live it!

He epitomizes everything we should strive to be, on and off the field. Kadenge is passionate, Kadenge is a patriot, he cared for something, and he helped it grow. Where would our football be, if the likes of Kadenge and other football greats did not exist? Where? We probably would not be a footballing nation at all.

We owe it to him, to all football legends of our nation, and to ourselves and to our children, to immortalize the contributions they made to our football. Sure, there is an autobiography here and there, but that is not enough! At least, I feel that that is not enough!

We need a movie, people! A movie based on his perspective of Kenya then, of football, of how tribalism affected the game then and now, the challenges he went through as a person, a player and as a coach, and how he feels the game has grown. Let’s be honest, many of us have never seen him play. But, what an honor, what a privilege it would be to travel back in time and see him score his first goal, or be in the stands as he takes away our breath with his out of this world dribbling skills, or watch him take Abaluya United from glory to glory. As fans, we need to feel connected to this icon and this part of our history, and I am convinced that a movie would do the trick.

He is a walking, breathing encyclopedia of not only our football history, but our national history as a whole, and we need to get his story now, first hand,  for our sake and for the sake of future generations.

Imagine inspiring a new, refreshed, enterprising, footballing generation where more Kadenges’ emerge. What a country that would be! I feel that is what we can get if we make a movie about the life of this footballing legend.

The idea is already out there, as depicted by the concept note developed by Black Arrow FC. I did not even know these guys existed until I stumbled on their page this week, but they are doing a really good job of wanting to tell Kadenge’s story. All these fellows need is partners to support the completion of the film. If you are out there and you feel compelled to help then please visit this page.

That being said, we are now at a conundrum! If a movie does happen, who is going to play Kadenge? Who do you have in mind?

Leave your comments below on who you feel should play Joe Kadenge if a movie was to be made about him. You can also tweet me with your ideal actor for the role on @gina_maha.

Let’s get cracking people, we have a movie to make!!

OF BAD BOYS AND EYEBROW RAISING TRANSFERS

Did you catch the Supercup derby last Sunday? Well, I did (on TV of course) and it was a hoot! It was right after church (where, btw, I am a Sunday School teacher), I had eaten, taken a nap, and I was more than ready for it. Down here, we call it the Mashemeji Derby, and every time these two teams meet, there’s bound to be fireworks for fans and players alike!

Can you believe these two teams have met 97 times, including last week’s match? Amazing!!

I was kind of jealous of the people who had made it to Afraha Stadium to watch the game. It felt like the teams and their fans were part of something familial and I was just an outsider looking in. This is perhaps one of the greatest and longest football feuds in our nation, and it sucks not feeling connected to the history of these two amazing teams!! 😦

Anyway, enough of the melodrama! Let me get right into it. It was a spectacular game with Gor looking stronger from the onset, in my point of view, and it was kind of disappointing that there weren’t as many goals as you would want in such an exciting clash! What did catch my attention, though, was the roughness of the game. This game was so intense and the referee had to make some tough calls throughout the game, including giving one ‘Gattuso’, a yellow card in like the first 15 minutes of the encounter.

I was struck by how aggressive he could be, but hey, he’s a midfielder, it’s bound to happen. What caught me off-guard is what the commentators said once he was shown the yellow. Their comments went along the lines of, ‘oh, this is normal, he’ll probably end up with a red, most probably won’t last the entire game’…(they were speaking in Swahili by the way just in case you were wondering). Shots fired!!

Gattuso is a skilled midfielder, with a stellar football career that has spanned more than five years. Having played for Gor Mahia, Sofapaka, and Tusker FC in the past, he has gained a reputation for being combative (in and out of the field) and an individual who is not squeamish about putting his body on the line in order to get the much-needed results for his team. He gets the job done……when, and if, he decides to show up.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a bad boy as much as the next girl, and his antiques over the years, especially while he was in Gor, were definitely newsworthy. From arriving late for training, missing training sessions, going missing completely from training camps, to numerous fines, and fights, and social media rants, this midfielder has earned a place on the list of  Kenyan football bad-asses!!

Which is why I was sort of surprised to hear about his recent transfer to ‘The Den’, Gor Mahia’s main rival. I mean, doesn’t AFC Leopards have enough problems to deal with at the moment without having to add a temperamental, headstrong bad boy with a penchant for flouting team rules on to its worry list? And, doesn’t the coach know that bad boys equal heartbreaks? Take it from me, I am a girl, I know these things!

The Leopards could possibly be on the brink of financial collapse and the last thing the team needs is indiscipline or even a hint of it amongst its ranks. Otherwise, their entire 2018 campaign is in jeopardy.

But, who knows, Gattuso could be exactly what they need right now in these dark financial times. Drama, passion, action, and heat follow this man wherever he goes and he could be a critical ingredient to one of their most fierce cup challenges yet. This could be the home he has been looking for, and with proper management, Ingwe could be looking at their next midfield talisman. Only time will tell!!

Good luck to both team and player!

MY LOVE FOR SOCCER: WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

What inspired me to start a blog about football? (Slight update: it’s no longer just about football, but also about everything in this crazy head!)

The same thing that inspires me to get out of bed every morning, pure, intense passion!

I love football, I have since I was in primary school. If I can remember correctly, I was a puny girl in Standard Four or Five that was socially awkward and loved to read. You know what else I loved back then? You guessed it, playing football! I was not good at all, but I loved running up and down chasing after that ball every break time, home time, and games time. A big thank you to the dudes in my class that allowed me to play with them.

And then came the moment that would change my love affair with football forever. Before this, it was just a game, but it would soon become more than that. It would become a way of life.

It was around June 2002, I was in Standard Six, and by all accounts, it was shaping up to be a good year for me. Academically, I was doing good, I had managed to make a few friends in school, and my crush list was a mile long! World Cup fever was at its peak all over the world, and in our home. I remember my brother and I having stuck newspaper pullouts of Ronaldo,Rivaldo, Ballack, Beckham, Roberto Carlos, and Khan on our closet doors. On second thought, I think it was just me doing that! This was the first time I had ever even heard these names in my life, and seen so many football games in such a short span of time. I was soooooooooo excited! The World Cup, Brazil, to be specific, was all we could talk about in school, and all we could talk about at home. It was a spectacular time!

I cannot remember which game it was. I cannot even remember which day it was. I don’t remember if I had eaten, or done my homework. In fact, I don’t even remember if it was day or night! All I remember is catching a glimpse of him on the screen every few minutes. If he wasn’t ‘chengaing’ defenders with his amazing dribbling skills, he was threatening goal. I swear even the cameras could not catch up with him in that match.

And his hair! Gosh, I think he’s the reason I am obsessed with men with long hair to this day. You would just see a kasmall ponytail move from left to right every time he got the ball. I did not know it then, but I was laying my eyes for the first time on one of the greatest loves of my life for decades to come! It was not about his physique, (okay, maybe except his hair!), it was more about his skills on the pitch that absolutely blew my mind!

But, as far as I can remember, no one talked about him as much as I wanted. Everyone else was head over heels with the likes of Ronaldo. It didn’t matter, this special young man had caught my attention, and he would hold it hostage forever!

His free kick against England sealed the deal for me. I faintly recall I was sitting in my mum’s favorite chair when the highlight of that came on. I was witness to magic and my young, pre-adolescent brain was stunned.

Seeing him play that game that way ignited a flame of sorts within. I was hooked on football after that. It’s like he introduced me to a new world that I could engage with nearly every weekend. A world I felt comfortable in where I wasn’t shy, or scared, or ashamed about my excessively huge forehead, or the fact that I did not have a single ounce of confidence in myself. The more I engaged with this new world, the more I connected with people around me, because now I had something in common with them.

I have followed Ronaldinho’s career since that game up until he announced his retirement this year. I was so enamored by this guy that for the longest time I used his name, Moreira, as my surname on Facebook. This connection is deep, yoh, it’s deep. When he retired last month, I cried, and told everyone about him leaving the game, even my mum. Speaking of my mum, according to her, he was my first boyfriend because I could not shut up about him!! And she kept making fun of his teeth to infuriate me. And I would shout back that it wasn’t about how he looked, but about HOW HE PLAYED!!! You should hear how she pronounces his name…it’s heartbreaking!

Anyway, he was my first MVP, and I want to dedicate my future posts on this blog to individuals like him who make this and other sports so amazing, so magical, so life changing!

PS: A big shout-out to Radio Jambo for always having my back when the local TV channels were unable to air football matches, and we didn’t have DSTV and I was too young to go watch in a bar! You guys are also MVPs.