by Mungai Paul
Sometimes, I joke to my friends that the girl I will love as much as i love football, will be the luckiest. See, to me football is everything. Football is life. Football is fun. When am watching any game, my whole body is numb. Football is a part of me. A part that has grown to have its own neurological system. I think football is God’s gift to mankind. Football is Love. My earliest footballing experience can be traced back to when i was around 6. Even at a young age, I was already risking everything for football. I used to run away from home just to play “one-touch” with the other kids. My bad, let me explain. One-touch is a football game that you basically have to hit the ball only once while making sure you pass it to your teammates. A team would usually have like 2 or 3 team members. It was fun to say the least. I would usually risk everything and that meant getting a beating when I went back home. It was usually worth it. “Chobo Ua” was another football game I loved. It had an adrenaline rush. Why? The rule was simple. Don’t get nutmegged, and if you get nutmegged you had to touch an already chosen spot to escape a hardcore beating. It was a great way of getting back at all the Estate bullies. In school, I wasn’t one of the best players, and it meant that I wont be selected by other boys in their “teams” when they play during breaktime. I would just be a “fan” most of the time as they played. That wasn’t working for me and I had to find a way to be selected by others. So I came up with a play, and No, I did not build a robot to play with me. I realised that every team needs a goalkeeper and most people shy away from taking up this position because you had to dive and in the process even get dirty or even hurt yourself. So I started by being goalkeeper and that is how I joined the elite and even went on to play for the school team as a bench player.Being part of this elite team opened a new chapter for me. Football fanism . The other boys had their own favorite teams and to fit in, I developed an interest in these teams. Around 2006 I began my Chelsea journey. Everybody else had already identified themselves with other teams; Arsenal, Manchester United and to be unique, I choose The mighty, London Finest, Chelsea Football club. During the weekends, I would make sure to watch my local team; Thika United, play. Nothing could beat the ecstasy of seeing a goal being scored. Seeing fans jumping up and down with joy. From there, my football fanatical seed was planted. I remember watching the 2006 world cup and being amazed at how good Ronaldinho was, even though by this time he had already gone through his prime. He caressed the ball with such a magical touch. Italy was later to win it. The 2006 world cup was significant, it brought with it my childhood obsession, Gianluigi Buffon. See, by this time I was establishing myself as a goalkeeper, buffon became my hero. I identified myself with him. I branded everything I owned with his name. Joining highschool, my interest in playing football subsided. By now, I had realised that I sucked at goalkeeping (But am sure I was way better than Loris Karius, the liverpool great). I had to cut short my long, legendary career as a goalkeeper to focus on other serious matters like girls. But I continued to build interest in Chelsea. Reading every piece of information about them. Watching every video about them. Every single piece of information I could lay my hands on. In school we would sneak in portable radios just to listen to football matches (I hope my teachers don’t see that) during the holidays, my big cousin, who is a liverpool fan, would take me to watch the big games happening around the time. Like a maize seed in a farm, he nurtured my interest and I got to witness Chelsea lifting the champions league cup in 2012, I was already a die hard fan. A fanatical. A living blue blood. I remember Drogba’s header like how I remember what I ate for breakfast. I remember kneeling down as he took a step back to take the defining penalty and how I felt a rush of both joy and confusion run through my vains. I remember watching the 2010 worldcup and cheering on Ghana. I remember van persie’s header. I remember Hazard solo run and eventual goal against Arsenal. Magical. But Nothing beats the joy that came with buying my first Chelsea Jersey. A moment of happiness for a boy who fell in love with chelsea. Or in 2018, buying a screen so that I would be able to watch all the world cup games from home. Chelsea has made me build memories. Memories with friends. Memories for the future. Greater than me. And over time, I have come to appreciate football. It is more of a sport. It is greater than us. It’s a culture. Something that grows in you.