April 22, 2015 By @frishee
Match day 3 was a bitter-sweet day. It was a day that gave me a real glimpse into the reality of the beautiful game in the country, and maybe in the world as a whole.
After a tough week marred by low attendances in training (due to work commitments and the horrible weather), the big game was finally here. It has been a while since we were at a final – a long, long while. Maybe like two years thereabout. The beauty of the day is that I was at the finals with the lads and lasses.
First up was the third place play-off. The team we eliminated to get to the finals was playing against a bunch of guys that seemed like they were high on the strongest herb. The team we eliminated seemed like they were up for it but their opponents seemed lethargic, tired and yeah, probably high on something. Needless to say, the team we eliminated won the match comfortably. Good for them. What was not so good for them was that at the end of the day, they were fighting for the Sh. 16, 000 they had won. Full blood and mud war. Torn shirts, bloody noses, circumorbital hematomas, and insults that even the devil himself wouldn’t utter. That is probably another team dead.
Then came our big game. Injuries from the last match meant we were missing one of our key players and playing a rather unfit striker. The poor attendance over the week for training also meant that the boys were not exactly fit. Anyway, what to do but play. The first half was rather dull, cagey from both teams. The second half however opened up and we saw both teams attacking but the game ended 0-0. Penalties. Again. Hell.
As I said, I don’t watch penalties when my team is playing. The other team won the coin toss and according to history and the number’s game, they had essentially won the penalty shoot-out. They were taking the first penalty and the taker put it in the back of the net. We missed our first. They scored their second. We missed our second. The goalkeeper stopped their third. We scored ours. They Beckhamed their fourth, we scored ours. The goalkeeper stopped their final kick of the five. This meant that our fifth had to go in for us to win the tie. Nervous moment. I think I vomited a little. The nerves were killing me. Our final kicker made the long lonely walk to the spot and placed the ball on the spot. He made his hideous zig-zag run and got his penalty in the back of the net. Won it. 3-2 on penalties. The celebrations were wild from our massive 50+ number of fans. What a relief? I was beyond myself with joy.
Then came the ladies’ final. This is where the bitter comes in. The person in-charge of organizing the matches said he was not aware that there was a ladies’ game to be played. He went on to say that he didn’t see the reason as to why the girls should play and that the two teams should divide the prize money equally between them. The teams, needless say refused. It was then decided that the game should proceed…but guess what? For only 15 minutes per half. The girls were incensed. That whole trip to play just 30 minutes of football, after waiting for hours. Sexism in the game is all the way from Sepp Blatter to the small time administrators of the game and it is painful. Anyway, 30 minutes is better than nothing, right? The first15 minutes were a delight and my team was one up thanks to a penalty. At half time we agreed that there was no need for substitutions as that time was too little. However, I got a chance to play due to an injury on one of the players courtesy of a studs up tackle from an opponent. Just for 8 minutes though. Just two minutes before the game was over, they equalized and it meant penalties. Damn it! I’m on the pitch and a team has to take penalties. I thought my heart would sink to my stomach and get digested. The opponents again scored their first and we missed ours. At the end of the five, it was 4-4. Sudden death then. The players started arguing among themselves about who is taking the next. Up to the eighth penalty. The opponent’s taker lined it up and struck it. The goalie dived the right way and got it. Then it was her turn to take it. She buried it. Game over. Thank God. The team won.
The sad part was that the ladies were competing for a significantly lower sum of money than the lads despite displaying a high level of professionalism in the game, talent and all the discipline, even more than some of the men’s teams. I guess at the end of the day that is expected from a game run by men.
The beautiful game is destroyed by corruption and discrimination of all forms. There are hardly any teams that have players from just their home area in that tournament. Our opponents for example hire players from teams playing at higher levels in the country for the difficult games. This means that their players never get to develop which is really sad.
The beautiful game is spotted by the ugliest of vices but its beauty is still seen. Hopefully, someday, the game will be pure but I know this hope is harbored by the football romantic in me.