Football may not have been invented in Africa, but if truth be told, this is where the game is worshipped. In sub-Saharan Africa teachers have difficulties convincing their pupils to wear uniform to school and not a Wayne Rooney or Jack Wilshere jersey. It is not uncommon to find beer halls named The Emirates or Old Trafford where fans gather to lavish praise at their stars while poking fun at their rivals.
There, in Africa millions of miles away from England where the leather is pushed, the poor and the rich share one thing – their love for the Premiership. Whether one watches from the comfort of one’s home on a plasma screen with a chilling glass of the cold one, or in a crowded tavern thick with body odour and weed smoke, Africa is where the game is cherished and players glorified as tin-gods.
In England, if a fan loses a football bet, he goes to the nearest shop, buys tomato butter and plaster oneself with it. How silly! In Africa people die and lose their property including wives because of their love for football. Just this season, a Gunner lost his house after betting that the North Londoners would beat Manchester United during the first half of the season.
Ugandan Henry Dhabasani, a man of three wives and five children, made a bet with friend, Rashid Yiga, that Arsenal would beat the Premier League champions and put his family home while his colleague wagered a Toyota Premio Car plus his wife. Everything was in writing and witnessed by community leaders in the Ugandan suburb.
In some instances, supporting the Premier League in Africa has come with extreme consequences. After Arsenal’s victory over Liverpool this season, a policeman in Durban, South Africa, shot his friend in the chest after being taunted over the Reds’ 2-0 defeat.
In December, a Manchester United fan in Kenya committed suicide following his side’s 1-0 defeat to Newcastle. John Macharia reportedly plunged himself to his death from seven floors in Kenya’s capital Nairobi after the club’s home defeat that relegated the reigning champions to 13 points off the then leaders Arsenal.
Now, that is what football and the Premier League means to Africa. It is a matter of life and death and reason Arsene Wenger and his boss Gazidis, whatever they are doing down there at the Emirates, must know they are toying with human life. After eight years with no trophy, excitement at the prospects of the club breaking that jinx this season following the performance so far, is pitch-fever.
Arsenal fans have been shamed, ridiculed, mocked, humiliated and called all kinds of names. They are a walking testimony of a failed decade. Wenger and his directors are the architects of such heart-ache. That is why Wenger must do some soul-searching as the January window closes. As the Deadline Day draws closer in a matter of hours, he must think of the many heart-attacks he and Gazidis will inflict on innocent fans worldwide.
The season has gone well so far despite the slip on Tuesday that has seen the boys now in second position on the log, two points behind oil-rich Manchester City. Expectation among Arsenal fans is huge that this is their year. Letting the trusty fans down by miscalculating transfer moves, will be a health risk. That is why it was perplexing on Thursday for Mr Wenger to continue with his mind games regarding potential transfers to North London.
Every team is reinforcing. Chelsea have, Manchester United have and the City killers are on the verge of another signing. Arsenal have too many injuries and a hectic period coming and the squad is thin.
Are we active? Yes. Are we close to sign anybody? No. There’s not long now that’s true. First, the situation was going like always in a transfer market – week by week. In the last two weeks it goes day by day, now it goes hour by hour.
I hope Mr Wenger knows that a trophy this season would do his health some good as well. We are tired of seeing a pathetic figure of the Professor feverishly clutching, fumbling with his zipper trying to push through to the European Championship. Hopefully, he is aware and like was the case during the summer transfer window, he will do a miracle.
Strengthening Arsenal with Juventus’ Mirko Vucinic from Serie A would be momentus and so would be the arrival of 20 year-old German star Julian Draxler and Barcelona winger Christian Tello. The way City are demolishing their opponents left and right; Arsenal’s armoury surely need reinforcement if the pressure is to be sustained.
If the Vucinic deal fails, find alternative. It would be a joke to believe the boys can win it for you with Olivier Giroud. Look at the arsenal City have and yet they are still reinforcing!
But maybe Arsenal fans can take solace in the gaffer’s final remark:
In any hour anything can happen or change but at the moment, unfortunately, we are not signing anybody.
Last summer, Wenger did the unexpected when he swooped for world-class Mesut Ozil from real Madrid at deadline day. Could the professor be keeping something down his sleeve? He had better! This is not just about football and money, it is about life too!