MAL 25/18 MAL25/18 - Page 97

The Premier League has cut a niche for itself as the football Mecca where budding talent go to cut their teeth. The premier league is so international that it is at times difficult to find local players in the lineup and this has caused political nervousness. The same scene is repeated in the La liga, Seria A and the Bundesliga and it has also sparked a political storm in those countries which has put governments in an embarrassing position as they grapple with the real problem of trying to put together winning teams and still keep a national identity. The whole immigration debate, which was infamously triggered by Trump and was a campaign issue in most European countries, has put football teams at a quandary as they want to build winning teams when public awareness on immigration issues is at a peak. There is a lingering resentment that although European fans are crazy about football there are those countries that are irritated by the fact that their best players are foreign and hence find it hard to hold and propagate their jingoist bias. It is disconcerting when one privately has racist views and has to cheer along a star in your team who is of a different race. Many people find it hard to reconcile what they are seeing and deep seated prejudices that are held irrespective of how they were acquired. It is even more frustrating when your team is losing and the person inflicting the punishment is of a race you consider inferior. We have seen ugly scenes in football matches where the fans racially taunt players when they score. Then of course we had the World Cup, that four year extravaganza that keeps the whole world riveted and new heroes are made and current ones disappoint. There is no sporting event that can match the world cup for sheer drama and suspense. There are those that lost their life savings on bets on the outcome of the tournament and Ochieng is confident that among them were many Kenyans as we have become a nation of gamblers for we seem more interested in leaving our lives to chance than making them. But to be fair to those Kenyan gamblers if your local football is in total shambles it does make some sort of sense to transfer ones allegiance to something that seems to work. So they can name the whole squad plus reserves in a foreign team but have no clue who plays for their own national team, Harambee Stars. But what made this world cup extra- special was not the fortunes that were lost by those who did not even know a country called Croatia even existed let alone that they nearly won the world cup and there are many that think that they should have won. One had to admire and be awed by the 110% support the Croatian team got from their president, a gracious lady that not only mingled freely with her players, even donning the team colors but was magnanimous in defeat and left Russia as the world’s favorite President. What made it special was that France won the world cup, that was not strange, what was strange was the lineup of the team that made one think that climate change is a reality even after Trump denials. The team line up was definitely not Caucasian and that sparked a commotion. Africans in their usual exuberant nature and trying to be part of a tournament where they traditionally fare poorly, were quick to point out that Africa had won the world cup much to the chagrin and irritation of the French nationals. The former US President Barack Obama even used the French victory as a great example of what embracing diversity can do for a country but as expected this did not go down well in many quarters especially in his native country where Trump is attempting to make America white. Trevor Noah made a tongue in cheek joke of the French team and got lambasted by