Life lessons from men in shorts.

On behalf of women across the continent, I would just like to offer up a quick thank you to the lovely geniuses at Puma HQ, they who have kindly blessed us with the tight shirts and ass hugging shorts that are currently gracing those most divine bodies of AFCON 2013.  We thank you.  We do not, however, thank the barbers responsible for all manner of mohawks, fauxhawks and every other kind of hawk on display.  You buggers we may be forced to slap one day, for your cruel and unusual treatment of a black man’s hair.  I mean really, peroxide stripes on top of the dodgy cut?  At no point did you think to yourself, “Hmmm... I may have gone too far, perhaps?”  Ah well, I guess it’s a trade off between the head and the ass.  Feel free to misconstrue that statement as you feel so led.

The beautiful game...  There’s nothing like it is there?  From the frustration of waiting for a team to score, any team sometimes (oh Zambia, did you not get the memo about how to win a game?  You gotta score my friends...); to the relief when they finally do score, even if through a dodgy penalty (dear Tunisia, nkt!); to the delight of a finely crafted goal, one that leaves you shaking your head in disbelief, watching the replay to check for juju (did you see that goal by Emmanuel whatshisname for Nigeria on Sunday?  No really, did you actually see it?  Because all I saw was the ball on the ground, and then a shaking net.  What the hell?); to the nerve wracking penalties, those ones that have you clenching your bum in anxiety (the Mali goalie is a Jedi Knight, just so you know, that bugger was so calm I was sure he was high); to the half blind referees, one of whom I suspect couldn’t tell one big black man from another (here’s a hint, they have big numbers on their backs).  Football may not always be beautiful, but dammit if it isn’t always entertaining, sometimes for all the wrong reasons, and with that in mind...

Ladies and gentlemen, today I wish to share with you the invaluable lessons I’ve learnt through my lifelong obsession with this game.  Don’t worry, this cannot possibly be very serious, given that I am not an especially sane individual.

You had to know I was going to start with this, have you not seen those torsos?  I have never been so glad to see a shirt so tightly stretched, not since Captain America immediately post-supersizing has a kiddie sized shirt looked so good on a grown man.  Again, thank you Puma, thank you.  The point to my drooling is this, it’s not enough to be good enough, sometimes you have to be seen to be good enough.  Go ahead and show off, and what better way to show off than in a tight shirt?  And just so you know, this advice works for both men and women (terms and conditions apply).  Seriously though, if you have it, whatever it is, then go ahead and flaunt it, because how will the rest of us know you have it, if you don’t show it to us?

I’m sorry, but those shirts, more important the chests and biceps beneath, are the shit!  Walalalalala...  The thing about a tight shirt, however, and anyone with more than an inch of flab on their bodies knows this one truth intimately, a tight shirt will show the flaws, all of them, so don’t put it on unless you’re willing to cash the cheque that shirt is writing.  Put differently, don’t go pretending to be the shit, if you are not the shit, even if you look like the shit.  If you think that your hot body is all you need to win, then you have another thing coming my pretty little friend, just ask Didier.

Thanks to our dodgy education system, we were brought up to win at all costs, but life, and love, is not always a knockout tournament.  Sometimes, it’s okay not to win, especially if winning will cost you more than you have to give.  Sometimes, all you need to do is simply not lose.  Don’t lose your mind, or your heart, or your money.  Sometimes playing for the draw is a good idea, especially if there are more games to be played further down the road.  Look at the football purists frowning at the screen...  Boss, even Barca draws a game every once in a while, and those buggers are alien midgets with super powers.  Hell, my team of langas once managed to remain (almost) atop the league with more draws than are normally considered acceptable.  No I won’t name the team, and no, you can’t guess, because you don’t know what league I’m referring to, do you?

I have spent many a long night sobbing into my cups, as my team of langas (yet another one) proved yet again why they are not Champions League champions.  The first time they were taken to school by the midgets, way back in the 90’s, I cried.  By the end of the last decade, I had stopped crying and had taken to wining.  That’s not a typo, I took to wine.  These days when the Catalans come to visit, I get drunk well before the game starts.  The point is this, wine makes the pain go away.  The more useful point is, failure is not the end of your life, simply a new beginning.   Granted, it’s a painful beginning, but all the best ones are, no?  Just ask your mother.

Ignore all that rubbish about a good offence, if you want to protect your goal you need to get yourself some good defenders, ideally tall and clear of mind.  Think back to all the great teams of the past, and here I must use examples from my (limited and dodgy) memory, from the brilliant Milan of Desailly, through to the Arsenal of Tony Adams, defenders have been and continue to be the spine on which the best teams are formed.  I know, I just used Arsenal and best in the same sentence, but in my defence, a decade ago they were the shit.  A decade ago.  Moving swiftly along.  The same rules apply to our lives, we have to build a spine that cannot be (easily) broken, a spine that keeps us strong and on course, no?  Let me put it this way, it doesn’t matter what success you have out there, if in here, pointing at chest (yours not mine, deviant bastard...), you’re fucked up.  Protect your goal(s) even as you attack others.  I’m not entirely sure that metaphor made sense, but what the hell?  This is wisdom gained from a bunch of strange men in knee high socks.

The best strikers are the strikers who know how to mix it up, the geniuses who can score in any situation, from anywhere in the park.  Now not too many of us have what it takes to be the best, but all of us have what it takes to learn the tricks.  Be flexible, move around, try new positions, take a shot from every conceivable angle, even with your weaker foot, or your head, or maybe your arm (Ah Diego...).  The aim of the game is to score, by any means necessary.  Too many of us worry about getting into the right position, setting the play up just so, making sure that everything is just the way we like it.  Shock on us when we find out that while we were preparing ourselves, some other bugger sneaked in and took the shot, and scored.  Take the shot, any shot, what’s the worst that can happen?  Yes, you may miss, but you may also find out that you have leftie tendencies, like Ryan Giggs, a man who is an apt example of taking any shot (I’m just saying...).  As Doc is fond of saying, YOLO! 

And here you thought I was going to spend all my time talking about the tight shirts...  Oh ye of little faith.

Enjoy the football my lovelies, and if you’re supporting the Burkinabe please send me an email, I’m forming their first ever Kenyan fan club, complete with t-shirts (tight, of course) and everything, but only if they win.