‘‘My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the President of the United States of America, you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pele is.”

USA

The Herald

Sharuko on Saturday

WE didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat or any of this stuff which has become part of today’s world but, believe me, we were just fine like that.

The Nokia 3310 was our phone of choice, it was the number one selling mobile phone in the world, and we could play the game ‘‘Snakes’’ on it as part of our digital pleasure.

There was no iPhone, or the Android-powered smartphones that have become a part of today’s lives, there was no iPad and we couldn’t even surf the web on Google Chrome, let alone rent a place to stay with Airbnb.

It meant we didn’t spend time, as we did this week, discussing the morality, or lack of it, of Kuda Mahachi and his pregnant wife posting topless images of themselves, showing us a bit of their underwear, and displaying their deep affection for each other.

Actually, scientists say, without all these digital gadgets and distractions, we had about five more hours, to spend with our families, than we have now. Back then, we believed in real friends, not the mutual friends we now have on Facebook and Twitter, and we always told ourselves that walking with a friend, in the dark, was better than walking alone in the light.

We didn’t know anyone called Lionel Messi and, believe me, we were just fine like that.

He was just 13 and, on September 17 that year, in the company of his father, Jorge, and his agent Fabian Soldini, he arrived at El Prat airport in Barcelona after a trans-Atlantic flight from Argentina.

Three months later, Messi’s first contract was written on a napkin because Carlos Rexach, the Barca first team director at the time, didn’t want to waste any more time to secure the teenage wizard. There were some reservations in the Barca camp, with some of the club’s leaders arguing the £40 000 they agreed to pay his father, per month, and the $1 000 monthly payments, for the hormone treatment Messi had to take to grow, were too much.

There was no guarantee, according to those dissenting voices, Messi would become successful at the club despite the early promise he was showing.

However, Rexach pushed for the deal and it was signed on that napkin.

‘‘The following day, Messi trained with the Barcelona youth team, Cesc Fàbregas and Gerard Piqué among them,’’ Sid Lowe recalled in his report for The Guardian newspaper.

‘‘Messi did not reach five feet (1.52m) and he changed in silence. In the dressing room, they looked at him and could not believe how small he was, on the pitch, they looked at him and couldn’t believe how good he was.’’

We didn’t know anyone called Cristiano Ronaldo but, believe me, we were just fine like that.

But, we know now, it was the year he was diagnosed, with a heart condition, and underwent a delicate heart surgery, where this was corrected.

The year was 2000 and, thinking about it now, it really looks like an age away.

The new millennium!

The so-called Y2K bug, which they claimed would cripple the computer system, leading to a crash which would see passenger planes dropping out of the sky, didn’t hit that year.

Of course, Concorde crashed, when Air France Flight 4590 went down at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, on July 25, 2000, but that wasn’t because of the Y2K bug.

Instead, the chartered supersonic flight ran over debris on the runway, during takeoff, triggering a sequence of tragic events which eventually brought the plane down.

It remains the only fatal Concorde accident during the 27-year operational history of the plane.

Author Richard W. Noone had predicted in his book, ‘5/5/2000: Ice, The Ultimate Disaster,’ the world would end on March 5, 2000.

He claimed Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn would align with Earth, for the first time in six thousand years, and this was going to trigger a series of natural disasters, kicked off by the disruption of Earth’s polar caps, leading to the end of the world.

Of course, it didn’t happen and no one believed Noone again.

However, for 13 Warriors fans, it was the year their world ended when their lives were cruelly cut short, in the deadly mayhem which engulfed the National Sports Stadium on that unforgettable July 9, 2000, afternoon, in the worst sporting disaster to hit this country.

In that grim background, this blog came to life, its first appearance coming on these pages on July 22, 2000.

On Wednesday, we will mark 20 years of walking together, for those who had been born by then, while the others who joined, along the way, and became later-day disciples, have also become family.

It has been quite an adventure, they have been some good times, they have been some bad times, they have been some sad times, we have lost friends, and found new ones and we have lost some dear relatives.

Somehow, 20 years later, with God’s grace, we are still together and we have become one big family — the blogger and his constituency of readers, some based at home, a number based across the Diaspora.

WE GET TO 20, WITH A GHOST GAME, WHICH JUST DOESN’T LOOK OR FEEL THE SAME

At the beginning, this was just a blog for the domestic football scene but, with the passage of time, we have welcomed other regular readers from foreign lands, including my dear brother Robert Marawa, the doyen of sports broadcasting on the continent, who has become family.

And, as we mark 20 years of this ‘’SOS’’ blog, the longest-running sports column in the country, there is no reason to pop the champagne, especially given the occasion arrives at a time our world is being badly battered by the coronavirus outbreak, and the very future of our beloved game looks bleak.

We get to 20, on Wednesday, with a ghost game, whose soul has been ripped from its body, a phantom game now barely recognisable from the pretty sport which Pele called the most beautiful game in the world.

A game seemingly staggering in the darkness, traumatised by the devastation which Covid-19 has inflicted on its soul, pretending that it’s our same old sport when, the reality is clear, that this is something else.

A strange form of football which is, at best, an insult to the beautiful history, and legacy, of the game and, at worst, a caricature of our sport, the one whose World Cup charms the entire globe, like no other game has done before, and will do in the future.

Without its beautiful sights, and booming sounds from the terraces, this has looked everything but football, without its supporters, this has looked everything but football, without the celebrations, this has looked everything but soccer.

Of course, we understand why the fans are not there, that it’s important for them not to be there, but this just doesn’t look, or feel, like football.

A game whose power was highlighted in that meeting between the then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, and Brazilian legend Pele.

‘‘My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the President of the United States of America,’’ the then most powerful man in the world said as he extended his hand to greet Pele.

‘‘But, you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pele is.’’ A game whose sheer power temporarily brought the Nigerian civil war to a halt, a 48-hour ceasefire, as the warring parties both wanted to catch a glimpse of Pele when he visited the West African country in 1969.

‘‘Such was the influence of the man that a 48-hour ceasefire was agreed upon so that match could be carried out peacefully and people could come and watch,’’ a report noted.

‘‘They wanted to see the King, they wanted to see Pele. And they did. It’s something unfathomable. A man, a footballer, actually caused a ceasefire. That was his greatness.’’

A game whose magical power temporarily dissolved the hostility which existed between the British and German troops on Christmas Day in 1914 and forced the two warring factions to momentarily leave their trenches, put down their arms and play a football game.

‘‘It’s probably the only time in the history that you had two opposing armies laying down their weapons and, for just a fleeting moment, turn into friends as they played a football match,’’ a historian noted.

The other soldiers provided the support for both sides. The next day, the warring factions were back on their mission, fighting each other.

On December 18, 2014, despite Britain and German fighting again in World War II, a conflict that cost millions of lives through the globe, soldiers from the two countries joined forces to recreate the Christmas Truce friendly football match.

It was meant to mark 100 years of that special occasion in human history.

The match was played at Aldershot Town’s home ground in Hampshire Bobby Charlton, who survived the Munich plane crash in 1958 to win the World Cup for England in 1966, was one of the special guests invited to watch the game in Hampshire.

And, just like in the two World Wars, the British Army won that match 1-0.

FOR TWENTY YEARS, USING THIS BLOG, IT’S BEEN MY PLEASURE TO TELL THIS GAME’S STORIES

Of course, it doesn’t feel the same, right now, without the fans, but it’s our game and we have to keep hoping tomorrow might be better.

Because, after all, it remains our game, it’s everything that we have, and everything we have ever wanted.

The game that gave us both the Hand of the Devil and the Feet of God, within just minutes of each act, on the grand stage of the World Cup in Mexico in 1986. Diego Maradona’s trick to use his hand, to beat England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, a reminder the Devil still exists, always trying to con the world, to provide that shade of darkness, that shadow of hell.

Then, just moments later, Maradona’s sensational charge from his own half, using his amazing athletic skills to skip past five English defenders and finish with aplomb, to score the greatest goal in World Cup history, a reminder the Lord will always cast some light on darkness.

“I want to cry, hold God, viva football, I want to cry, please forgive me, Maradona on an unforgettable run, with the best move of all time,’’ thundered Argentine commentator, Victor Hugo Morales.

‘‘What planet did you come from? To leave the British on their way? To make a whole nation cry, thank you God, thank you for football, thank you for Maradona, thank you for these tears.”

Only football, bloody football, can do this.

And, for 20 years, it has been my privilege to use the power of this game ,to tell its great stories, its tragedies, its success tales our failures, through this blog.

I’m a football fan, no doubt about that, a Falcon Gold supporter by birth, a Warriors supporter by nationality and a Manchester United supporter by choice.

We haven’t won anything at Falcon Gold, we are stuck in Division Two and, there are few prospects we will get out of that league soon but, the more we fail, the stronger my connection with my hometown club gets.

It is what it is, every time they play, no matter where I am around the world, I make sure I check their result, the odd win here making me feel so happy, a defeat there spoiling my day.

That’s the power of football and it has been the privilege of my life that, with the blessing of God, I came from Chakari, a place singer Adele probably had in mind when she sang, ‘’did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened,’’ in her hit song ‘’Hello,’’ to become this storyteller.

And, that, for 20 years, I have been telling the stories through this blog.

Twenty — the maximum number field of horses in the Kentucky Derby, the legal number of legal moves for each player, in the starting position, in chess, the three periods of ice hockey games, the number of sectors that make up a standard dartboard, the overs each team can have in the most popular version of cricket today.

You can only go this far with God’s help and, if you doubt, take some time to read the Bible, especially the number of years Samson was Judge over Israel, and you will get your answer.

Twenty years ago, we didn’t have anything — Messi, Ronaldo, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat or any of this stuff, which has become part of today’s world but, believe me, we were just fine like that.

We had God and, I tell you, it’s all that mattered then, and that matters now.

Here’s to another 20, of the ‘‘SOS’’ blog, Inshalla, which means, God willing.

To God Be The Glory!

Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.

Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno!

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You can also interact with me on Twitter — @Chakariboy, Facebook, Instagram — sharukor and every Wednesday night, at 9.45pm, when I join the legendary Charles “CNN’’ Mabika and producer Craig “Master Craig’’ Katsande on the ZBC television magazine programme, “Game Plan”

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