Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Here we go!

If you do not like football, shame on you. If you think that the only sport to follow is cricket, more shame on you. If you are not following the last phase of the race for the Barclays Premier League, even greater shame on you.

I was a football fanatic--player, spectator, coach, referee. I used to spend much of every Saturday either playing, watching, coaching or referring--not all at the same time and in the same place, mind you. Even after I discovered family life I was able to keep up with this diet. When I went to the US, I watched less, but played, coached and refereed more. Then I played less, coached and refereed more. Then I coached more and refereed less. Then I stopped it all.

By that time I had arrived in Africa, where football is really like a religion and youngsters play like they did when I was a boy in London--anywhere, with anything; a few people or a full team. It was passionate and fluid. The imagination and oddities of the situation developed skills that cannot be taught: how to bounce the ball off an object and get the rebound; learning to bounce off concrete (never easy); learning not to fall on concrete (it could be the last fall of all). I had played in Africa for a short while, in the rarified air of Malawi. I was in my late 20s and people there could not understand why I had not retired; all their best players stopped around the age of 26. I had been told that a player peaks at around 28, and there I was, so I was still playing.

I never thought of myself as a veteran then, that privilege came later. I remember going through tough years, not much later, when I did retire (unhappy with a lot of things). So, I spent a year of misery not having anything to do with football. Then an old friend, in his 60s, who had played for Millwall as a full professional asked me to come and play veterans football. "You can be our ringer, as you're not yet 30." I loved it. I was much quicker and fitter and all of a sudden I was a star, and much abused for that. I scored lots of goals, made lots of goals, saved lots of goals by running more and doing more than anyone else on the team. My mentor, seeing me smiling after yet another Sunday morning game, told me to never stop playing if my legs had movement. His secret to a long playing life was simple: no sex (not even with your wife), and a round of golf before every game. No comment. I tried to stay with football a long time and stopped playing in my mid-40s; ironically I went back into training to come to Barbados to play in the Wanderers Masters Tournament and that was a real shocker to my system but a great thrill. But after that, I gracefully hung up my boots. Now, I just try to encourage my youngest daughter to kick and head; her sister who is in England has just spent a season discovering varsity level football and the thrill of the team sport at a higher level

All that aside, I now sit ready to see the top two teams in Britain (yes, Scotland's Celtic and Rangers are not in the same league--literally), Chelsea and Manchester United,play to a possible "double" of awesome proportions. They are 1 and 2 in the Barclays Premier League, and they are both in the finals of the UEFA Champions League, to be played later this month in Moscow. I was never a real Chelsea fan, but always loved their style in the 1960s through 1980s, with heroes such as Charlie Cooke, Peter Osgood, Ron Harris, Peter Bonetti, Alan Hudson, Ray Wilkins, etc. Many of my best school friends were fans of the Blues and we hung out a lot in the Chelsea area. I also loved Man. U--especially in the era of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, and George Best. Now I love them again, with Christiano Ronaldo showing me things on a field that you only do to showboat.

So, here we are. Chelsea beat Man. U last week to draw level on points, but Man. U have better goal difference. Two games to go, both tough. I will be nail biting and go to the finish. My money is on Chelsea, and they will win by a point. We will see in a few days time if my prediciton is right. I think that Man. U will get their revenge in Moscow. Honours will be even? One game at a time and later this morning I hope to see West Ham put the nail in the coffin for Man. U, as they have done before. Come on you Hammers! Chelsea play on Monday, a holiday in England. So exciting!

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