“Every sports fan has a moment that binds them to their chosen game.” (Jon Hotten)
Around my 12th birthday, my soccer-loving uncle, Gray Ncube had promised me a football book for a gift. Half-expecting a glossy magazine with Robbie Fowler and Alan Shearer posters for my wall, I was rather bleak to only get a thick old, dusty, smelly, black & white book. My disappointment must have been published on my face for the old man to see and maybe regret his act of kindness.
So, as any 12 year old that is unhappy with their birthday present would do, I sulked for a while, ignoring ‘the book’. One random day, I opened it one day to find the title: ‘The History of Football’.
I have forgotten who the authors were, but as I read a few pages, a small voice in my head kept saying “Not bad”. I read a few more pages and that voice grew louder … “Interesting”. Pages turned into sections and section turned into chapters. ‘The book’ was a 300-page volume highlighting the origins of football/soccer as we know it today, the growth of the game and with details of World Cups from 1930 all the way to 1974.
Soon I was addicted to ‘the book’. And for the next 6 years, I would read ‘the book’ like one would read a bible – devotion-ally. I would read it while other kids went out to play. When it rained, I would coil myself in my bed, under a blanket with a torch and read ‘the book’. At times I would read it while eating, and sometimes even in the toilet (ew!!). Sometimes, I fell sleep while reading, only to wake up in the morning to continue digging through ‘the book’.
By the time I was 18, I knew that book inside out – who played in what final, who scored, how and when they scored. An unfortunate incident resulted in the loss of ‘the book’ (and a few other personal treasures) but by then, that knowledge was locked into mind and heart.
Now every-time I go home, I have a small tradition is that I must go to Uncle Gray’s house (usually bearing a book on his beloved Spurs as a gift). But with Uncle Gray, you don’t go back to tell him how much you know about the game, the time spent with him is a yearly reminder of everything that you still do not know.
They Play. We Read.