#COVID19Chronicles-99: July 22, 2020-How does it feel to lift the trophy? Part 1 #YNWA

This is the prelude to an historic moment; Part 2 will get written once the trophy presentation is over, following today’s match with Chelsea, at Anfield. So, this is really about anticipation, and it’s been a long time coming, whether you want to measure it on the 30-year arc, or the much shorter, but still intense arc of this current season, with the totally unexpected shutdown of most of the world due to a global pandemic. The title was a sniff away, when the league suspended matches after the last fixture on March 9, and Liverpool needed 6 points to assure the title. The 3-month wait till resumption on June 17 was filled with lots of anxiety for most Liverpool fans, especially when talk involved making the season null and void, when the lead was 25 points! (It was also anxious for other clubs, too, who were either looking from near the top of the table at possible European qualifying places through those who were even mid-table but could see possible relegation in their future. A lot of juggling was happening below the Premier League, though these will all be resolved today, when the Championship has its final match day today. Leagues below have all been settled with play-offs or standings determined by statistical trends.)

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Liverpool FC today will hoist the trophy for winning the Barclays Premier League, having never won it, and 30 years on since they last won the top league in England (and Wales). The joy of hoisting it at home in front of fans at Anfield will have to wait a few more weeks, because the country is still in the grip of various forms of restrictions on crowds gathering and social distancing.

It’s bitterly ironic that this happens after the last home game and the opponents are Chelsea FC, who cruelly snatched the title away from Liverpool in 2014, as a result of ‘the slip’ by Steven Gerrard.

They lost the game 0-2 and missed the title by 2 points, behind Manchester City. In the days before VAR, it was no saving grace that Raheem Sterling had had an equalizing goal disallowed against City, for an offside decision that was about 1 metre wrong :(: “Such a poor decision; you could see it with your naked eye.”

So, the bitter taste in then-manager Brendan Rogers’s mouth at the end of that season must have been awful. Scoring 101 goals, for the highest tally for runners-up. Last year, with 97 points, they lost the title to City, again, by one point; the highest total points for runners-up. That, after having a massive lead in the title race, months earlier. That, added, to the long wait for the Championship was a head of pressure that’s hard to fathom and to keep going for a club that had its heyday as league leaders and cemented itself into European Cup/UEFA Champions League history with astonishing comeback victories.

Fast forward. Rogers leaves Liverpool and moves to Celtic, where he gobbles up domestic trophies for a few years before coming back to manage Leicester and show with their resurgence of form that he is really a good manager. But, it opened the door for Jürgen Klopp and the rest is history.

So, the title-winning side was built on a solid base over a half decade and more.

The 2018/19 season was amazing and capped with a great UEFA Champions League win that was more than deserved after the summary dismantling of Barcelona in the semi-final 2nd leg at Anfield. “The unthinkable, the unbelievable…comeback”, from 0-3 after leg 1, to win 4-0. And how!

I guess an absolute neutral can watch and imagine the task and how it was managed and feel unmoved. But, every time I watch the 2nd half of that match, I am covered totally in goosebumps.

That Spurs pulled off a similar feat in their semi-final to beat Ajax 3-2 away, with similar last minute drama—winner in 90+5 minutes—makes the whole story both bizarre and pleasing beyond description. “I do not believe it!” I still don’t believe the 2nd goal Lucas Moura scored.

So, Liverpool went on and lost to the Community Shield to City on penalties, then won the FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Super Cup before December, and were already soaring in the Premier League, and the 2019/20 season was already one for the ages.

Laugh with me, not at me: the Brazilian national football team seeks redemption

Real life came back to Brazil abruptly when it was hosed by Germany in the World Cup in midweek. The president admitted that. Her political fortune might have gone up in flames with it, but that’s her life. Today, the football team gets a chance for some redemption, or the complete cementing of their legacy as loses. They play for third place against Holland, who have been frequent losing finalists. What should Brazil do? Play the A team, which capitulated so badly that they all should be sent for psychological assessment? Put in the B team, which clearly wasn’t good enough earlier to pull any rabbits out of hats? Play some new combination? Mix and match? If they win, what will it matter? It’s not for the big banana. If hey lose, it just goes to prove that they were kittens in paper bags and a bunch of whatever pejorative Brazilians use.

I would not want to be Coach Scolari on any day, least of all this one. His star player, Neymar, save some ignominy by being injured for the naked ice bath, has an agent, as do all the big footballing kahunas. He also goes by one name, Ribiero. He wrote on his Twitter account a sarcastic list of credentials to be a Brazilian national coach:

‘One – being Portugal Coach and winning nothing.’
‘Two – going to Chelsea and being sacked the following day.’
‘Three – going to coach in Uzbekistan.’
Four – returning to Brazil, taking over a big team [Palmeiras] and getting them relegated to the second division.’
‘Five – leaving the club 56 days before the end of the Brasileirao [season] to ‘escape’ the relegation.
‘Six – being an old jerk, arrogant, repulsive, conceited and ridiculous.’

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Now, Ribiero may really know diddly squat about football, but knows how to grab headlines. Last year he insulted the god of world football, Pele, who’d called Neymar “ordinary”, after disappointing national displays. Agent Ribeiro took out his pointed matchstick and jabbed Pele, saying his comments were pure “jealousy”, and insisting the Brazilian veteran would be an “inferior” player in today’s footballing world. Okay. I think Pele would be on any all-time team, if not the first pick. But, I’m no agent, so what do I know? So, children, let’s put away the toys and sing one more verse with Barney. “I love you. You love me. We’re just one big family…”

The match will be in Brazil’s administrative capital, Brasilia, while the final will be in Rio, the one-time capital and heart of the national spirit. The carnival and samba, and favelas and girls from Ipanema capable of walking onto any national men’s football team and beating the world, save their own men’s team. Well, that was a nice dream. Now, bitten by reality as if the arm of Ivanisovic were in the jaws of Suárez, Brazil is going to be the butt of jokes for all-time. It all happened in the worst of places, in Brazil. Not in the sun baked desert of Qatar. Not in the frozen steppes of Russia. Not in the lung-burning altitude of Mexico City, where they had already reached unreachable heights. But, in Bela Horizonte.

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Nothing pretty to see there.

It will be the end of the tournament for the hosts, and the stage will be set for the visitors to fill on Sunday. Neymar has thrown his hat onto Messi’s head and Argentina to win. He probably hates himself for backing the arch rivals, but how could he back the true Weltmeisters, Germany, after they shown that his teammates had no backbone?

That seems to sum up where the Selecao are: nowhere they want to be.

Happy? Where’s Jamaica’s morning-after pill?

Yesterday, the world was supposed to celebrate International Day of Happiness. Jamaica was there, too, although in no nationally visible fashion. We’re not miserable people at heart, just living in a woefully disorganised state for far too long. That leads many to feel unhappy when the opposite would be easy to achieve.

I joked yesterday that I was happy because I had full water pressure to take a morning shower. A friend replied that I should be ecstatic because I had water in my pipes.

Water everywhere and none to drink?
Water everywhere and none to drink?

Many communities don’t have that–in the ‘land of wood and water’. Should we call Jamaica ‘the land of would and whatfor’?

Last week, many Jamaicans got excited because a long court case concluded with a verdict that surprised them because ‘the system’ seemed to work. But, so often the daily grind is to get through so much that does not work. Or, living through consequences that result from responsible persons not fulfilling their responsibilities.

We saw that in a near-disaster this week. The main garbage disposal site in the country had a huge fire, which started in a pile of used tyres.

Riverton Dump on fire
Riverton Dump on fire

The agency responsible for managing the waste, does not manage that well. National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) bow your head in shame. The agency which oversees NSWMA, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), does a poor job of oversight. A few weeks ago, we learnt that NEPA was allowing NSWMA to operate illegally, without licences. Part of the reported rationale was the dire financial state of NSWMA. Give us a break! Let’s all cry poverty and see who lets us ordinary folk off our obligations. I think some have loans they’d like eased. Then, have a few days of smoke-filled air and…NEPA issues licences to NSWMA. What makes situations like this doubly annoying is the wall of stony silence that passes for communication. I have seen not one statement from NSWMA about either the licences or the fire. Maybe, the Minister responsible has heard something, but if so have the people heard a peep.

The word that comes to mind is ‘disdain’.disdain-2

That, sadly, is a status word for many things in Jamaica. My father, who used to be a mental nurse, often talks about Jamaicans’ love of silent insolence. Mix that with disdain. … Toxic!

Examples of daily ‘unhappiness’ below focus on the ‘broken’ Jamaica that comes from that sorry admixture. None of them are excusable or hard to fix:

  • Broken car axles … from driving over potholes: visible problems, simple solutions. Who cares? Who should do?
  • Interminable waiting for simple administrative tasks.
  • Landlords who ignore tenants’ complaints.
  • Extortion activities that prevent normal activities. We see people assuming ‘powers’ that no one has given and no one seems ready to take away. The police are reported to be ‘stepping up the fight’ against such things.

    Car parking extortion in Kingston
    Car parking extortion in Kingston
  • Praedial larceny: it’s not just farmers who suffer. A friend told me about her yam hill near her house being reaped by thieves, after she’d waited nine months for her harvest. Adding insult to injury, they roasted the pilfered yam in her yard. Taking people’s hard work and using its rewards for your own benefit without permission is perhaps one of those truly despicable acts.

These examples are not unique to Jamaica, but demand more attention because of the brazenness with which the corrections are ignored or avoided. Also, we often see frenzied action ‘to fix’ things that have been left to ‘get rotten’ over months, years, decades. Take a hard look at downtown Kingston. Take a look at the entrance to the ‘coastal resort’ of Negril. Take a look at downtown Montego Bay. Take a look at Ocho Rios. Take a look at the National Stadium Complex.

Take a good hard look at it all. Ask yourself why has any of that been allowed to happen.

Wheel of misfortune
Wheel of misfortune

Why have Jamaicans repeatedly given position to people who demonstrate clearly and repeatedly that they cannot do a good job?