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Defiant

Most people who know me well will testify to my great love for football, and one team in particular Manchester United. Excluding the relationship I have had with my immediate family that has been the longest and most rewarding relationship I have had in my life. This relationship dates back to the early 90’s when the the irresistible panache of one particular Frenchman turned out to be the catalyst to a relationship that has lasted the better part of the last two decades. That Frenchman is non other than Eric “The King” Cantona. Cantona was an eclectic and enigmatic character both on and off the pitch. He was also Manchester United’s talisman when they began their dominance of the English game. A dominance that has spanned almost the entire period I have supported the club. Today I won’t bore you with the details of the genesis of that relationship and how it has evolved over the years. Besides I have already written about before HERE.

For many years Manchester United the team have been synonymous with a consistent culture of having a ‘never say die’ attitude , winning against the odds and conjuring up those late and most dramatic of comebacks. This culture has in no small part been due to the stewardship and influence of one manager who was at the helm for 26 years. This man is Sir Alex Ferguson. During his reign as manager of Manchester United football club , the club witness unprecedented levels of success. As a result most of us, the supporters of the club have been relatively spoiled, only having to fleetingly deal with disappointment. The rest of the time it was glory after glory every other season. As a result for most supporters their loyalty or commitment to the club was never tested. The closest were the emotional roller coasters that characterised most of Manchester United’s biggest matches. During the course of 90 minutes you would often find yourself cussing and biting your nails one moment and the next screaming in ecstasy. But even then they almost always won in the end, often leaving right to the very last kick of the game. It had all the hallmarks of those intense relationships that give us our greatest moments of joy as well as take us to our lowest ebbs. It was a tumultuous relationship in the most beautiful and gratifying way. Things always worked out in the end.

This season has been the most challenging that Manchester United have had in a long time. At the end of last season Sir Alex Ferguson retired. At that point no one imagined the depths the club would sink to after he had vacated the manager’s position. The team is pale shadow of itself. It has lost more games than I care to remember and often in humiliating and humbling fashion. That “never say die” attitude seems to be a thing of the past. As a supporter this has proved tasking. It’s an unfamiliar position and there has definitely been a shift in the dynamic of the relationship. Manchester United is no longer just a source of unbridled joy and bragging rights come Monday morning. Of late it has only served to heighten the traditional existential angst of Monday.

Like is often the case when the is a shift in a relationship dynamic introspection has been necessary. And I have surprised even myself with the conclusions that have arisen from that. Like I mentioned earlier because of the success the team has enjoyed over the years it has been relatively easy for most supporters to continue investing their time and resources on all things Manchester United. So much so that other supporter’s of other teams have accused Manchester United supporters of being glory hunters. Whilst I agree that this season has been emotional taxing and disappointing there is one caveat. It has only served to remind me how much I love the team . They have been a source of so much joy over the years and now it’s time to stand by them even more now. There is no guarantee that things will get better, or that we will return to our former glory. But I do know this as in an serious and committed relationship we have in our lives you never walk away at the first sign of trouble. You stick through it. You never stop believing. And sometimes when you just need to clear your head and get some clarity you write about it.

It has been tempting to try and put on the blame on the new manager. And a case can be made against his ability to lead the team back to it’s form former glory but for me this has been purely about learning to love my team in difficult times something I haven’t always been able to always do in all my other relationships. It’s a necessary evil and hopefully I will be able to apply the lessons I am learning in other areas of my life.

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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Conundrum

I am a big sports fan. I love sport because it is the most apt metaphor for life itself. Its ability to conjure a wide array of emotions in people (mostly men) is unparalleled. Sport allows us to vicariously experience the trials and tribulations of others. Great sportsman and sportswomen inspire us not only to dream a little bigger, but also to pursue those dreams. Their stories give us the belief that we too can achieve our dreams through focus, hard work, dedication, perseverance and discipline. The discipline of sport reminds us that pleasure is temporary; that suffering can yield a greater glory and that even at our best we are radically dependent on others. Sport teaches us that our limits can be surpassed and sometimes obliterated, that our minds can overcome what seem to be insurmountable hurdles. In sport, you win, you lose, you laugh, you cry, you cheer, you boo – you care. Sport is a microcosm of life.

Over the years sport has been a great teacher of life to me. It has taught me to never give up. It has made the dreamer in me a believer and inspired me to become an achiever in my own life. So no, it’s not just a game, sport is life. One of the sports that I follow religiously is Formula One racing. It is a sport that appeals to both the nerd and the adrenaline junkie in me. Some of you reading this are probably thinking. What’s so exciting about watching grown men racing around in cars around a Grand Prix circuit? Well, a lot. To the Formula One novice, it might all seem rather mundane but it’s not. One of the more animated descriptions I have ever heard of the Formula one driving experience is that it is akin to riding a bull on a rollercoaster. Imagine that. Mundane? Don’t think so. Formula One is also a very technical and high performance sport in which the average driver loses about 3.5kg in a single race. It’s that intense. There is also the faulty assumption that the fastest car always wins, but it’s not as simple as that. A skilled Formula One driver doesn’t just have a lead foot. It’s not just about put the pedal to the floor.  A talented driver has to find the perfect balance between speed, and breaking into and accelerating out of corner. Other factors come into play during the race such as tyre management, pit stops, fuel load etc but I digress.

Towards the tail end of the last Formula One season Lewis Hamilton my favourite and arguably the most exciting driver since the late great Aryton Senna announced that he was leaving the McLaren racing team and taking his enigmatic personality and prodigious racing talents to Mercedes. Ever since I have found myself facing quite the conundrum.

1) Do I follow Lewis Hamilton’s lead and take my vociferous supporting talents to Mercedes.

2) Do I stay loyal to the McLaren team, a team with a greater history, tradition, and heritage than most in Formula One or

3) Do I have my cake and eat it i.e. Support Lewis Hamilton separately as a driver and McLaren as a team

Yes these are the kind of thoughts that keep me awake at night.

When it comes to sport I have always been primarily a football fan. Manchester United to be specific. Many great players have graced the Theatre of Dreams. Many have left. I have stayed. I have always supported the team first. Their consistent success over the years hasn’t hurt either. Having been raised on football it was natural then that part of me wanted to remain loyal to the McLaren racing team, because that’s the norm in football. No one player is bigger than the team. Even if a star player leaves you stay with your team. But this is not football, Its Formula One. Formula One is a different kind of sport. A lot of the team work is done behinds the scene and in the technical department by mechanic’s and engineers but on race day there is a stronger emphasis on the individual driver. The reason I started following Formula One seriously is because of Lewis Hamilton. Prior to him exploding onto the Formula One scene, I had only had dalliances with the world of Formula One. So the Lewis Hamilton fan in me was leaning towards the first option, (following him to Mercedes) but the winner in me had serious doubts about Mercedes credentials as a racing team and by extrapolation its ability to challenge at the front of the grid. Regardless I still believed they would be a better team with Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel. Conundrum. What to do? I discussed the last option of supporting Lewis Hamilton separately as a driver and McLaren as a team with a good friend and fellow F1 fanatic and he was of the opinion that it was like that unsavoury trend amongst some married Zimbo men of having small houses (side chicks). The analogy alone made me uncomfortable. So what to do?

As I finish writing this it’s the eve of the new Formula One season. I have to make a decision. I can’t keep dithering. Writing about this as is often the case has afforded me some clarity on what I need to do. I realise that my loyalty to McLaren is what I think I am expected to do. But the fact is I like  Lewis Hamilton  a driver more  and I can relate to him as a person. His story and attitude and focus inspires me. I realise I never really supported McLaren . I have always been a Hamilton fan, but Hamilton has always been at McLaren so the two became one in my mind.

I read earlier today a column where he said that part of the motivation for leaving McLaren even though it raised him and gave him his break was that  he didn’t always feel like he could be himself. Some of the rules  like what he could wear at the track were stifling. He wanted to go somewhere where he could express himself a bit more freely. He also acknowledged that Mercedes has not had a lot of success in Formula One and he wanted  want to be part of the group of people who helped turn it around. That it was  a great challenge for him to be able to do that.

Those comments resonated with because you often realise that as you grow older sometimes you have to let go of things, people and places that shaped you and take on a new challenge. That even on the way to achieving your goals and dreams you shouldn’t have to sacrifice who you are. To have faith in yourself and your abilities.

Its going to take some getting used to, but this season I will be supporting Lewis Hamilton as begins his quest to achieve his dreams on his terms with the Silver Arrows.

That’s my decision and I am OK with it.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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