In the classic novel Anthills of The Savannah by the great African writer Chinua Achebe, a delegation of Abazon leaders embark on a SOS mission to save their region from the ravaging drought. The leader simply referred to as the Old Man decides to tell the audience a story. It is a story which captures the essence of struggle. It is the story of the Leopard and the tortoise!
The background to the visit is intriguing. The head of the country called Kagaan ,a military man known as His Excellency Sam , wants to be president for life. To achieve this, he seeks the endorsement of the whole country. Most regions in the country vote yes for the life presidency bid. However the people of Abazon region decide to follow a different path. They vote no. The wise Old Chief observes that, it would be foolish for a man , any man to desire rulership over his people forever. ” Even when a man marries his wife , he cannot marry her forever, one day one of them will die bringing an end the marriage.” he reasons.
The decision not to vote yes, angers the President who decides to withdraw any development projects that were happening in the region. Chief among these was the drilling of boreholes in the drought stricken land. The sun beats relentlessly on the land and without boreholes, the people suffer from a shortage of water. Withdrawing the boreholes project was vindictive and punitive.
To save his people from starvation , the Old Chief chooses six elders of the village and pays a courtesy call on the seat of power. He explains why this has to be done, ” Because we said no to the Big Chief (The President ), he has ordered all the boreholes they are digging in our area to stop….so we have come to Bassa to say yes so that the boreholes can start again and we will not perish from the anger of the sun.!”
Then he tells the story. ” We do not know whether the people we have come to see will listen to our cry for water or not . Once upon a time, the Leopard which had been planning to kill tortoise for a long time met him in the middle of the road. There was no escape for tortoise.
” Ahh haa, i have met you get ready to die “, said the Leopard. Tortoise knew that the game was up and he said, ” Ok , but can i ask for one favour ?” Leopard saw nothing amiss with that. ” Well go ahead !” Tortoise said, ” Before you kill me , can i have a moment to myself to think about things. ?” Leopard thought about it and said, ” Yes you can go ahead !”. Tortoise instead of standing still, began to scratch the soil , throwing sand in the air and in all directions . Leopard was confused by this, ” What are you doing ?” he asked. ” I am doing this so that anyone who passes by here will stop and say, mmm, two adversaries struggled here..!”
The Old man concludes his story by saying , ” My people, that is all we are doing now, struggling , perhaps to no purpose except that those who come after us will be able to say , true , our fathers were defeated but they tried !”
What a story which captures the hope which is at the centre of all struggles. But the question is how can i make this a football story?
Well the English Premiership has been on its well deserved break giving time to the players to visit sunny places and recharge their batteries. Meanwhile, the clubs have not stopped strengthening their squads. Manchester City the current champions made a big statement by signing the one known as the “Terminator ” Erling Haaland from Borrusia Dortmund. He will add goals, plenty of goals and one will be tempted to say “The Cityzens” will retain their title. Hanging on to their coat tails will be Liverpool who finished a close second last time out. They lost their chief striker , Sadio Mane but added one regarded as a direct replacement albeit inexperienced, Darwin Nunez. Tottenham Hotspur have made some decent signings as well with Yves Bissouma and Richarlison joining adding to manager Antonio Conte’s arsenal. Chelsea despite the off filed problems of last season have brought in serial winner , Sterling from rivals Manchester City. He will add thrust to their attack. Arsenal have gone with a man who has the name to resurrect their fortunes, Gabriel Jesus. Will he be the saviour? At Old Trafford a few additions have been made, not star signings but descent enough to strengthen the team. They have also decided that relying on Ronaldo is not good enough and are prepared to let him go.
Back to our Lion and tortoise story and the essence of struggle. Those with the ability to see the future , the bookmakers in particular seem to have settled the small matter of where the cherished trophy will go. They are not looking beyond Manchester City with Liverpool again a close second. Will this be the case? Should the rest accept their fate as runners up in this race?
Like the tortoise in our story, i do not think they will sit and feel sorry for themselves. By strengthening their sqauds they have done what any fighter will do. Scratch the surcface, throw the sand in the air, pull up trees so that that those who watch proceedings will say, ” adversaries met here , there was a contest !”
This is what fans want, they want to see a contest and with the way Tottenham , Arsenal and Chelsea have strengthened, this promises to be an intriguing contest. The Leopard should not just devour the tortoise!