Egypt: I wear the least because it’s a long-sleeved shirt. From El Ahly, one of the two top teams in Egypt. So that I am sure of annoying someone who knows the Egyptian soccer scene when I wear it. A gift from Nevin (who lived in Cairo for a semester), which makes it even better.
Tanzania: A gift from Lauren (following an internship in Tanzania). The national team’s jersey. I use it often when playing local indoor soccer. It reminds me always that I am now officially overweight.
Zambia: The shirt I am most likely to wear to school, as well as for playing. A gift from Morgan, fellow Zambian—the national jersey for Chipolopolo (the Copper Bullets). Reminds me where I come from. I was called “Mr Green” when I wore it to church.
UK 1: Manchester United. I am not a Man U fan. I am for Liverpool. But an indoor team I played for in Winnipeg used it as their kit. I wear this to confuse people who know I support Liverpool.
UK 2: Liverpool. Almost my favourite shirt. Gift from Joe, bought in Harare from a sports shop run by the former national coach there. In the 1980s Liverpool’s goalie (one of the best they have had) was a Zimbo who went to the same High School as I did in Bulawayo. You cheer for your old mates, even after they’ve had a whiff of scandal. (Nothing proved!)
Zimbabwe: Gift from Mike. Highlanders! Bruce Grobbelaar’s (the Liverpool goalie) first team. I saw Peter Ndlovu—who moved from the Highlanders to Coventry, then to Sheffield United—play in Bulawayo at the Highlander’s Stadium (Barbourfields) representing Zimbabwe against Swaziland.
Why do I like my shirts? Not for their incredible style. I doubt that they make me look like anything other than I am. More for what they remind me of—lost youth, when I could run and play at full speed; the places I’ve lived; the people who are important to me.
My soccer shirts are more a symbol of life than anything else. The Highlanders shirt, for example, remind me of Mike and Lyn, whose lives are bound up with ours. And of Ray, who has stood against the tyranny of life in Zimbabwe with courage and grace as God’s man. (He is for Dynamos, so he might not rejoice that a Highlander’s shirt reminds me of him!) And of all the people who continue to sing and pray “Siyakudumisa, Nkosi” while their lives are torn apart.
The shirts are only symbols. The people are life.