It’s less than a month into the English football season. It’s a bit too early to decide if I should feel some optimism or resigned acceptance about Arsenal’s chances. In recent years, time for the latter has been coming earlier and earlier.
For most of the decade or so that followed the team’s biggest achievement — winning the premier league without losing a single game in 2003/2004 — it’s been a question of when, rather than if, they will falter.
Would they still be in the competition by Christmas? A good season (the UK one runs from August to May) meant being in the running until about February, with the eventual collapse coming in the home run as injuries, loss of form, and a thin squad took their toll.
This became the new normal, meaning that one could enjoy most seasons without the eventual disappointment that came with thinking there was some hope of success. As the saying goes, “It’s the hope that kills.”
It proved so true during SA’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. Watching us play the hosts was such a pleasure from the first minute. That’s what a lack of hope or expectation will do to you.
Egypt had home advantage, not to mention one of the world’s best players in Mo Salah, fresh from winning the European Champions League. Surely we didn’t have a chance.
And then we went and won. And that dreaded thing, hope, was back to spoil the next game. And predictably, we played more like our normal selves in the quarter final, meekly going out against Nigeria.
Watching us play the hosts was such a pleasure from the first minute.
That’s what a lack of hope or expectation will do to you
Going to my local Home Affairs office in my eventually futile attempt to get my daughter’s SA passport renewed was a similar experience. It took three trips before we conceded defeat.
The glimmer of hope during the last one was the killer. Into our fourth hour of queueing, by which time we had made it inside the building, the computers went down again.
The staff were helpful and friendly enough. They suggested trying another office which might have computers that work. We’d tried that one already and I wasn’t going to drive across town again. What about the bank? I explained that we’d tried that too, but somehow couldn’t match her country of birth with what Home Affairs had on record.
Desperate, I asked if there was any chance that the computers recognised Scotland as being separate from the UK. Yes, a staff member said, it must be that. I was still sceptical because as far as I know the Scottish independence referendum didn’t pass, so I asked if she could confirm on her computer. Which she did.
So we gave up our place in the queue and headed off, full of optimism and hope. I logged on to the Home Affairs website at home and tried again. Of course, Scotland was not there.
Hope has gone again, and I've finally accepted that the next time my daughter travels to SA, she’ll be doing so as a foreigner.
• Mnyanda is the editor of Business Day.
• From the September edition of Wanted 2019.