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Being Blue

Taka Nyahunzvi espouses his love for Everton from afar




I've read many accounts of how people became the Everton supporters that they are today. While each story is unique in itself, the common thread binding them is the chance at some stage to watch an Everton match. Your current "being Blue" article by Lol Scragg is another example. My own tale therefore becomes unique, in that I've supported the Blues for over 20 years but am yet to go to Goodison Park, let alone watch the team play "live" anywhere.

My allegiance to Everton began in 1982, when as a 10-year-old in Zimbabwe I found myself drawn to the talents of Peter Eastoe. Dalglish and Robson were the playground heroes of that time, but Arnold, Heath and company somehow captured my imagination. At that time we didn't have satellite TV or access to the internet, so my brother (a Villa fan) and I would be restricted to waiting for the late Brian Moore?s Big League Soccer on Sunday evenings to watch highlights of some of the games ? the ones played 3 weekends earlier, that is.

The beauty of that era was that I knew that come 4/5pm (GMT +2) on Saturday, there would be 11 Division One games to look forward to. No early kick-offs, no Sunday matches, and nothing on Monday night either. I'd tune in to Paddy Feeny?s Saturday Special on the short wave feed of the BBC World Service to listen to commentary and reports from the likes of Martin Fookes, Mike Ingham, Alan Green and the late Brian Butler. I'd hear the results of mid-week matches on Sports Round-up at 01:45 - bang in the middle of the night, and a school night at that. But that was the level of my devotion.

I remember one Saturday I tuned in for commentary to hear the news that "Everton beat Chelsea 1-0 last night" (Kevin Richardson scoring at The Bridge). As good as it was to have won the game, it was depressing to have not known at the time that we were actually playing. Strange as it may seem, I felt that I mentally added to the team?s efforts from this great distance away. Little did I know, but that probably signalled the beginning of the universal command TV now has over the game. On these shores, though, all we watched live in the eighties was the FA Cup final.

My first replica shirt was a white tee shirt that I coloured in blue ink. That was in the NEC sponsorship days of the 'half shirts'. I now have last season's shirt, but I still hold on to that one for old time's sake. I also have two pennants and a baseball cap from the glory days of the eighties, and almost 4-years' worth of Match, Shoot and 90 Minutes magazines accumulated mostly during the nineties.

I was lucky to be rewarded with success in the FA Cup and then League Championship and Cup Winners' Cup so early in my time as a supporter. It felt absolutely marvellous, maybe more so because I could not watch the games live. To this day, I have not seen the videos of the games against Bayern Munich or Rapid Vienna, but I still cherish the audio tape recordings of the commentaries on them by Peter Jones and Jimmy Armfield. On the other side of the coin, imagine my state as I hoped against hope that all was going well in those relegation deciders against Wimbledon and Coventry. There was nothing on TV, and radio commentary was busy elsewhere. The stress was unbearable!

It hurt when we could not play in Europe after winning the Championship, just like it did when Gary Lineker and then Howard Kendall went to Spain. But I was supremely confident in the ability of those that remained, particularly the core from that magical side of 1985. The club once sent me personally signed photos of Alan Harper and Graeme Sharp along with a couple of match programmes. You can't imagine what that means to a young fan on the other side of the globe. Not quite at the level of the David France collection, but treasure to me all the same.

By the time league games began being shown live here, Everton was no longer a dominant force. No one could understand why I didn't support Liverpool or Manchester United. But I simply couldn't and stuck to the Toffees. From the Dogs of War FA Cup triumph through to the dark, dark days of relegation battles, I always believed we could do it. And I still do.

Now in my thirties and in the megabucks days of the Premiership, I hear we actually have more UK soccer on TV here than is shown in England. I've gone from not knowing what squad regulars like Neil Adams and Mike Milligan even looked like, to being familiar with the traits of Alan Moogan and Iain Turner who have never played for the first team. Everton managers have come and gone, Everton players have come and gone; but the hope and even expectation is still there for me on a Saturday afternoon (or Sunday afternoon or Monday night, as the case may be).

It feels like a million miles from Harare to Merseyside, but I feel the highs and lows, the hopes and frustrations, just as strongly out here. One day I'll find out what if feels like to be on the Gwladys Terrace and experience the Goodison roar.

Taka Nyahunzvi 

21 November 2003


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