Sunday, 17 May 2015

The best footballing farewell? It's an open and Schutt case

AMONG the many footballing farewells we will suffer, patiently, as the season comes to a close were the emotional departures of Steven Gerrard and Alje Schutt on Saturday.

The Premier League made the most of Stevie G's last game at Anfield; understandably so. A player who spends 17 years at one club and NEVER changes his hairstyle in the modern age is a rare commodity.

Sadly, after the guard of honor with his three daughters, Gerrard was unable to conjure a final chapter of magic in a career highlighted by that three-goal comeback to win the Champions League in Istanbul.

Instead we witnessed once-mighty Liverpool getting hammered 3-1 by Alan Pardew's revived Crystal Palace; by the end, Gerrard was goal-hanging, exhausted by the hype, hoping for a large slice of good fortune to deny Palace a just result.

Afterwards, the Liverpool players - including a laughing Mario Balotelli - emerged in shirts with Gerrard emblazoned on the back and we listened to The man himself offer a few creaking platitudes about  how tremendously proud he was to have played for such a great club and in front of such wonderful fans.

Few will mention the time, in 2003, when Gerrard agreed to join Chelsea but reneged on the deal after threats to his family from those same fans. And nobody dare mentions what Frank Lampard did to Chelsea after his "move to America" actually saw him go on a full season loan to deposed champions Manchester City.

So good luck in Los Angeles, Stevie... And don't mention the infamous slip which let Demba Ba in to ruin Liverpool's rare title challenge this time last year.

A far more satisfying footballing farewell had already taken place in Port Elizabeth by the time Liverpool submerged themselves in crocodile tears.

The Dutchman Alje Schutt, in his last game for Mamelodi Sundowns, gave his all in the Nedbank Cup final, physically and verbally. he rallied his troops against Roger de Sa's stubborn young side and earned a yellow card for his attempts to keep the referee on his toes.

As extra-time wore on, Schutt fell heavily after an aerial challenge. His 34-year-old ankle had clearly given up. But not Schutt. He manfully limped on until, five minutes before the penalty shoot-out, Pitso Mosimane took him off, saying later: "This final was a tribute to our captain, we wanted him to go home with another trophy."

And he did, thanks to an extraordinary shoot-out which saw Ajax Cape Town's youngsters succumb to the pressure with THREE big misses, to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory.

It's what happened after 120 goalless minutes and a dreadful set of penalties which roused the nation.

Schutt, who burst in to tears when the Nedbank Cup had been added to his 2014 championship medal (that's one more than Gerrard ever managed in 17 years), was thrust forward for his post-match interview late, after much celebration and back-patting from the KaboYellow troops.

What he said should be framed and put on a wall at Chloorkop, and added to every school syllabus. I hope I've got it word perfect:

"This was a great win for Sundowns, I could hardly walk at the end. I'm just so glad we won it.

"South Africa has been so good to me. This is a wonderful country, I have enjoyed my time here, every minute.

"I want to say that xenophobia is not the South Africa I know. Everybody I met was so warm and friendly. They made me feel at home. It cannot be right.

"This is an amazing country. It is not over. I WILL BE BACK."

Hours after Schutt's heartfelt message, friends - South African and otherwise - started sending me messages from Sunnyside, the Sundowns heartland in central Tshwane, saying the police were out in force hunting down foreigners at the dead of night.

I prefer to remember Schutt's words. Xenophobia is not the South Africa I know.

Sent from my iPad

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