Football has certainly changed. In this fast-paced world of ours, our accessories and tools have undoubtedly become more sophisticated. Being a footballer was simpler in my day, now it’s difficult to keep up. You have to be one step ahead of the game with the latest boots and the newest cellphone.
Players have become global icons. With one good goal, gone viral as they say these days, one controversial tweet, or one status update on Facebook, a player can become an instant celebrity. Times they are changing and in so doing making the game more interesting for all.
It’s funny how today you always see players off the field sporting headphones. In my playing days, the portable music player was a ‘ghetto blaster’, weighing in at about 5kgs and carried on the shoulder. Players always want the latest gadgets.
I fondly remember in about 1982, one of our senior national team players, Clement ‘Soweto” Banda, was the very first player to own the latest portable music system comprising a tape deck and two massive speakers on either side. It was ultra-modern, metallic in color but he had completely covered it in plastic to minimize wear and tear. He was strictly the only person who was allowed to change or to turn the cassette over to the other side. We all thought he was highly technologically advanced as he masterfully operated his sound system. Later, we were introduced to VHS. We had a video machine attached to a small ‘box-like’ television in our dormitory and the only video we had was Sylvester Stallone’s, Rambo. We watched it over and over again until the tape got caught in the player.
Today, our players come to camp with iphones, iPods, iPads and ‘beats’ headphones and they are like walking communication and music hubs.
During my playing days in Europe, in the mid-eighties, there weren’t any cellphones. We used club house, office or hotel telephones to call home. I remember, when I first arrived in Belgium in 1985, at the club offices I asked if I could call home; they were surprised that there were telephones in Africa. Back then, communications with family and loved ones had to wait for the appropriate time and place.
It was only when I got to Mexico in 1994 that I was first exposed to a cellphone. Even then, we players always had to have the latest and the best technology, and so we did, with our ‘brick’ flap-open Motorola cellphones. Fast forward to today where all the players have the latest technology and are only a few seconds away from speaking to their nearest and dearest.
In my day, especially so with the Zambian national team, it was of huge significance to sing on the bus on our way to our matches. We took pride in this and it was a war cry, it pulled us together and united us. We would sing at the top of our voices clapping the bus seats and stomping our feet on the floor—we were going to battle, the war was on… we were there to play our hearts out, we were there to die a little for our nation.
Today, our footballers each listen to their own inspiration on their portable devices going to the match, however, I am pleased that as the Zambian national team commutes to matches, we still retain that same tradition… This age old ritual of singing, is too sacred to shed, too unifying to ignore and too beautiful not to be heard. Wherever you see Chipolopolo commuting to their matches, their preparation for battle on the field of play begins on that bus.
Somehow if feels good to see and to hear a group of young people, united at the top of their voices, as if their lives depended on it. Ninety minutes of national duty that means so much to millions of people.
Current football boots are a marvel to see. I am a traditionalist on this topic. I have always and still do on odd occasions, only play in the traditional black and white boots. Today, I see players that purposely wear a different color boot on each foot! My tradition was always to place my right boot on before my left boot and to always step onto the field with my right foot. Superstition or creature of habit, you decide. I still cannot recall anyone, during my nine and a half years, either at Cercle Brugge or at PSV Eindhoven, wearing colored boots. Watching the Euro final between Spain and Italy this year… was there even one player in black boots? Times have changed. Boots today have micro-chips inserted to measure speed and distance, so technologically advanced, who would’ve imagined in just two short decades the tools of our trade have progressed to such an extent. In the next two decades they will soon invent boots that score for you!
The latest hairstyles are also quite interesting, our most daring style in the eighties was the S-Curl perm, ‘Ray Parker Jr. style’, far removed from the current styles of different colors, dreads, shavings, slicked backed, Mohicans, bands and pony tails. Guys like David Beckham became the trendsetters in this hair fashion revolution.
The latest fashion seems to be that of donning tattoos and earrings. I can understand the earring with the advent of metrosexual males, but tattoos on our dark brothers seems to be lost somewhere. I know that they have personal significance to each player, but surely the objective is for them to be seen?
The question is, what is the difference between decades ago and today, in this fast-paced world we live in? The toys and accessories might have seen drastic changes but the ultimate aim, vision, determination and passion, remain the same. As a player you go out there to show your talent and to give your best. You go o