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Why I am rooting for England against Italy in Euro 2020 Final? By Lambert Mbom

In a few hours, the Euro 2020 will be in the history books when Italy meets with England. And not that it matters, supporting either one or the other the difference shall be made by the soccer wizardry, technical savvy of managers and players and sheer luck.

It is not just out of sympathy that the Three Lions have not had any luck and savoir faire to bring home any title in 55 years that is driving my support for the English team. By the way, it seems awkward that with the nonchalance of the Brits towards the problem in Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) that they caused in the first place, I would be supporting them. The mess the Brits left post colonialism is nauseating and in fact the carnage going in the fight for freedom by the former colony is unforgivable and may need the absolution of the Vatican if the Italians could have the courage to ask. Yes, but let us not mix politics and soccer. Soccer is about entertainment.

I must confess that I have never watched any soccer game of the Italian soccer league which by the way has been home to many African immigrants. What is more, I am Catholic and the seat of Catholicism, the Vatican in Rome is in Italy but this is not enough to win my support for the Italian team.

In 2006, I visited Rome and Florence and saw firsthand the plight of African immigrants which left me aghast. Ten years later matters came to a head with the Lampedusa disaster where 366 African migrants lost their lives en route to Italy and am not blaming the receiving country for this.

What is even more sinister is the fact that Italy is one of those teams that has pure European lineage with no African/Black player in its ranks though they have the distinction of having lured a Brazilian to become Italian and play for them. Yes, one may shoot back that this is European soccer!

Most Sundays many African immigrants watch the English Premier League (EPL)! I am a Manchester United fan and have been for years. Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham are the most popular teams amongst African immigrants! Many African immigrants own and proudly don the paraphernalia of these clubs and of course the rivalry, virtual and verbal is part of the daily menu for most of us!

There are currently four Manchester United players with the English team: Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire Marcus Rashford, and Sancho! Two of these have been spectacular throughout the competition.

The English team’s composition reflects the multiracial world we live in! Of course, Nigerian heritage cannot be missing from the picture with the brilliance of the young Bukayo Saka! The bulldozer Kyle Walker of Jamaican descent, Tyrone Mings whose father is from Barbados, the electric Raheem Sterling of Jamaican descent, the daring Rashford with St Kitts parentage, master dribbler Jordan Sancho with parents from Trinidad and Tobago, Kalvin Phillips of Jamaican descent and Calvert-Lewin are the many blacks who have lifted the Three Lions to their first final in a major soccer competition.

The story of England’s soccer team’s successful bid this far is one made possible because of migration. And as Stephen Frost notes in his article “The England Football Team, Diversity and Leadership” in Forbes “The London Migration Museum has run a campaign to remind us that without immigration the England team as we know it would not exist.” 

England’s team is a true reflection of the Commonwealth just as the French team is of the Francophonie. Yet, I could never support the French team because of the influence of France and its strangle effect on African economies and politics. The English have the opposite approach.

The challenge now is for the society to follow the example of its soccer team. When the Euro Cup comes home, let the glory of the title trickle down to the society so that in the index of racism, England might score better. Is it not reflective of the English that during the pregame anthem some have booed at players for taking a knee in demonstration of their fight against racial injustice? Or even the fact that black players like Marcus Rashford are often taunted when their performances at club level are perceived not to have delivered the goods. Racial slurs and nasty reference to color become the dominant show of disdain. This is just scratching the surface.

In 2019 when I visited my sister and her family, I had the rare privilege of dining with some priests from the archdiocese of Bamenda studying and working within the diocese of Portsmouth that has had a long-standing relationship with Bamenda. Stories of racist taunts against some of them demonstrated the deeply ensconced anti-black and anti-African reality of the English.

The glory of the cup coming home and not going to Rome will find true value when the virtue of tolerance becomes a pillar of the English society. If soccer is the gift of the English to the world and given the religious value of soccer in most African countries, herewith an opportunity for the English to avail of to check their racial biases and idiosyncrasies.

Good luck to the Three Lions and bring home the trophy!

Pope Benedict XVI ‘s decision to step down – A Blessing to the Catholic Church and the World. Lambert Mbom

Pope_Benedict_XVI_2_Credit_Mazur_CNA340x269_World_Catholic_News_11_19_11There has been a mixed flurry of reactions amongst Catholics to Pope Benedict XVI’s surprising announcement on Monday Feb. 11, 2013 that he will be stepping down from his office as Bishop of Rome and Successor of St Peter. Some believe the negative press the Vatican already enjoys will gain impetus from this. Why did Benedict not spare us this negative PR some have been heard to ask? Others, rightfully, celebrate the wisdom of the Pope’s decision for his humility, his courage and his commitment to the Church.

For one thing, one is grateful that there was no butler and so there were no scoops even from the corridors of the papal chamber.

First, it is important to get the correct description of the Pope’s action. It is inaccurate to refer to it either as retirement or as resignation, at least not in the American sense.

In American political parlance, resignation is generally a euphemism for dismissal. Public officials resign when they are mired in scandal. The revered American General, David Petraeus, was forced to hand in his resignation when the sex scandal broke out. Now former Congressman, Rep. Jesse L Jackson (D-IL) also recently resigned in what turns out to be fraudulent management of campaign finances.To resign presumes a higher authority to whom one submits a letter and often linked to a scandal of one form or another.

Pope Benedict’s action is far from any of these. As he himself says: For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005,

It is a renunciation of the office he assumed in 2005. Some conspiracy theorists think that there is something amiss, which shall come to the limelight some day. We can only wish them good luck with that.

Our appreciation of the Pope’s decision says something about our psyche. Contemporary society has become so scandal prone and crisis-ridden that it has adopted a one-size-fits-all standard for evaluating actions, namely scandal.

The Genius of Pope Benedict XVI’s decision lies in his own words: After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry…. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. (emphasis mine)

Two words that encapsulate the Pope’s position are “Strength”(which appears three times) and “adequately” (which appears twice). Both are the operative reasons for the Pope’s decision. The enormity and sublimity of the tasks of the office require a certain alertness of the mind and physical strengths, which age has robbed the Holy Father of.

One cannot avoid but reference the words of the Delphic Oracle – “Man know thyself and you shall know the gods,” which find classical fulfillment in Pope Benedict’s decision.

Ola Rotimi, in his play, The Gods are not to blame, says of Odewale the protagonist, “The butterfly thinks itself a bird.” And because of this misconstrued and bloated ego, Odewale meets his demise.

Humanity must learn to acknowledge the limits of being. There are no supermen no matter how much the movie superman wants us to believe its reality. There are limits.  Pope Benedict’s decision is a great lesson in humility.

There is a greater lesson even for those with political power. Clinging tenaciously to power is a disservice both to the institution and to those served. The Pope could go on till his demise but seeing the enormity of the tasks at hand, believes the institution would be able to wade off the buffeting tides, with a stronger and ‘younger’ person in office. Out of deep love for the Church and the flock he has shepherded, Pope Benedict XVI has so graciously considered that the best course of action is to relinquish power.

In a very real way, Pope Benedict’s XVI decision makes the Church a beacon of hope and an example even in the face of the crises that have stormed the Church sapping her of her moral authority. Today, one can ask Biya of Cameroon, Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Mugabe of Zimbabwe and the other Octogenarians to follow the example of Pope Benedict XVI and leave power before power leaves them.

Pope Benedict has thought hard about this for a long time and so the question becomes why did he choose to relay his decision on Monday 11 Feb. 2013? The coincidences are just too many and all give us a clue. First, the Catholic Church celebrates February as a Marian month. In fact, it was on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes that the Holy Father made the announcement. On this day, the Church celebrates World day of the Sick. And all of these at the time the Church is celebrating the year of the Faith.

The Pope has discerned that this is God’s will for him and the Church. Like Mary, the Pope is not doing his will but rather God’s will. The Pope’s decision is intimately Marian in character.

The Pope is well aware of the signs of the times and he mentions this in his announcement saying: However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith…What better gift could the Pope give to the Church in this year of the faith than to step down and make way for one with a younger mind? Like Alfred Lord Tennyson expresses in his poem:  The Old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfills himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

There is no doubt that Pope Benedict would have been emboldened to take this decision from the experience of his predecessor. The last forty days of John Paul II were days of tremendous suffering as John Paul II shuttled between the Gemelli hospital and his residence until he finally passed on. That this had a toll on the administration of the Church at the time is anyone’s guess.

Even then, John Paul II died like many of his predecessors. There is no denying it that the administration of the Church suffered at this time. In the face of the visible suffering, then Cardinal Ratzinger said, “The example of a suffering Pope is very important. It is another way of preaching that suffering can be beautiful when we share it with the Lord.” It is fitting then that Pope Benedict XVI who does not cite health reasons as necessitating  his decision, relinquishes power on this world day of the sick.
Let us take consolation in the words of Pope John Paul II: Be Not Afraid. May we not be afraid for as the prophet Jeremiah reminds us of Yahweh’s promise, “I will give you pastors after my own heart who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jer.3:15). May the words of Christ Himself when he commissioned the first Pope Peter enlighten us: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against you,” (Mtt.16:18) “for I am with you always to the end of time.” (Mtt.28:20)

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