CAPE TOWN – I believe in omens. There are times when, like it or not, somehow or other, the stars are simply aligned and you can’t stop what’s coming.
It’s happened to me before - in 2005 (more about that later) - and I think I’m getting that same feeling in my bones again. Can it be? Let’s hope so.
The year 1984 was a tumultuous and defining time, both in South Africa and across the world. Ronald Reagan occupied that famous big seat in the White House; the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated; the Soviet Union boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles; PW Botha was the president of South Africa: the country was burning, awash with demonstrations and uprisings.
I started my first year as a student at the Univeristy of the Western Cape, that veritable bastion of political defiance; the mellifluous voice of Marvin Gaye was silenced when he was shot by his father; “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen released that seminal album, titled Born in the USA; and the comedy drama Terms of Endearment won the Oscar for Best Picture.
In football, France won Euro 84 after defeating Spain 2-0 in the final; Diego Maradona left Barcelona to join Napoli in Italy; Kaizer Chiefs were the champions of the NPSL and Lightbody’s Santos were crowned kings of the FPL.
And, importantly, to get to the thrust of this column, in 1984 Liverpool won the European Cup when they beat Roma 4-2 on penalties.
For this life-long, long-suffering Liverpool follower, the memory of that match is still so vivid, as it featured so many of the stars that made me so passionate about the club all those years ago: Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Sammy Lee, Craig Johnston, Ronnie Whelan, Ian Rush, Phil Neal, Mark Lawrenson and, of course, that incomparable Zimbabwean-born goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar.
Now, in 2018, we have Liverpool v Roma again - in the semi-final of the Champions League. Is it the sign, a harbinger of Liverpool marching to yet another final?
Back in 2005, this column was named “Bolla’s Beat” (after my football-playing nickname), and I remember writing about the Champions League final of that year between Liverpool and AC Milan.
The match was played in Istanbul, Turkey, a city that has such an historic connection to the civilisation of mankind. Centuries ago, Istanbul was known as Byzantium, the empire which was critical to the development of trade, culture and politics in western Europe. Later, it would become known as Constantinople and, of course, its present name is Istanbul.
But, in Byzantium, at that time, there was the Oracle of Delphi, to whom the Greeks would go to for advice, words of wisdom, or just to get an insight into future events.
Because of the historic significance of the 2005 final venue (Istanbul), perhaps, I mused at the time, the stars had aligned and Liverpool were destined for Champions League glory.
It was, I said, tongue-in-cheek, the prediction of the Oracle. It turned out that way - spectacularly - as the Anfield club fought back from 3-0 down, levelled at 3-3, thanks to the inspirational Steven Gerrard, and they won the game on penalties.
And, if you remember Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek’s famous “spaghetti legs” routine in the shoot-out, also bear in mind that the tactic was first used by Grobbelaar in the 1984 final shoot-out against Roma.
The similarities are astounding.
The 2018 final will be played in Kiev, Ukraine, another famous ancient city, which, all those centuries ago, was a vital trade route between Scandinavia and Byzantium. See the connection? Now I’m not Nostradamus - but it looks like the stars are aligning.
It’s Liverpool v Roma in a European match again, Istanbul and Kiev, Dudek and Grobbelaar and penalty shoot-outs. Are Liverpool to beat Roma to get to Kiev? Is it an omen for another famous Liverpool success in the Champions League?
I don’t know - but, if the Oracle of Delphi was around, what would she say?