CAPE TOWN - I am but a product of my past. And, so, as I tackle the present, or contemplate the future, the past takes each and every step with me.
It’s in everything I love, everything I do and, more importantly, it shapes and colours my identity. When I cook (something I really enjoy), you will find my late mother’s techniques and predilections. When I passionately support a sports team, it, too, has been navigated and inspired by my past. Hence, Liverpool, Brazil, the West Indies and All Blacks.
They provided succour and encouragement back then - and they all continue to burn as brightly within my being today. A dashing Sadio Mane run or an incisive pass from Georginio Wijnaldum evokes echoes of Kenny Dalglish and Terry McDermott.
Every time Brazil take to the field, I am thrust down the passage of time, to the thrills provided by Garrincha, Socrates and Zico.
Despite the West Indies' current struggles, they remain just as inextricably chained to my life, in the form of vivid memories of Sir Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Joel Garner.
But the most endearing attachment to my past will always be my unashamed obsession with the All Blacks. In an era in which there was little hope for a young kid growing up in a strange country that made no sense, the All Blacks were a source of promise and optimism. In the rugby they played then, and the rugby they continue to play today, there is magic, there is passion, there is a sense that, despite the circumstances, whatever the situation, there is a way out.
And, so, after yet another All Blacks victory at the weekend, in a really special game of rugby in which Australia played their part in a fantastic spectacle, it stirred the ghosts of the past that always surround me. The aura and mystery of the black jersey that inspired this kid way back are still as strong and fervent as ever. It’s a passion I will take to my grave.
It’s in the flamboyant Bryan Williams; it’s in the freedom, the verve and gusto of Mark Shaw, Michael Jones, Murray Mexted, Josh Kronfeld and the incomparable Zinzan Brooke; it’s in the mischievous craft of Sean Fitzpatrick, the insight and intelligence of Frank Bunce and the searing speed of John Kirwan. I could go on forever
But, much as I am still glued to my emotion and zeal for these sporting teams, there is more than a hint of melancholy to the fixation.
It reveals so much of what still deeply afflicts the progress of this country. In the same way the past continues to steer my present, so, too, as a nation, we cannot unshackle ourselves from our history. There’s a piece of the past in everything we do.
In F Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal novel The Great Gatsby, he concludes with the words: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” It’s almost instinctive, this bond we have with the demon of yesterday that continues to stride relentlessly alongside us - and so it blurs the path in our journey to the destination.
And, while often such recollections, like those of the All Blacks, unspool with joy and satisfaction, the overall price of these memories is the sorrow they bring.