JIRVAS GWANZURA IN LUTON, ENGLAND
ABOUT four months ago, the multi-racial Luton Town allowed its people’s hearts to beat as the home of diversity turned into one enormous sea-wave of sunset colours on the day of celebration and after.
The Luton sunset colours that usually symbolise an end to something major was not to be the case this time as Luton Town Football Club birthed a new chapter.
Many were worried about the size of the club’s stadium and some made mention of their feeble financial muscle in beefing up the squad as they readied to compete with the big boys in the world’s best football league.
Luton has had plans for many years of building a new stadium and this made many believe this dream was going to be accelerated by the promotion. Again this his was not to be, as the team and its fans set off to endure the experience of the English Premier League in the most humble of football settings.
I have both deliberately and spontaneously engaged in many conversations with football fans and most were very worried about Luton being among the very best. Indeed the journey in the top-flight took off with turbulence, but there are positives to derive from their performances so far.
I remember pundits from one of the most watched programmes in the United Kingdom, Match Of The Day, saying that Luton has to learn how to survive the new challenge and they have to do so really fast. I felt my affection hindered facts and the reality of the new experience, but conversing with different people made me realise I was alone.
As I always do with one of my most trusted, well-versed fellow Zimbabweans, who is also a super researched football and music fanatic, Tinashe ‘’Tsanoz’’ Ndudzo, I realised that my sentiments are not a farfetched dream.
The usually reserved Manchester United fan made mention that Luton Town have the ability to adjust and burst in form at any given time. He noted several newcomers who experienced the same torment early in the season and later found in them the tenacity to bounce back to push for survival.
He even said that he will not rule out relegation and again managed to squeeze positivity from that possible outcome.
Ndudzo explained that the way Luton is built is not for flair but a unit that if it falls it rises again. With passion oozing out of his soft but intense tone, he further explained that Luton will return to the Premier League if ever it was to fall short this time and will improve the club’s financial status.
My job role also allows me to work with different people from different backgrounds who become family through the Luton Council’s impartation of unity.
From this I have also engaged in interesting conversations with a passionate Luton Town fan of Kenyan background. Isaac Brown made it a point that he gave me his history with the club from both sides of his family.
Without pronouncing it verbally, it was absolutely clear that he takes pride in the fact that he started supporting the club from when he was merely three years of age.
Isaac confidently declared that Luton will stay up as he feels the team is getting used to the new challenge. It is also fair to note that Luton has always had the tendency of heating up when it matters most. This aligned with Isaac’s prediction that Luton will soon adjust.
One weather generous day I left the office for a breather off the computer to capitalise on the vitamin D of the sun that will soon be rare in Luton and the rest of England. I went and sat in the famous St George’s Square where the parade climaxed on the day of celebration with the entire town.
I sat not far from the Luton library and a couple emerged from the direction of the fancied Nando’s. A proud father with his family strolled towards the mall while their son freely ran up and down under the close eye of the father who wore a smiling face as he also kept close to his heavily pregnant wife.
From a distance I sensed his warmth and at that time I was already contemplating penning yet another Luton Town FC piece. Damien Porter noticed what must have been a stare from me and he further stretched the smile, prompting me into braving a conversation with him.
And of course, after finding out about my roots, he was happy to talk about Marvelous Nakamba, the Hatters midfielder from Zimbabwe.
Damien was wearing the Luton Town FC predominantly orange top, and something in me convinced me that I can extract substance from conversing with him about the performances so far. Damien’s smile never faded. As his wife waited with their boy, he explained that what is happening is far from disappointing.
He declared that he was behind the team no matter what happens. He really impressed me when he stated that he is enjoying every moment of it and does not expect more from the Hatters as they have already earned his trust.
He declared that he will continue to attend all matches no matter how far the away matches are. Worried about the patient pregnant wife, I would look at her with a subtle apology of holding up her husband.
She would give a smiling gesture of approval. Damien, before re-engaging with his family, emphasised that he is having a time of his life despite the reflection of the figures of the score-lines of the games so far.
Lastly, I provoked a passionate and husky Richard Mandongwe all the way from Cape Town. The Liverpool fan has an obvious soft spot for Luton Town. He is one of the humble people blessed with the passion to support youths in both sports in music, which aligns with our 263Rise dream. Hence he is a valued contributor to our pieces. Richard shared that Luton Town seem to be struggling.
However, he reported that he believes that the team will get better as they have players capable of doing the job. He further explained that at the moment it is too early as they are accumulating experience which they will definitely use to bounce back.
He also noted that that they currently lack composure, which is resulting in wrong decisions in wrong positions. However, he made sure that I understand that he has faith in them, that the players have a crucial attribute in them, of great ethics.
Luton registered their first point again a 10-man Wolves, a result that elevated them from the base of the league. This is clearly not over and it would be short-sighted to dismiss the Hatters at this juncture.
The Zimbabwean community continue to rally behind the team from a town regarded as home away from home.
*Jirvas Gwanzura has lived in Luton since the early 2000s and regularly contributes to The NewsHawks.