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Hi I’m Stew And I’m An Arsenal Fan

So. That’s how it feels to lose a football match. I was in danger of forgetting so I suppose I should be grateful that the wide kaleidoscope of human emotions has been restored to me. Or at least one dark painful part of the spectrum. We oughtn’t to be surprised and I certainly shan’t dwell, enough breasts have been beaten since Tuesday. The simple equation which we learned as children that all which rises must just as surely descend is all the lesson we need draw. Instead I find myself in reflective mood. I suppose counting one’s blessings in moments of adversity might sum up the thought process.

newton

Those of us who have travelled the rocky road of addiction and abuse are all too familiar with the downside of our habituation. It is a familiar tale and one with which the unaffiliated should also be tolerably well acquainted. The inevitable decline, the adverse impact upon the close friends and family of the addict, the erosion of all the better human traits such as fidelity, honesty, reliability and trustworthiness are a story well told. What people reflect less on is of course the positive side, the joys of the life. The ability to shrug off a despairing guilt ridden midweek hangover with the promise of a big session on the coming weekend, being an obvious example. The way a mundane nine to five every day existence can be infused with anticipation. I refer to the simple anticipation of going home and getting trollied at the end of it. Don’t knock it  – it’s all that sustains some people. But no, we prefer to focus on the downside.

It is certainly true that while my every waking thought was not taken up with drinking, that would make any kind of functioning existence impossible, just about any undertaking requiring my participation was envisaged through the prism of the alcoholic. ‘Yes I’d like to go but will there be a bar? If not will it be acceptable to bring drink with me. If so would wine be suitable? It’s three for a tenner in Sainsbury’s right now, but would three suffice for the duration of the event? Or would the trousering of a few discreet hip flasks be more the thing? Will I need to drive? If so can I stay overnight or is there anyone available to drive me back?’ And on and on. And this applied as much to an evening at a friend’s house as to a child’s school sports day. The thing becomes all consuming.

We might also consider the company I chose to keep. This is, I’ve since discovered, a universal trait. The trick is that in order to maintain the delusion of normality in an obsessive one track lifestyle utterly twisted and distorted so that every decision is in some way informed by your addiction, you need to similarly distort the surroundings in which you live out your crazy existence. How do you do this? You envelop yourself with like minded people. Simple when you think about it. If everyone around you reinforces and reflects your behaviour then within that little bubble you can feel normal. An unspoken siege mentality would naturally form within your closed community. Deep suspicion of anyone who wasn’t as serious about their drinking as you and your buddies would be underpinned by a plethora of dubious quotations viz; never trust anyone who doesn’t drink, I drink to make other people more interesting, I am drunk today madam, and tomorrow I shall be sober but you will still be ugly, I cook with wine – sometimes I even add it to the food, Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, I feel bad for people who don’t drink; when they wake up in the morning that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day, and on and on. The purpose of this is to at once belittle and demonize those who do not behave as you choose to and strengthen the camaraderie between those who do. At all times you must cast your scorn outwards and thereby avoid ever looking at yourself and seeing what others must see.

the-godfather

Of course I am one of the lucky ones. Like the Mafia it isn’t an easy life to leave but I got out and at the moment I’m still out. I am now entirely free of the kind of errant behaviour I used to think of as usual or at least conventional. There is no part of my life now that in any way resembles that which I have above described.  Of course not. Why would I go through the trauma of quitting smoking, illegal and prescription drug abuse and ending the obsessive metabolising of ethanol just to replace it with similar behaviour, albeit a stimulant free one?

On a totally unrelated topic a friend took me up on the offer of a favour recently. Just yesterday in fact. I’ve been waiting for him to say when would be best for him and his family for me to come round and help them out. He has suggested a Saturday. Straight away I started to race through the possibilities of going around and getting the job done by two thirty pm so I could be back by three. Or if I needed to be home by twelve thirty then maybe I could persuade him mid afternoon would be the best time. Of course it might be I need to be home by five thirty or should I just say any Saturday is out unless we convene later in the evening. Or not. Because of course I might be completely free that Saturday. It could be Sunday where I can’t do a simple favour for a friend without it seeming paralysingly difficult or his entire family having to fit in with an arbitrary schedule to suit me and over which I have no control.

I’m also planning a week away, just my wife and myself. Saturday to Saturday is the plan she fancies. We’ll have next to no internet connection, no pubs nearby and no television. Which is part of the appeal. A lovely distraction free restful break. Unless I can persuade her that Monday to Friday would be better.  And I might need to pop home on the Wednesday or Tuesday night. But then I’ll just say I want to check on the kids. Or the house. Or something.

At least I can go on twitter or a blog and chat to people who would understand my dilemma. You see, just about all of the people I talk to these days understand the nightmare of fitting everyday life around the simple and understandable and above all commonplace hobby of fanatically supporting your football team. There are some who think we’re a bit odd, take things a bit too far but we just make up funny sounding names for such apostates and all agree that they are the weirdos and not us. I never trust anyone who doesn’t like football. Or who does but doesn’t like Arsenal. Or who likes Arsenal but not as much or in the same way as me and my friends do.

I’m so glad I got clean. Living a normal life is so much less stressful.

Thanks for letting me share. Who’s next?

 

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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77 comments on “Hi I’m Stew And I’m An Arsenal Fan

  1. Evening BAMA
    I don’t think MEL is the type to do naps. Strikes me as the party hunter type. Lol. More power to him. Hope over to LA Mel. I’ll treat you to dinner. By the way BAMA ,645 AM ain’t to bad. Us poor shmucks on the west coast gota get our selves over to the pub around 5 AM which means getting up around fourish. You should see the faces that early in the morning. Lol. I should tape it one of these days.
    I love collage football. So much passion and emotions involved. I’ll pull for the VOLS this weekend, just for you. Good luck.

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  2. Now I see why you ignored my crimson tide comment way back when you came here. Lol.
    So sorry hun. No insult intended. God bless.

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  3. No harm there, GK. I pull for Bama most of the time…when they’re not playing the Vols. I’ve lived here longer now than I lived in Tennessee, plus I married into a Bama family (which almost killed my die-hard Vols fan uncle). But I still have to support my Vols when they go head to head. Appreciate the extra help from you on Saturday cause we are going to need it!

    I am amazed at you West Coasters. 7 am is bad enough, when it’s a 3:00 pm KO. 4:45 is just brutal! Almost not worth going to bed…

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  4. Almost not worth going to bed. Bingo.. That’s how we role on the west coast baby.
    Take care yourself and again, best o luck..
    C O Y G
    WOJO/ FABIANSKI
    JENKS SACKER TV MONREAL
    MIKEL AARON
    OZI
    TOMAS SANTI
    OG

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  5. I suppose I’m closer to Mickey Finn, but happily half the time my work is a little like play (and real work, the kind that is discomforting, gets on my nerves anyway), and my play is like time away, and there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. Plus I smoke. On Sundays I cook. Me, addicted to Arsenal! Ha ha ha. No, honestly, I can give it up anytime, really. I enjoy it. If I had to I could give it up. (Little voice in head: ya, sure, keep telling yourself if it makes you feel better). It’s called Gunners for Life, a blessing.

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  6. With apologies for the length. This is interesting. In depth with Cesc. Read on.

    Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to Cesc Fábregas station?

    Haha! Which station is it again? Crouch Hill? Not far from where I lived, then: Hampstead and before that Barnet and Enfield. I did see the footballers tube map; what I didn’t understand at first was why they’d done it. It’s nice to think I made a mark. I’ve always felt very welcome; there’s a lot of affection, especially from Arsenal fans. I think they even understood me when I left. There was no rancour, no bitterness. They understood that I’d given everything for eight years, that I reached a point where I felt I couldn’t give any more, and that I left for personal reasons: to go home, to be with my family, to play for my club, the one I’d been at as a kid. It was important for me to leave the right way.

    Going back was an obvious choice, the easy option … Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of your debut for Arsenal; you were only 16. That must have been hard.

    Actually, it was more difficult coming back to Barcelona at 24 than it was going to London at 16. Much more. People said I took the easy option: “Ah, he’s going to play with Messi, he’s going to win.” But I think I took the difficult option: I have to work twice as hard to win a place. I’ve always been very independent, never afraid of challenges and I had nothing to lose when I first went to London: I was playing in Barcelona’s youth system, in the Juvenil B, and although Barça valued me, Gerard [Piqué] and Leo [Messi] had been promoted to Juvenil A while I stayed in the Juvenil B. Arsenal offered me the chance to train with the first team, to learn English, experience another culture, another football. And I went so determined to enjoy it and learn from it that it was exciting rather than frightening. Arsenal are a fascinating club. They give you everything. It’s a family, it really is. The fans support you unconditionally, too. I couldn’t have gone to a better place.

    Would you go back?

    Arsenal is in my heart and always will be. I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to go back and play there one day, or maybe after football. It’s a club that is always going to be there and will always open its doors to me. The club’s like a family so even if it wasn’t as a coach, I’m sure they’d give me the chance to play a role. Sol [Campbell] is there now. Arsenal help a lot with the formation of coaches. [Dennis] Bergkamp also went there two, three times a week when he was doing his coaching badges. In that sense it’s a lovely club and there might be the chance to do something with them.

    As a player, did you learn things at Arsenal that you wouldn’t have at Barcelona?

    I can’t be sure of that but, look, what I do know is that at 16 I was training with Thierry Henry and Bergkamp, [Robert] Pires and [Patrick] Vieira. I’d played 50 games at 17; at 18, I’d played in a Champions League final; at 21, a European Championship final; two years later, a World Cup final. It accelerated everything. If I’d stayed at Barcelona, I’d have got there slower. It made me a more complete player in every sense. Giving me my debut when I was only 16 years old. When I was 18 they sold Vieira so that they could put me into the side. They told me to my face, they gave me responsibilities. They made me captain when I was 21 … so many things that made me feel very special in that team.

    The style suited you?

    In terms of the style, Arsenal’s is perhapsthe team closest to Barcelona: passing, a lot of touches. Barcelona are unique and I had to relearn some concepts when I returned, but in the last few years we [Arsenal] played the most attractive football [in England], entertaining the fans. People enjoy watching them and I’m proud of that. People say: “OK, they haven’t won anything but, wow, I’d pay money again to see these boys play.” There are other teams that have won more – and I’m not naming names – but when they win people say: “Well they’ve won but that’s all.” I’ll always have that thorn in my side, though, that sadness. I wish I’d gone with a title.

    Why didn’t Arsenal win?

    It’s difficult … it’s difficult … it’s difficult… [There’s a long pause]. I don’t know … There are lots of things; there was always something. I remember, for example, the season Eduardo had that terrible injury. That impacted upon everyone and from there we started to drop. We were competing with Manchester United right until the end but we couldn’t hang on. We’ve always been there or thereabouts but we’ve always had dips. You’re up there fighting, someone gets injured, or this happens or that, or you hear that someone wants to leave … I don’t know…

    Was there some kind of mental block?

    In the end, it was a mental thing, yes. Eduardo gets injured and you lose the Carling Cup final to Birmingham, who then were relegated, and you lose it the way we lost it … Imagine it! It’s hard to come back, especially when you’re young. The manager gave a lot of freedom to the young players, which is why they are so good, why they play so well, because he doesn’t overload them with pressure. But when things like that happen, it’s difficult.

    Should the manager have demanded greater responsibility, then? Should Arsène Wenger have been more interventionist?

    No, it’s not that. But when everyone is so young it is difficult to find someone who stands up and says: “Come on!” Also, because we were such a young team, there was always a sense of “next time”, another chance. The fans kept singing and supporting too, which is great, but … If I play badly I want complaints. No one wants to be whistled but I wanted that pressure, those demands. We often had team meetings and they helped, we made sense of things, but the experience was missing. We suffered because of that. Now I think they’ve found a good balance. They have people there who have a lot of experience like [Per] Mertesacker and Mikel [Arteta] and [Lukas] Podolski.

    Could Arsenal’s time have arrived at last?

    I really hope so. They’ve started very well. They look very strong; let’s see how they last. In the Premier League you can be going well and then you lose two games and you slip away quickly. It’s very sudden. A lot gets decided over Christmas: the team that hangs in there best, that can resist the best, will take the title.

    Could Mathieu Flamini make a significant difference?

    Yes, I think so, I really do. Arsenal have players who play very well, whose movement is good, who play a different game to Milan and Mathieu interprets that very well. He understands the role of a central midfielder and he runs something like 13km every match, an incredible amount. I’m happy [he’s back].

    What do you make of the Mesut Özil signing?

    Spectacular. If you have the chance to sign Özil, you can’t let it pass you by. He fits Arsenal perfectly. It doesn’t matter if you already have seven or eight players with a similar style, because they’ll understand each other perfectly. [Jack] Wilshere sees football the same way, [Aaron] Ramsey, [Santi] Cazorla, [Tomas] Rosicky … The only player who’s maybe different is [Theo]Walcott, but you also need that type of player because it is true that at the end of a move, after that pass, pass, pass, you need a Pedro: someone who will get behind the opposition, who gives depth, stretches the attacks, and seeks out the space. You need a Walcott or a [Robin] Van Persie, whose movement is incredible.

    Does it hurt to see Van Persie at United?

    I wouldn’t say “hurt” …

    But do you think: “Arsenal could have been so good”?

    He always had bad luck with injuries. I don’t think I was able to enjoy a whole uninterrupted season with him. When I left he had an incredible season, scoring 30, 35 goals. If only we had always had him right because it would have helped us.

    Can Özil provide some of those goals?

    I think he’s going to enjoy it enormously. He’s the man who has to make the difference in the final third. His last pass is brilliant, he’ll get more space and with space he kills you. He’s going to score more goals himself because of that space. There’s no one better than him for that mediapunta role. In England opponents follow you, but if a player comes out to you it is easier to play a quick one-two and go beyond him into space. In a tactical-defensive sense, it is much more calculated in Spain; it’s harder to score goals than in England.

    Yet the assumption is that the Premier League is harder than La Liga …

    It’s complicated, because the English league is more difficult to win but on an individual level it is much, much easier to shine in England. I always thought English football was the best to watch because there are more goals, more chances, more excitement. But now I understand why there are more goals and more chances: it’s much more crazy, out of control, everyone attacking, pouring forward …

    Why?

    The crowd plays a part. The crowd roar and the full-back bombs forward and then the other full-back goes forward and the crowd noise gets louder and louder. Sometimes in England it feels like you don’t have time to think, but that’s more a mental question; it’s more about your own aggressive intuition, the atmosphere. It motivates you but it means you lose control. In Spain, teams work much more on shape; they’re more tactical, more positional. If I see a game in England – I don’t miss any of Arsenal’s games – I enjoy it. As a spectacle there’s nothing better. English football has it’s things but it also has a lot, a lot, of virtues.

    Was it easy for you?

    I wouldn’t say that. But if we’re talking about someone like Özil, it’s a question of space. A Spanish-style footballer, like [David] Silva or Özil, if they can find two seconds to think, will see the pass because there’ll be space. You see players like Silva in England and you think: “Bloody hell, how good is he!” A second, space, and there’s the pass. In Spain, you’re up against a Mario Suárez or a Gabi [both at Atlético Madrid] and what a pain they are! In Spain, reducing space is worked on more. In England, it’s fast but you can find that space if you are a good player.

    Xabi Alonso told the Guardian that tackling is not a defining quality to aspire to. Jack Wilshere said that tackling is a key ingredient in the English game that must never be lost. Do those two positions – manifestos, even – sum up the difference?

    I can see both sides. I think Xabi’s not dismissing tackling but referring to it as a last resort. That’s how we tend to see it in Spain: defenders don’t swallow the dummies as quickly. In England the attacker goes, ping! and the defender dives in quickly, flying by, wheeee! In Spain the defender stays on his feet longer. As for Jack, I think he’s talking about how the English love to see defenders fly into tackles. They love that! You do that and the supporters get right behind you and it intimidates the opposition. But there’s a player who’s played in both leagues and does that better than anyone: [Javier] Mascherano. Masche always dives in and he always comes away with the ball. He uses it a lot but not as a last resort, rather as a specialty. For him it’s a recurso [something you have to resort to] and a cualidad [a quality, something to aspire to]. Masche is incredible, very clever: he knows when to tackle, when to stand. He’s a guy who really knows how to play football.

    How good can Ramsey and Wilshere be?

    As good as they want. They have quality on the ball and they have the physical attributes. Ramsey’s stamina is spectacular. He and Flamini are the strongest I’ve ever seen, covering the ground. Wilshere is a bit different to the typical English player. He’s not a [Steven] Gerrard or a [Frank] Lampard, he’s more of a short passer, a “tocador”; a player of association. Ramsey is one of those that you look at and think: “He doesn’t stand out in any specific quality, but he does everything, everything, well.” His touch is good, his movement’s good, now he’s scoring goals too, providing assists. He’s a kid who as a team player is a beast. Above all, he now has the confidence, responsibility.

    Do you see a bit of yourself in him?

    Sometimes I look back and I think about being captain, about the responsibility I had, and I wonder: how did someone like Ramsey look at me? I watch the way Ramsey is playing now, how he looks so liberated, and I think maybe I blocked his way. Maybe I was an obstacle. Sometimes you need someone to leave for you to step forward and say: “I’m here.” I’m saying that about Ramsey just as an example, by the way, because the poor kid had the injury too – I could say the same for Jack. It’s the concept I’m talking about, the idea of stepping up. That mental unblocking is so important. Both of them have a brilliant future.

    With Manchester United struggling, is this a unique opportunity for Arsenal to finally win the league?

    Haha! With Manchester there is always talk about a dip … a dip, a dip, the end’s coming, it’s over … and they always end up right up there. You can’t trust them. Ten years ago I arrived in England and for 10 years I’ve wondered, for 10 years people have said: “Look out, this year Manchester might collapse.” But it never happens. That’s one battle I gave up on long ago. Whenever anyone says to me: “Manchester won’t be the same this year,” I say: “No, no, no, Manchester will be up there for sure.”

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  7. Cesc should just fuck off

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  8. I am not happy with cesc… no matter how much he says arsenal are in his heart, he should have put his money or in this case his playing time where his mouth is!

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  9. Sorry chaps I have to disagree. Cesc is a star. I would love to see him come back.

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  10. Agree with Georgaki here. Have no ill feelings toward cesc whatsoevr and would be happy to have him back should he come – which wont actually happen I think, but nonetheless he’d be welcomed from this small corner

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  11. that i am not happy with him does not mean i would be offended if he came back… just that i feel the team is not set up to cope without him so its not now he should come in cos he wasn’t here when he was needed most…

    obviously he would always constitute a quality addition to any team and especially one that would not take much to acclimatize

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  12. whoops… that should read

    the team is NOW set up to cope without him

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  13. I thought it was a decent interview and an interesting read – Cesc has always been a bright footballer who thinks about the game and the world and expresses himself well.

    I dont bear the player any ill will as any time he pulled in an Arsenal shirt that I can ever remember he put his heart into the game and was was great talent

    Returning though ? Coming back ? I don’t really think so – I have an aversion to resigning players who have, after fair deliberation and no shortage of efforts on our side to keep them, departed.

    Once the link it shattered it cannot really be put together again.

    I admit it would be difficult to see him trotting out in a Manyoo or Citeh shirt – I would however quickly get over it

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  14. @ anicoll5

    Yeah i think that essentially mirrors my point… there was much effort to keep him then, and the team really really needed him then too. He really longed to play under PEP. Maybe he knew he would only be there for one season? who knows? was it so worth it in the general scheme of things?

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  15. Yah. What COLL said and TEAM SPIRIT mirrored is more or less how I feel. He gave us eight good years and I have no I’ll feelings but we have moved on and so should he. Follow that DNA son and don’t go to any of our closest rivals or there will be I’ll feeling. Meanwhile, what GEORGE said..

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  16. I hope mr HYDROcodine 13 is feeling well today.

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  17. Morning GK & Kelly, afternoon everyone else, Hunter your cookies in the post-good luck with the lump on your Gregory,I know George has had a bit of trouble in that area as well,still got those bolts either side George?

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  18. True dat… Hows H13 doing… pls keep us posted on developments

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  19. Cesc
    Never go to another English club, and give is a handy back-heel pass the next time we play Barça. That’s all I ask and we can can it closure.

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  20. Arsenal are Cesc’s back up prom date. In case things don’t work out with the new girl, he’d like to keep his options open. I’m that friend that wasn’t around when Arsenal were with Cesc, so I have no sentimental attachment, but I’d tell Arsenal to move on. Maybe you can be friends with him later on, but not right now. Thanks, but no thanks.

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  21. well well, what do you know. Looks like AW himself would welcome back the barka boy back with open arms. I don’t know what to say to that really.
    And who is nobody Gareth crook sticking his head up and talking bullshivik. AW isn’t arguing against fighting racism. Just don’t mix politics with sport. And that goes double for religion.
    Ffs.
    COYG…. DO US PROUD.. TOTAL FOOTBALL
    . YAH BABY….

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  22. Where is FRANK ffs. I swear I’m gona start using the Emily faces if he don’t show up. Lol.

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  23. That’s smiley faces.. 😉

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  24. seven hours to go.. S••• , that makes it 430 am my time. God almighty.
    Lets hope a good game and a win is the end result. Addicted??? naaaaa

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  25. There’s a part 2 of the same interview in the Guardian, in which it becomes clear, also reading between the lines that Cesc is not returning to EPL, this will not happen, and the ManU nonsense was transfer media drivel; the offer was made to Darren Dein and never even considered. It seems possible Cesc would return to Arsenal in his later playing years, if that ever came about, but his entire focus is cementing his place at Barcelona. Looking beyond the sentimental with Arsenal fans, and the story unfolds with more clarity. Try thinking of Cesc another way, as an Arsenal fan, like us.

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  26. Poor Tim Roth. One of my favorite actors. Respect. He has to play Sep Bladder in a movie. I think Depardo got the better end. He plays Jules Rimes.
    Should be funny movie.

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  27. When some of these guys left ZIM , they took a piece of our hearts with them.
    And they broke AW’s. Not everything is about more money and more glory.
    The roads less traveled of loyalty and integrity and work for a noble cause are just
    As worthy causes. Good morning by and by.
    Do you agree with my picked team.?

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