“Football can kill you, will kill you real, a real death, you will die because of football.”
These words, uttered by then-Baroka head coach Kgoloko Thobejane, have become infamous in the South African game, used almost every week across social media to point out the vagaries of the game we so love, and how they can stab you in the heart without even the slightest provocation.
These words can be applied across the globe to coaches or supporters tortured by the fate of their respective clubs, and the downturns that come out of nowhere.
Imagine, just as an example, being a Liverpool fan right now.
Juergen Klopp’s red machine were the envy of the rest of England, having won a Uefa Champions League and an English Premier League in successive seasons, and were top of the table again at Christmas.
Out of pretty much nowhere, however, has come an ignominious collapse, including the almost totally unheard of run of six defeats in a row at their Anfield home in the English top-flight.
There are mitigating factors, yes, like injuries to Virgil Van Dijk and Jordan Henderson, but this is still a calamity out of proportion with the apparent problem.
As a Chelsea supporter, I was in a similar state earlier in the season, as Frank Lampard’s era came grinding to an ignominious, defeat-ridden end.
It was even more heartbreaking, even more of a real death, to borrow from Thobejane, that Lampard is one of Chelsea’s all-time greatest players, but who was clearly struggling to get the best out of the current Blues squad.
Fast forward a few weeks, and courtesy of a rediscovered defensive dynamism under Thomas Tuchel, that have brought wins at Tottenham, Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, and all is much more light-hearted in the Blues camp.
Of course, at some point it will come crashing down again, especially at Chelsea, where an implosion appears to always be around almost every corner.
I guess the point is that you should enjoy any success your club has, as much as possible, because a disaster-class is waiting inevitably in the wings.
Even Manchester City, who look certain to win the league this season, found themselves second best at home to Manchester United in a Sunday surprise.
On the DStv Premiership front, it is Kaizer Chiefs fans who seem to be dying metaphorically almost every week.
If Amakhosi suffer the ignominy of losing for the second time this season to their former head coach Ernst Middendorp tomorrow, it will simply be another punch to the solar-plexus for Chiefs supporters in a disastrous 2020/21 campaign.
The only solace they can really take right now is probably that it will turn around, if not this season then next, if not next season then the one after that.
Or maybe it won’t – that’s the true horror, I suppose – that once your team slumps, it may never get better, and you reach your deathbed with only distant memories of a once great era.
Try and find more important things to worry about, they will tell you, focus on what you can control. But those who are not football fans just don’t get it.
To use another quote, this time from former Liverpool head coach Bill Shankly: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”