I was born at Portland Hospital in London on 2 March 1996. That same day, Chelsea – the nearest football club to where I was born – drew 1-1 to Wimbledon en route to finishing 11th in the Premier League. Exactly eight months later, they picked up a shock 2-1 win over Manchester United. That season, they finished sixth.
Chelsea’s star was already on the rise back then. (I’d like to think my birth had something to do with it.) In my first season as a supporter, 2004-05, they picked up their first Premier League title in 50 years. This campaign, they look well on course to pick up their fifth title in 13 seasons. Manchester United sit sixth on the log, while Wimbledon (as they were known back then) no longer exist.
On the other side of the world, Bafana Bafana won the Africa Cup of Nations. A year earlier, the Springboks had won the Rugby World Cup. All seemed promising for the “rainbow nation”, who were just two years into democracy under the leadership of struggle hero Nelson Mandela.
Now, the Springboks sit sixth in the World Rugby rankings – behind Scotland – while Bafana sit 62nd (13th in Africa) in the FIFA version. The economy is struggling under President Jacob Zuma, and country remains arguably the most unequal in the world.
At least the Proteas have remained consistently rubbish in major cricket tournaments. That year, they made the quarter-finals of the World Cup. In 2015, the most recent tournament, they crashed out in the semis. Despite being one of the superpowers of the cricketing world, they remain without a World Cup to their name.
It was in South Africa that I began to watch and play sport. After moving to the country at the end of 2001, I started at Bridge House School the following year. In 2004, I took up cricket and never looked back from there.
I could hardly think of a better country in which to begin a career as a sports journalist. Sport carries tremendous political power in this country, given its history of segregation and sporting boycotts. However, one day, I intend to move back to England and bring everything right back to where it all began.
The day I go to work at Stamford Bridge will the day I can truly say “This is it. I’ve actually made it.”