Thursday, February 4, 2010

Benjani move confirmed (and a history lesson thrown in for nothing)

As expected, Benjani's loan move to Sunderland has finally been completed.

With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, it probably save to say that we've seen him in a City shirt for the final time. And although the 'Offside Smiler' had very few admirers, I for one, will miss him.

You know those players that may not be the best on the park, but you still have an affinity with them? Benjani's mine.

Whilst not brilliant talented by any stretch, Benjani is the antagonist in some of my favourite moments as a City fan.

Benjani's debut was the Munich Memorial derby on February 10, 2008. I had arrived back in Sydney the day before from my first trip to England, and tired and still a little jet-lagged, fronted up to one of the first decent Sydney Blues screenings. Having just observed first-hand some poor football in the week prior... I thought we'd get pummeled.

Something about that day was magical, from start to finish. The sun blazing down on Vermin Towers after two weeks of cold and drizzle. The impeccably observed minutes' silence. Deadly Darius' goal on the second attempt. And then... Benjani's shoulder. With the exception of Bellamy third goal at the swamp earlier this season, I have never celebrated a goal as enthusiastically as that. An amazing day and an amazing team performance, without big names such as Elano. Probably our best win since the 4-3 over Spurs in the FA Cup.

Then later in the year, another overseas journey saw myself and Blue Roo land in Schalke in City's first proper Euro away day in many a year. I had stayed overnight in Hong Kong the day before (or maybe two days, who the hell knows with the time difference), and originally planned to fly straight to Manchester before the Derby on the Sunday. However when the UEFA Cup fixtures were released I decided to add Germany to the itinerary. To get to the Veltins in time, I flew direct to Heathrow, changed planes, and then on to Dusseldorf, before a train to Gelsenkirchen. I can't begin to comprehend the amount hours spent travelling or time zones crossed. After a few beers in the Square, I was ruined.

The game itself was a complete blur. But we won, courtesy of goals to Benjani and Stephen Ireland (and even that goal Benjani had a hand in). My first, and only City win was in the Veltins.

And Benjani even managed to score in my favourite away game attended, nodding in the opener in a 1-1 draw against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Benjani is up there with my favourite ever City players, holding weight with such names as Shaun Goater, Danny Tiatto, and Carlos Tevez. I'll miss his finger-pointing goal celebration, his shocking first-touch, and his clapping when caught offside for the sixth time in the half.

I'll keep possession of his shirt with pride. All the best Benji, the one who comes from Zimbabwe and scores on Derby Day.

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