Africa and the beautiful game | Blog

Africa and the beautiful gameYou will always find a boda boda in Kampala. No matter if it is Christmas, bad weather or four ‘o clock at night: you can’t fail to find one of these famous motorcycle taxis. Unless Manchester United is playing.

On days like that the streets are empty, with bikes parked next to the countless cafe’s or ‘video halls’ that show the match. Football fans are thronging the bars, sometimes standing outside peeping at a spot a dozen meters away where a television screen is visible between hundreds of fans lucky enough to get inside.

On home soil

Football mania is once again sweeping through Africa. But it isn’t like it was two years ago, during that historic event of a World Cup played on African soil. Despite doubts and many prejudices of European critics and British tabloids, ‘South Africa 2010’ turned out to be a great event.

Vuvuzela made its way into dictionaries worldwide, and for most fans it was an experience never to forget. My first day was fantastic. A cousin of the family that hosted me drove me around the famous township of Soweto, dragged me into a shabeen (semi-illegal pub) where we drank a few, then dodged every single police barricade to drop me off right in front of the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.

Truly, it was never to be forgotten. I found South Africa completely different from the rest of the continent, but still totally African. Despite several warnings I realized that they mean it if people say Sowetan homes can be freezing cold in June. It was literally below zero in my room, but the constant victories of the team I supported made up for all that. Later I enjoyed the Durban beaches and the landscape and wildlife of the greater Cape Town area before heading back to ‘Jozi.’ Everything was perfect, except the outcome of the World Cup final as Holland was beaten by Spain...

Supporting the British

There is one thing I fail to understand. I agree that the level of the British Premier League is much higher than local football games. Yet I think it is unfortunate to see thousands gear up to watch ‘Man-U’ in an overcrowded cafe but to count less than twenty spectators during a game in Uganda’s ‘Super League,’ usually played on a pitch that isn’t mowed. If local football is not supported, how can a national team grow? It can’t only rely on players who are making big money in Europe, I suppose.

During the Champions League final Kampala came to a stand-still. Although it was Bayern Munich against Chelsea it was interpreted as a classic ‘Germany versus England’ match. Everyone here supported Chelsea that eventually won thanks to Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba. It once again amazed me that when it comes to football, support for the former colonial master is still extremely strong.

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