Yesterday I attended an African Cup of Nations qualifier football (soccer) game, Kenya vs Guinea-Bissau. It was great, and only 800 Kshs! (100 Kshs is about 1 CAD). I had expected it to be more like a game at home than in Ghana, but was pleasantly surprised. There was a group of fans that danced and sang the whole time and the crowd was so into the game they were calling the shots with hand signals to change the players, etc. We made many friends: Some guy asking where I’ve been all this time, Kyle getting invited to join the (drunk) dancing crowd that barely saw any of the game, and later Andreas was surrounded with drums and people urging him to dance too. They both kindly refused.
I know people say women are emotional, but if you’ve ever been to a game here you would know men are too. They love the players one moment and are extremely disappointed and shamed the next. I guess that is what happens when Kenya had the ball most of the game, and in the other end most of the game, and missed almost every opportunity. The crowd said they need a mzungu (aka. person of foreign descent) and so we assumed, as is the norm when that word is used, that they were talking about us. We must have looked so perplexed wondering what we did this time (we had just been sitting there) because someone translated that they had said, “Kenya needed a white football coach.”
A major surprise – barbed wire and a gate surrounding the track (where Kenya’s stars train) and the football field. I went with some international and local friends from UN Habitat and WFP, and throughout the game we came to understand the need for the barbed wire fence. When the crowd is mad at the referee, or the coach for not changing the player, or the player does something the crowd thinks is unforgivable, plastic drinking bottles from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Fanta (you name it) are hurled down from the crowd, half the time landing on the people who’s agony has driven them to the fence where they yell and act like a child with a temper-tantrum. On the other hand, when rejoicing over a score, everyone not only jumps up to celebrate but half the people run out of their seats (which are designated on a long cement block by paint – only so comfortable…) and run to the fence (they would go straight onto the field if they could) or run the length of the field in pure utter bliss dancing with whoever they run into.
We had barely left the glorious game (in the last minutes Kenya scored the winning goal) of 2:1, and I had been down in the front, looking back just in time to see the player shoot and the crowd erupt around me. So very overwhelming! I managed to relocate my group and we wiggled our way out of the sheer fiesta that was the stadium.
Outside there were these HUGE birds that looked like a cross between a vulture and pelican. They were so big, and their wingspan was enormous. I pointed them out to the guys, and took a photo. We continued on our way and then I got blessed with the largest and smelliest luck that’s ever landed on me. Yes, that’s right, one of those ginormous birds dropped a bomb right onto my neck and shoulder. Thank the heavens I was not looking up! I was laughing (because what else can you do?) and so was everyone else. I had it on my hand too, for my initial reaction, given the slight rain that had started, was to wipe off the rain drop, which in fact, turned out not to be, a rain drop.
I walked on a bit further, a million questions of what to do running through my mind, but the smell was making my stomach churn. I manged singlehandedly to get a napkin out from my purse and then, because I could not see it, I turned to my friends asking for help. They laughed, and then in a tone approaching desperation I asked again, looking at each of them, “Won’t someone please help me?” With the internationals laughing still (in their defense they later said, “It was just so big!” and laughed again) one of their Kenyan friends, whom I had just met that day, wiped the excrement off for me as passers by said “Welcome to Kenya.” So thankful! Now I just had to deal with the soiled hand and dread the bus ride back to my accommodation where I was certain I would be hearing “mzungu” and seeing people hold their noses closed with their fingers.
However, it rained A LOT and perhaps I was lucky because by the time we got to the bus, my shirt and skin looked relatively clean. This was said to me in comfort but the knowledge that this disgusting-ness was now diluted throughout my shirt did not serve that purpose. Needless to say, it was a long cold ride back with a long warm shower and some laundry ahead of me.
Hopefully the omen is true, and I will have the best luck of my life this week.