Big Up from Aribinda

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tunisie vs Burkina

This blog was written 27 September

On a little prefatory note, a villager (a really nice older gentleman who I talk to every once in a while) stopped me to tell me he looks forward to when Barack Obama will be president. That really made me feel great. Not only do the vast majority (probably around 95%) of PCVs back Barack, most Africans who have expressed their opinions do as well. He cited a 46% to 40% gap. Given his view and the way he told me about percentages leading up to October, I think Africa is ready to have a son in the White House. I just hope Americans make the right choice this time…

Round 1 of African qualifying may be done now. Burkina was placed in a 4 team group with Burundi, The Seychelles, and Tunisia. The most formidable, definitely, was Tunisia. One day sitting in Dori at Yaneth’s place (I think in May), I was listening to BBC Sports. They gave the cast and said Burkina came back from a 1-0 deficit to beat Tunisia 2-1 in Tunis. That piqued my curiosity. I started wondering how the national team was doing.

The top team advances to Round 2 of qualifying. In some cases, the second place team advances as well. Teams that go to Round 2 are vying for a spot in the African Cup of Nations. If they do well enough (win a group in Round 2), they get to go the the Africa Cup and the World Cup, the greatest sporting event on earth.

Then, all of a sudden, Burkina’s 4-0. Tunisia’s coming to Ouaga to play in Stade 4 Août, then the Stallions (Burkina’s mascot) have to finish the home-and-home and go to Bujumbura, Burundi to round out the six game set.

Bryan tells me the game’s Saturday night. I was excited. A group of us were going on vacation to Benin and Togo, so why not start the vacation a little early by going to an all-African match. The crew took off to meet at Erica’s place. We also got to see Kim’s place as well. They’re both 3rd year volunteers working through Peace Corps with Catholic Relief Services. Then we went to the stadium.

I knew security was relatively lax, even though Burkinabé police force were there in force, some dressed in partial riot gear. Security allows anyone to walk to the gates, better yet, to the doors leading directly to the seats. This leads to a confused, potential blow-up atmosphere… and it’s great for pickpockets. I took my camera and put-on an air of being ready for anything, à la Luke Skywalker. But like that famous young Jedi, I couldn’t yet control the force. I had my camera in-hand with the wrist strap engaged, quite sure that was a good place. It was. Nothing happened to my camera. But, before we hit the fracas, replete with a shit ton of pickpockets, I didn’t switch my camera case to my Velcro cargo pocket. Doh! Somebody just snagged my camera case!... and I didn’t even feel it, imagine that! I tried to help Kelly and Melissa get through the scrum. Melissa got through quickly, then the line bunched up and we got pushed back.

I thought to myself, once more, organized chaos, sometimes Africa at its finest. The cop had had enough. One crazed fan at the head of the column was trying to force the clogged gate. The cop pulled his long flexible baton, you know, the ones that have a several-inches steel weight in the end covered by rubber. I watched the cop start to crack this dude in the back. The guy was getting whipped and he looked at the cop with this injured look like, “Man, why you hitting me?!” My first instinct was to pull my camera and take some pictures, maybe some video. However, I didn’t want my camera to become “fair game” in all the mayhem. We got through shortly thereafter, Kelly and I shoving our way along until it was our turn. The over-zealous ticket takers (come to think of it now, that was a hard job!) didn’t give me my ticket stub. Kelly lost her shoe in the process. I asked a security guard to look for it and Melissa came away with her friend’s shoe, the guy who found it demanding 10 francs. I forgot to mention that shortly after getting through the gate, still in limbo, some guy fell down and grabbed my left Velcro pocket on the outside. My money and phone were in there. So, I smacked the guy and popped his hand off my pocket. Someone had already stolen their fare share from me. Then we got to our seats and we found out David’s phone got jacked. Poor guy, he sat through the match ticked that someone had ripped off his phone.

We watched a game that was mostly played in Burkina’s forward strike, the Tunisian goal keeper made a few good saves. Nothing spectacular. Burkina definitely played a more aggressive game in the front, had a good few crosses and some OK corners, but nothing ever happened. The game ended 0-0, to our favor. We were then 4-0-1 and when Tunisia didn’t get the win, it was like a win for us. The atmosphere was great. The band never stopped playing, the crowd was into it, all the colors. The Burinabé two stripe flying by the FIFA flag, and African flag, and the Tunisian red with crescent flying all in a line. It was different from American sporting events I guess. More disorganized, I don’t know about more fanfare, but definitely lots of fanaticism in an African fashion. The scrum was interesting to witness, barring none of us got injured or displaced. Africans of all persuasion were there. Our 1000 franc seats got filled up, so we had to go to the 500 franc seats. All the better, we were sitting with the vrai African crowd. Just makes me want to go to more international matches on the pitch.

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