Watching the Premiership – 28th February 2010
‘When two elephants meet, it is only the grass that suffers.’
Last week I wrote about the big game of Primary 5&6 verses Primary 7. As it happens, though it was undoubtedly overshadowed by this preceding spectacle, there was another big football match that day between Arsenal and Liverpool. Due to the time difference it was on here late at night and I went with the games master Henry across the road, the road being the main highway in Uganda that runs all the way from Kampala to Nairobi, to the local bar to watch it.
Calling it the local bar is a very loose description of what is a vending machine and a man’s front door. This he puts a table across and from what would be his front room he sells pub stuff; beers and crisps and nuts, along with bread, toilet roll, kerosene and an assortment of other things he thinks might look like sensible purchases after a few wiragis (potent local vodka). There are a few plastic chairs outside on what is loosely his front porch which are usually occupied by the same old faces, blind drunk and chuckling endlessly at what they call the ‘drag racing.’ In layman’s terms this is watching heavy cargo Lorries struggle painfully slowly to conquer the incline on the road outside the bar. The owner, James, is a nice quiet man who once refused to sell me a bottle of water because he had only just put it in the fridge. I was parched and pleaded that I did not mind it being warm but he would not budge failing to see the irony when I described how if he did not sell it to me I would have to walk home, boil a kettle of tap water and drink it boiling hot as tea, so that was exactly what I had to do.
It was a quiet place and I was not expecting much, indeed I had watched a game there the weekend before and there had been about ten people in his living room watching it. However I had failed to comprehend the difference between a tedious Tottenham fixture and one between Arsenal and Liverpool, the two most supported clubs in Uganda along with Manchester united. The place was packed. In fact James was televising three different games. One in his front room, one in a small corrugated iron extension out the front and then the big game was being played in a long, thin, dark, smelly cave of a room between his house and his neighbours.
The door is so small and thin that even I have to stoop and suck in to squeeze through and our welcoming party was the total blackness of a moonless night. The measly light of the television screen battled gallantly against suppressive darkness but despite the desperate attempts of this lighthouse, navigation was nigh on impossible. The floor was so uneven and litterer with treacherous rocks, which protruded antisocially out of the mud surface, that even the most lunatic and foolhardy of seamen would not chance passage by night. Stumbling through you see that from front to the back there are benches haphazardly set up and an easy hundred people are crammed in like eager, excited cattle. The atmosphere is palpable. The darkness is alive with screams and movement as people could neither sit still nor contain their excitement. Flickering, the lighthouse casts shadows into the sea of moving bodies and from minute one it was obvious that a storm was brewing.
As for the game I couldn’t tell you, Arsenal won but the screen was so small and far away and I did not have my glasses so I barely caught any of it. Late in the game a result came up on screen and Louis Saha whipped up the wind and the sea erupted. Everton had beaten Chelsea and from the trough of the storm waves the lighthouse became invisible. I was enveloped and drowned in screams and yelps of delight of a pitch only achievable by 12 year old schoolgirls and elated African football fans. When the crowd flowed out, the rippling corrugated iron of the roof and walls was all that was left. In the half light of the fatigued Lighthouse it resembled the cold hard sand of a long flat beach. Left behind at low tide as a fossilised replica of the waves that had once lapped above it. I too left but with the same resolve as the tide, that I too would flow back come next game and high water.
Originally on the Rockslane Website: http://www.rockslane.co.uk/Uganda/rockslaneuganda.html