I am not much of a sports fan. However, if it involves hanging out with friends, yelling and screaming for no reason and witnessing a different culture- I’m all in! That’s how this football game came about (which is technically soccer).
It’s typical Bamako Sunday afternoon- which means sunshine, lots of people milling around, and dust. My friends and I were invited by a taxi driver friend to join him for a soccer match- the two Mali teams were playing.
We gathered around 3 in the afternoon, making sure to sport our friends team color of red. There were 5 of us total, so as we hailed a taxi we divided into two groups- following the Malian law of no more than 4 passengers. My taxi consisted of Ed (my boyfriend), Carolina (my Brazilian room mate) and I. As always, the taxi was a little run down, and that led to no worries. However, when we were about halfway there- the clutch broke on our taxi and we stalled in the middle of Bamako traffic. Needing to get off the main road, the driver hopped out and started pushing. Not moving forward, Ed hopped out as well, and together the two of them were able to steer our taxi to the side road.
Pushing the taxi! GO go GO!
We decided to catch another taxi- to ensure that we would not miss the start of the game. Arriving at the stadium 10 minutes later it was a sea of red and white (the two teams). We purchased our tickets from a man on the street for 1000cfa ($2) an pushed through the crowds to enter the stadium.
As we moved through the passages, we passed vendors selling all sorts of game-day food: carrots, bananas, crackers, soda, tea and water. No beer. No hot dogs. There was also a variety of paraphernalia such as whistles, movie posters, keychains made of leather- and well, basically anything that people might want to buy.
Eating some oranges at the game. Healthy, huh?
We found some seats and I looked around. We are the only white people. We are only a few of the women (not selling things). As the time drew closer to the start of the game, drum circles started beating, and people started getting in the “game” mode. There was no pep band. No cheerleaders. Just Malians and their soccer players.
The game started promptly at 4:30. There was no national anthem. There was no starting announcements. All of the sudden, players were on the field and a ball was being kicked- high and long. I dont know much about football (soccer) but I am aware that ball control and keeping it ON the field are two important aspects. Apparently in Mali it’s different. the goal is kick the ball as high in the air as possible. My Brazilian roomie went “I am from Brazil, I know football, this is NOT football”. I think she still had a good time though.
Check out the obvious middle line!
The score was 0-0 for the whole game. I was getting tired and thinking this was fun, but I want food. In the last second, however, the red team scored a goal! The crowds went CRAZY! We jumped up and down cheering, then our taxi-driver friend looked at us and said “lets get out of here”. We quickly dodged into the aisle (where the overflow seating took place) and started pushing through the crowd to make an exit. As we were going several Malians made sure we made it out safe. As we exited the stadium we were told that it was a good thing, because people were going to start throwing stuff, and it was not really safe. GOOD THING!
My roomies and I in our red!