Sunday, 9 September 2007

Oyee! Oyee! Uganda Cranes Oyee!


Uganda are now within touching distant of a place at Ghana '08 after beating Niger 3-1 at the Mandela National Stadium yesterday. Over 40000 people made the trip and the vast numbers of traders outside the ground ensured everyone was well equipped with team shirts, flags, whistles, hats, face paint and horns (I will try and get some photos up tomorrow). The match itself began in a surreal manner with Uganda awarded a soft penalty by the Zimbabwean referee in the first minute, which David Obua from Kaizer Chiefs converted. My first thought was that the game has been rigged, especially as the slow tempo felt more like a friendly game. However, an equaliser just before half-time silenced the crowd and it was not until the 75th minute that Uganda went back in front, Obua heading home for his second. The star man then completed his hat-trick with a superb free-kick.

Uganda should have won by more, a fact they may live to regret as qualification will almost certainly come down to goal difference. This was a fact not lost on the many MP's watching the game, with the tannoy announcer periodically telling the crowd during the game that 'so and so MP from Kampala has offered 500,000 shillings to the next goalscorer', as if the players would try that extra little bit harder! We also had the sight of Uganda's biggest tycoon, Michael Ezra, regally sitting on the running track between the stands and the pitch, surrounded by 15 white tracksuit clad bodyguards, one of which held a large parasol over him for the entirety. I imagine Obua will be receiving a large gift from him. The President will also give a reception to the team today.

The journey back into town last night was incredible. With the roads totally gridlocked and everyone dancing and singing on the pavements it was like a carnival. To get back in town in time for the England game, my Canadian friend and I took a 'boda-boda' (motorcycle taxi) which must have been a very amusing sight for the locals - two six foot plus mzungu (white men) dressed in Ugandan shirts weaving through the traffic at high speed. We were helped though by inadvertently joining the parliamentary speaker's motorcade, his driver on the other hand being less than impressed that a boda-boda was getting between him and the police outriders. In town the party atmosphere continued and I expect Kampala was suffering from a collective hangover more serious than usual this morning. It is richly deserved.


P.S. I should add that the title of this post is a popular football song. The national team takes the nickname 'Cranes' from the large, stork-like birds that inhabit the capital.

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