Posted by: keepfishing | April 24, 2008

Football in Africa

OK, so specifically, this is about football in Zanzibar. I can’t speak for the whole of Africa, but the title sounds grander that way.

Zanzibar is a rather unique place. Its people are a largely a mix of Arab, Indian and African descent who’s men, when it comes to football, are intensely passionate about the English Premiership, almost invariably supporting one of the big 4 (Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool – so far I’ve met one Newcastle fan and spotted a whole 3 Aston Villa knock-off shirts). The passion is ageless – this morning I had to jump out the way of a 3 year old running down the street practicing step-overs with an orange – and their relative affiliations apparently baseless, but once chosen the flame of passion has been lit. You can buy a knock-off shirt from almost any shop in town (not unlike the markets of the Med), and every evening, the kids will play football on the beach by the port until the incoming tide engulfs their goal. Particularly amusing are the fierce arguments in Swahelli where the only words you can understand are “Premiership’ , ‘Champions League’ and ‘Ronaldo’.

Last night it was the first leg of the Champions League semi-final between Liverpool and Chelsea and we (a grand mix of British and Zanzibarian, with a couple of Swiss and a bemused Swede) gathered inside the Old Fort for some open air action on the big screen, beamed all the way from India. Discussion throughout the night was surprisingly knowledgable – the Zanzibarians knew a bit about the circus that is Liverpool’s ownership, and one guy was able to reel off all of Nicolas Anelka’s previous clubs, and for some reason knew that Wigan was in Lancashire.

And then Liverpool scored, and half the crowd leaped and danced like small children. The Wigan knower leaped onto a table near the screen and addressed the crowed with various taunts. And then the second half went on. The man wearing a Chelsea shirt and scarf got increasingly frustrated and about put his fist through the table when Kalou missed a good chance, much to the delight of everyone else.

And then in the last minute, as Riise chickened out of using his weaker foot and sent a diving header into the roof of the net to level the scores, pandemonium ensued. Half the Chelsea ‘fans’ were actually Arsenal fans sore about going out to Liverpool in the last round, but it didn’t stop them laughing directly in the faces of the others, who looked like they were about to cry – especially Wigan man.

Tonight is Man Utd vs Barcelona…we’ll see if there’s actually any Barca fans in town (Edit: apparently they were, but the game was so boring that everyone fell asleep.)

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