The town was painted in three colors: red, yellow and black. On the printed shirts, flags, and on the faces of the young and the children on the streets, the colors of Uganda prepare the country for the greatest moment in the last 30 years: a chance for the national soccer team to advance and dispute the AfCon (African Cup of Nations).

Wearing a t-shirt for Brazil I arrived at the Nelson Mandela stadium at noon. The deafening sound of the vuvuzelas, mixed with whistles and shouts of support for the players– and, sometimes for some politician, such as President  Museveni – made the stadium rumble. The beautiful image of the bleachers, the excitement and the union of the country were printed on the faces of the fans, while the lawn was still empty: the game was only scheduled to start in five hours.

On the cement bench, squeezed among other fans, three Brazilians watched the same soccer fever as the soccer country. On the big screen, a message subtly pushed the players to the victory over the team from Kenya: “We have been waiting for this moment for over 30 years”. The talks of most of the fans expressed the certainty of a victory and the classification of the team. The party in the stadium could be compared to the finals of the world cup having the host country as the favorite team.

However, all that energy has a cost. Sitting in front of us was a common citizen. Surrounded by friends, he expresses in gestures and attitudes a major social problem still quite present in the region. From time to time, people move around the bleachers looking for the increasingly scarce empty spaces to watch the game. From times to times, one of those people was a female, and then the problem arose and spread out.

Daylight did not prevent his hands from exploring the breast and buttocks of the girls passing by. Neither did his friends, not even those who escorted those women say a word. If they do, they smile and greet the offender with a handshake and a smile. The women, who could not react due to social pressures, lowered their heads or expressed in their eyes a faint displeasure. Around us, nobody seems to bother about the violations of somebody’s body. Except for the three of us.

A major slap on the head of the guy was not enough. Maybe the booze, the excitement or, unfortunately, maybe ignorance regarding the severity of the offense, emptied the effects of our manifestations. Our friendship ended there. We no longer had anything to do regarding the attitudes of the guy and we no longer expected anything from him. And much less from the others around him, who did not do anything and, as a consequence, reasserted the attitude of inequality and disrespect.

The colors slowly began to lose their brightness and when the game finally began we had already lost a major part of our energy. Obviously, the “show” on the field also contributed to it. A few minutes and dozens of yawns later, it was clear why they waited for thirty years: the players barely knew what to do, and both the ball and the fans suffered.

By chance, I was fasting that day. It was the most important day in the Jewish calendar, and I decided to keep the tradition, even if out of context. I prepared a snack to break the fast, but I was stopped at the entrance to the bleachers because plastic bottles were not allowed inside the stadium. With a broken heart – and the certainty that I was going to feel ill – I left my bottle outside and got in. I saw hundreds of people in the forbidden area carrying bottles similar to mine. I asked them how they managed to go by with the bottle: “Ah, you just have to pay the police officer... 1000 shillings (the equivalent to some cents)”.

At the end of the game, with the expected 0X0 score, two things were quite clear: 1) the reason for the plastic bottle prohibition. They were flying everywhere, hitting the field, the policemen and whoever was in their way; 2) the intensity of an ever present corruption. If every bottle there was brought in as a result of bribing one or more police officers, millions of shillings and thousands of illegal deals were conducted, not quite behind somebody’s back.

9/17/2013 04:41:05 pm

That is some inspirational stuff. Thanks for the beautiful blog.


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