I was recently asked 5 Questions by the Africa is a Country blog on my experience of media consumption in Moçambique and South Africa.
The Chappas from Central Maputo to Estadio Machava takes half an hour and costs the same as a loaf of bread. There were no barricades in Maputo on Sunday. All roads led to the Futebol.
It was difficult to detect the unease of recent days as expectant supporters cracked open bottles of "Doshem'', ripped into tetra pak cartons of cheap red wine and exchanged predictions. This was not a day for the usual colonial replica shirt. No Benfica. No Porto. No Sporting. You had to be wearing the Mambas red, and you especially meant business if your scarf or shirt was wrapped around your head.
My mini bus was bursting as it passed the monumental Mac Mahon brewery, home of the 2M, the "Doshem". City blocks gave way to cabbage fields. Palm trees waved in the distance. It could have been a scene from "The Thin Red Line" were it not for the sight of four floodlight pylons. We were now immersed in a red sea of supporters, not even Moses could part, but the Chappas found a way.
What was it the man said, "Porque Goshem de futebol". He forgot to add they also like their chicken. The barnyard creature was being crucified overroaring charcoal fires in fields all around the stadium. Coolers crammed with cervejas provided perfect pre match company. The women of Mozambique certainly understood the business of football.
No far flung cordons or corporate hospitality tents. Police cadets made sure no missiles or AK47s were taken inside the stadium. It was organic and organized.
The crowd were calibrated for celebration, but after the initial exchanges it was also clear they possessed a collective connoisseurship of the game. Yes, they loved magic football, and there were great roars for every twist and turn, flick and trick, but more interestingly, the "ohhs'' and "ahhs" were in time with the ebb and flow of the game. There were no flashing of cameras or waving at the cameras. The crowd was actually watching the match! This was not your Barclays Premier League or FIFA World Cup were real fans are marginalized or increasingly used as props. The stadium was full with supporters, not corporate sponsors or day trippers.
Mambas supporters had their own props. A wiry character with a cigarette in one hand and a dried, very dead Mamba in the other, waltzed around the stadium. Occasionally he placed the cigarette in the eye socket of the snake and lifted it high to encourage the team. The dead reptile would have been turned into a ten thousand dollar handbag in another country, but not here in Mozambique.
A military brass band blew out a few tunes. Some cadets sang like Welsh miners. Nearby, a few dozen Libyan fanatics waved green flags. It was almost half time. They knew the game plan. Libya had come the for the classic away draw.
Halftime was more memorable as the ball-girls took it upon themselves to have a kick around. A girl in blue shorts was chipping shots in the top corner for fun. I have been to pitches up and down this country. Mozambique women can play! The toilets were not classic 'Art Deco' as you find in much in Maputo, but functional for half time relief.
Would the Mambas make a substitution? The crowd wanted one. Mozambique turned in a flat first half performance, and though defensively inclined, it was Libya who created the best chance of the half. Kampango, Mozambique's ''Flying Warthog", earning his keep, despite much mocking from the crowd.
Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Or was it a lumpy Mambas supporter in his kit limbering up as close to the pitch as the police would allow? He had holes in his socks, but no hole in his heart, and was going through all the proper substitute stretches androutines. His sidekick waved a flag like a proper linesman to attract the attention of the ref.
The second half saw some minor commotion in the stands. A supporter was forced flatto the concrete. His offence was not clear, perhaps he was caught trying a cheeky transition from the cheap seats. A section of crowd took great umbrage to this and the officer sensing he was outnumbered straightened up his collar. The lad was now being dragged up the steps for a early bath. Section12 began agitating again. And then in a moment of pure common sense (possibly with the recent riots fresh in the mind) the officer found the offender a new vantage point and issued a stern verbal warning.
The Libyan No. 23 was not so lucky. At about the same time he was getting a yellow card for time wasting. Another offender was Mbinho, Mambas' No. 9. His crimewas a pair of shocking pink boots. He could not score in the Beira Moulin Rouge.
A bearded, pregnant, transvestite in a yellow leotard and wearing a Diego Lugano style, blond wig appeared in injury time to rally the crowd. Domingues went wide.Domingues went inside. But wherever the Mambas No. 7 went he had two Libyan bodyguards.When the final whistle blew the Libyans collapsed in exhaustion, all praises were issued, and auspicious celebrations began.
This would be the last time the Mambas would play at Estadio Machava. An impressivenew Chinese built national stadium will be ready on the other side of town for the next home fixture.
I watched the final hour of daylight disappear from a busy intersection as buses and coachesdeparted for various districts of Maputo and to the provinces. The Xai Xai charabangwas packed beyond Guinness Book proportions. Meantime, hard core supporters were engaged in some stout exercises of their own, consuming Pretas in the friendly ale shacks dotted all along the side of the road.
I could not squeeze in a Chappas for love, nor money. I even tried to hitch a ride with Libyan team bus, but it wasn't going my way. The Libyans had their digital devices rolling inJapanese tourist mode. There was no police escort or if there was it was stuck behind half a dozen Chappas. A Toyota pick up truck loaded with about 50 Mambas supporters snaked alongside the Libyans. All sorts of funny, gruesome gesticulations were made. I thinkthe idea was to send the Libyans back to Tripoli as eunuchs. It was classic gest, and theLibyan players were clearly enjoying the banter.
I finally dived headfirst into a Chappas and made back it to town for some prawnsand a nice ice cold Preta at Milanos, the Lebanese spot with the cheapest pizza in town. I was nursing my night with a Johnny Walker Black when four Mambas materialized with their FINE lady friends. Soon enough a bucket of the finest champagne arrived at their table. Ferroviaros' Jeremias "Jerry" Sitoe was wearing his bright yellow official away from the 2010 CAN in Angola. He was No. 23, in case you needed any reminding. Edson Sitoe or "Mexer" of Sporting Olhanese was rocking his red NY Yankees cap. He had business and was in and out. The brother was cool and collected. The type who didn't need to prepare to pass his 'Blood' initiation in East New York. Costa do Sol's Josemar Machiasse was representing and I think it was Carlos "Carlitos" Chimimole of current Mocambola league leaders, the most merciful of Maputo clubs, Liga Muculmana de Maputo, who rounded up the posse. I choose not to interview the players. They were off duty. They were relaxed. They were quiet and enjoying some decompression time. And they were just sipping. But YO...C'MON NOW...Save the champagne for when you have issued a serious beat down. Maybe they didn't check Facebook for updates on how to act out on the street.
Rumours persists through the now usual sources of SMS and Facebook for more Manifesticoes or riots in Maputo. The rumours proved largely unfounded during the weekend. The tension seems to have eased, though Tuesday is a national holiday commemorating the Lusaka Accords. Who knows what today will bring. It is cool and cloudy and the Chappas are moving, so trouble is unlikely, but one never knows what time "they" may schedule a Kick Off.
Last night a post mortem took place on TV M, Mozambique state television. Four football commentators and the host were gathered to grill, Mambas head coach, Dutchman, Mart Moolj. I have seen Moolj give press conferences. He speaks some pigeon Portuguese, but here he fielded questions in English. Two of the correspondents spoke English, the other two had their questions translated by the host. It was ridiculous. Moolj was slippery, and Sven like. One can only wonder what gets lost in translation during training. Why so many African nations persist with dour, defensively minded, grey haired European characters to run their national teams is a continental disgrace.
Maybe the Mozambique Football Federation should set up their own Facebook page to hear from supporters. I would join that Facebook Group. I would set up a page promoting the firing of that Dutch fella and replace him Maria Taju, the Mozambique woman's football coach. I would also draft in that girl in the blue shorts to help Mbinho with his shooting.
(This is a third of a series of on the ground reports I have posted from Maputo since the beginning of the Revolta Popular sparked by the increased in the price of bread. I will be posting here again in advance and after the Mozambique versus Libya African Nations qualifier.)
Angela is mopping the again floor at Milanos. The Revolta Popular appears to have ran its course. A closer inspection reveals although most folk want to believe it is over..."more or less", they say. The reality maybe somewhat different.
Angela made it to work, but many others have not. Some shops are open, but many are not. The schools are closed. The roads are not congested. A few Chappas (mini buses) work their regular routes. Spacious rides with extra leg room today.
I traversed as much of the city as I could in the past five hours. What I mean by "the city" is that which makes the cut on most of the tourist maps of Maputo, not including the predictably safe Embassy area of Sommerchield and the more exclusive Polana district, save for a visit to Maputo Central Hospital and the Josina Machel Secondary School. Here is what I heard and saw and felt from folks along the way.
The hospital is busy, but it is not a scene. In the space of fifteen minutes, I saw three different women on crutches with fresh plaster casts on their lower legs. My enquiries suggested they had each been caught up in the trouble.
The hospital also allowed me the time to be a tourist again. The Department de Cinecologia e Obstretretrica proving the busiest and most beautiful scene of all. Located in a grand "Art Deco" building that in any other city, save for Mogadishu, would have been turned into high priced Condos or a Boutique Hotel, the department provides a grand first glimpse of the world for many of Maputo's children. Outside expectant fathers paced up and down. Other family members of the family sat on flattened cardboard. Mothers, sisters and aunts, all there to provide support. Uncles and nephews leaned up against their cars ready to take the newest member of the family home. The man selling fried eggs in the Coca Cola shack across the street was doing good business (as was the farm from where the eggs came in Swaziland).
Some shoe sales were back on. Maputo's sidewalks offer the finest range of ladies shoes I have seen anywhere. Mozambique women here class, but that is all other story. My visit to the Josina Machel Secondary School was two fold. Yes, the school was closed, but how many buses and chappas would be congregating at Rua dos Lusidas, a bus terminus and makeshift Chappas space? I had only a seen two Chappas all morning, when normally the streets would be swimming in them. Museo to Benfica and Museo to Malhazine, both half empty. Rua dos Lusidas would usually be a good place to find a Papaya or maybe a back issue of The Economist, but no sales today. The 23 Maferdene via Jardim pulled out with a handful of passengers. Only 3 Chappas were parked up.
I ran into Belmira, a lady who had been working at a fancy hotel since Wednesday morning. She had been trapped and was enjoying the chance to promenade down the Avenida en route to being picked up by her "'unreliable brother"'. We chatted about the birds and bees, annoying and overweight South Africans, the existence of God and the Revolta Popular. Belmira provided the first clue that all may not be as "esta calmo" as folks earlier had wanted me to believe. She knew of an SMS that was promising a return to hostilities at Noon. Soon enough, I met her unreliable brother. Good cat. I told him I wanted to marry his sister and he promised to blow my brains out! A few of his boys were in toe and I hooked up with them for a spin around town. They were disappointed that Friday night may not be Friday night. They were angry that real grievances were being hijacked by dudes who just want rob folk. Numbers were exchanged. I was promised we would all go out and do a different kind of damage, if the Maputo pitch passed a late inspection.
Once back on foot on Avenida Alberto Luthuli I managed to make the sacred pilgrimage on to the Ferrovarios pitch. Founded in 1924. The team of the railroad workers. The Penarol of Mozambique. It was a magical football moment and reminded me that I did not have the equipment (stolen long ago in South Africa) to provide colour to these reports. If only I could share the sights and sounds of this mind blowing city.
Again, I was a tourist. But not for long. I met a man who was for Desportivo de Maputo. He told me trouble was being promised for 5 pm. I met another woman walking on the street. Was it true there will be trouble again today? Yes, 5 pm, they are saying.
Now I was far from the so called safe areas. And to weight to the rumours I saw two truck loads of heavy set, heavily armed riot police, tear gas canisters up to the gills, heading toward what I can best assume was the Chammanculo area of town. I was then in what they Alta Mae district. Various characters suggested I not keep in the direction I was going. "Problemo", they say. I was then on Avendia da Zambia heading up to Avenida de Angola. Avendia de Angola, nao, they said. I retreated.
And yet again, I was tourist. The Jummid Mosque calling for prayers. I listened and wondered what I would be like if I had diplomatic relations with God. Close by, graffiti called for an end to prostitution. Next, the main Maputo Mercado was the attraction. It was open, but not its bustling self. Maybe two thirds of the shutters were closed. This can probably be best explained by the call to prayers, but I was not sure all of the said vendors were of the muslim faith. I could still find a fantastic piece of Peixe for dinner.
I quickly shuttled down and across to the main Maputo shopping mall. It proved even less accommodating. Most shops were closed. It was now about 1pm, but the Western style Supermercado was half full. They had just closed their shutters. No more customers. They were closing early. If there was going to be trouble, they were not going to have the "Shoprite" experience. The rumours in the mall were that Shoprite (somewhere in Alta Mae) was having troubles. It would explain the convoy of riot police that whizzed past me an hour or so before.
I have omitted to speak of Matola. I suppose you could say the Brooklyn of Maputo. A stand alone city in its own right, but part of the greater metropolis of the capital. Much of the rioting has occurred there in the past two days. Locals I spoke to in the mall said it was as bad in Matola right now as it had been at any time since violence. I cannot verify this.
Who knows? I am back where I started the day. There is the Lebanese place. The Moroccan place. The Portuguese place. The South African place. You get the picture. There is a less than an hour of daylight and who knows what the night will bring. You want to believe "esta calmo"', but the tension suggests maybe "mais problemo".
Finally, I managed to secure a ticket for Sunday's African Nations Qualifier in Maputo. Mozambique are hosting Libya. The tickets were selling at the kiosk outside the old movie theatre on Avenida 25 September. The most expensive tickets were 200 Metacais (little over US$5) and 100 Metacais. There was takers, and I waited my turn. I asked the grey haired vendor if the Revolta Popular Continua...Domingo? ''Futebol nao tem problemo!" Porque, I asked. "Porque gostam de Futebol!"
I will be comparing the price of loaves and goals next.
The official week of mourning for my stolen laptop and with it much work is over.
There are some post World Cup stories to tell. I will try to tell them while I am still a guest here.
I want to thank Damian, Elliot, Greaterman, Moses, and Sydney for their efforts and support. They were hurt and insulted by the theft as much as I was.
South Africa is a giving country. It gave to me thousands of times. An "inside job" by some semi rich kid staying at Madison Flats at 26 Juta Street who fancied a bit extra cash or a laptop upgrade is not going to change my love for the country.
Coming Soon: The Cup Stays Here. It didn't. Why not? And more views from not so famous folks about their continent, their football and their future.
The feeling for Ghana came strong in Bloemfontein, but is even stronger in Johannesburg. I hit the pavements early yesterday and found a man hard at work keeping Johannesburg clean. Amos is with Ghana.
Should Uruguay beat Ghana, Holland could be an potential opponent for La Caleste.
My intrepid self worked my way into the Dutch Training Camp to secure an interview with the Mita the Tea Lady. What's going on with the Dutch?
Another from our OTHER FOOTBALL Gizza Opinion, Gizza Song Supporter Series.
South Africa may be out, but folks in Bloemfontein will never stop singing.
Take it away, Amons.
It had been our intention to avoid an overnight stay in Bloemfontein. Pablo and I had wanted to avoid bumping into English fellas dressed up as St. George or Germans dressed in one of their kinky uniforms. But all the roads pointed to Bloemfontein. We eventually found a low key lodge. Cheap as chips. We checked in and headed to the bar. There were no English or Germans to be found, just twenty local characters inside watching the Argentina Mexico match.
Soon enough, we found ourselves the recipients of a toast.
I was a guest on The Guardian World Cup Daily Podcast with James Richardson a few nights ago. Click on the link above to listen to the show. I join the show after about half an hour.
And for those in Metro Johannesburg area, I will be a guest on the Alex Jay show, 94.7 FM Highveld Stereo in the 11 O'Clock hour tomorrow, Friday, July 2nd. I will be previewing the Uruguay v Ghana match, as well as discussing what I have been doing in South Africa.
The drive from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg was spectacular, though perhaps not as pretty as watching the sun rise over the Transkei from Mtatha the morning before.
There were a couple of unexpected surreal and magic moments on the journey, as seems always to be case on this World Cup South African odyssey.
Pablo and I had given a spin to our first local hitch hiker. A poor farm worker looking to get 10 miles down the road. He helped us translate the Afrikaner radio commentary of the England v Germany match, though he was hard pressed to translate the Lampard goal.
We reached a Wimpy bar near Colesburg just in time for second half, when a car of Uruguayan fanatics jumped out and began singing praises to Uruguay. Turns out they were from Kimberley and had made the long trip down to Port Elizabeth to see Uruguay play. The man on the left is Monwa, leader of the ANC Youth League for the Northern Cape province and now fanatical Uruguayan supporter.
I conducted a great group interview of the five, but deleted it when one of them very alert to the reach of global new media realized he hadn't told his significant other about his football road trip. You know you don't want to be the cause of a brother having to sleep alone, he said as he pleaded with me to delete the interview.
Brazil has it's supporters in Durban. Uruguay has it's followers in Kimberley. What about the South Africans who are feeling Ghana. What they at?
Our friend "Pato" was at it again in Port Elizabeth. More and more South Africans are starting to feel Uruguay. Although the knee jerk reaction of most folks is to cheer for Brazil, there is some serious respect for Uruguay because of the nature of the Beat Down issued to Bafana Bafana.
I ran into my first touts in Port Elizabeth, all working for a Canadian character. The touts had been working on the assumption South Africa could have been involved. They were also pushing tickets for the Uruguay v Ghana match on July 2nd, a fixture that had seemed likely to involve England, hence their glut of supply.
The touts were being were undercut by Mexicans (who had also planned too far ahead) and others who were practically giving tickets away. I met a Uruguayan who had a spare. We donated the ticket to folks from a nearby block of flats who had been enthusiastically for Uruguay. I hope the lady managed to go or at least got something for the ticket.
The atmosphere surrounding the Mandela Stadium was weak. This was a shame, because the community could easily have been more integrated into the occasion. Some of the small shops, places to eat were closed or were inaccessible because of the fences all designed to funnel fans into the stadium. I managed to navigate my way around the cordon to find a knock out Chicken Bunny Chow in side street cafe. It was a shame few other guests of the city were able to share such a tasty pre match meal or talk football with folks on the steps of their homes.
This colourful character suggested Durban folks were only Brazilian for the day. I suspect he underestimated the power of Brand Brazil. Still, it was great to meet a supporter who hasn't bought into the Brazil thing swirling around South Africa at the moment.
North Beaches. South Beaches. All the beaches in Durban were for Brazil.
But why? What is about Brand Brazil South Africans find so attractive? Mum was refreshing. She was reluctant to be Brazil for a day (although when pressed she came close to expressing a little love for Argentina).
Brazil. Brazil. Brazil. Everyone loves Brazil on the beaches of Durban. What is it about Brand Brazil? Why do so many South Africans support Brazil?
No Uruguay fixtures in Durban, but some Uruguayans could not resist the chance to take a dip in the Indian Ocean en route to Port Elizabeth. The locals had not caught up with Uruguay yet, accusing them of being Argentines or Paraguayans.
With Bafana out, I was curious to hear if folks in Durban (often accused of being the Rio de Janerio of South Africa) were inclined to cheer for any other team. The responses were overwhelmingly predictable. Here's the view from the man on the beach.
Meeet Moses and Isaac in Kimberley (not Pretoria as I said on the tape). They suggest politics makes football difficult, but have been pleased with the recent performances of their Warriors. They are looking forward to the next World Cup in Brazil.
Pato's goal prompted a few arrogant and angry Mexican supporters to hurl bottles of Budweiser at the Uruguayan contingent. This unreported old school football aggravation carried on for about 5 minutes into the half time interval.
It came to an end when the other "Pato" (dancing to the Tambor below) was forced to take off his "Pato" head and join the Uruguayan massive with rearguard vocal quacks of support as a bare chested Peñarol posse gave the Mexican morons an off the field football slap down.
Much credit here also to the Elders from Mexico who confronted their own fools and forced them to watch match from some other vantage point during the second half.
Cameras had a assist here also. No one wants to be YouTube hooligan and it's hard to throw a punch when you have a camera in hand.
PS. 20,000 Argentines versus 20,000 Mexicans at Soccer City next Sunday. Waka Waka time? More like Makarapa time!