Zebras 4 Life Roadtrip to Maputo, Mozambique – Second Leg: Maputo and back to Gabs

Maputo Travel Blog

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Stadium

We were woken by a call at 6:30 AM. I had slept like a baby, Johann told me he had considered waking me up for good moments in the Portugal match the night before, but had decided against it…I was thankful for that. We were keen to see how many Batswana would show up for breakfast, given the fact that they had intended to dance and stay long in the night club. To our amazement, the breakfast hall was packed with people dressed in light blue, white and black. We should have been able to guess it: Food makes every Motswana get up. Many had not slept all night. The mood was not the best, because news had come in from the bus that had gone straight to Maputo that they had been attacked by Mozambicans, it seems because they were thought to be South Africans (South Africans had killed several Mozambicans earlier that week in xenophobic attacks).

Queueing

 

Waiting for our bus, we were greeted by a cheerful guy. He told us that he was the one that had lost his passport somewhere on the way in South Africa and had not been allowed to leave South Africa. They had even arranged for a place to stay for him, so we could take him back with us when we returned and then arrange at the South AfricaBotswana border. Turned out he had been smart enough to cross the border illegally. What an idiot! He was proud of himself, but he also knew that he couldn’t come with us to Mozambique.

 

We left rather on time around 8:00 AM. The ride to the border took about 3 hours and was very scenic. Swaziland is very idyllic in its landscape, with its hills and mountains and little villages.

The stadium
The road was quite good most of the time. Our driver was taking his time and we did not mind, since we had enough time to get to the stadium. It became clear quite soon that we were not going to go into Maputo anyway, because a) the Batswana were scared and b) we wouldn’t have time anyway. The drinking continued unabated.

 

We arrived at the border around 11:00. Our Batswana friends entered the border post, beer cans in hand. The Mozambican immigration officers were totally shocked: 150 people, everyone needed to pay 17 Rand (approx. 2 US-$) except Johann and I who needed a visa for 170 Rand. Our visa took a long time, and the collection of the Batswana’s money took even longer. Johann knows some Portuguese so he assisted in solving problems, because the immigration officers did not speak English well. The next problem arose when our bus driver was supposed to pay an entry fee for the bus amounting to 120 US-$...it turned out the manager had not trusted our bus driver and did not give him money for that.

Flags
The manager was in Maputo with the other bus. Johann negotiated a breakthrough when he suggested they leave papers and everything and pay in the evening. Moses, the zebra supporter club president, was asked whether we were carrying alcohol in the bus. Johann looked at Moses, not saying a word. Moses, totally cool, shook his head and said: “No.” The border officer did not control the bus…

 

We got on our way around noon, knowing that we would need another 2 hours to get to Maputo. The game was supposed to start at 3 PM. And we did not have tickets. Moses was by then also becoming nervous and he reduced the amount of wee wee breaks significantly. On our way, it turned out that the driver had no idea, where the stadium was. We entered Maputo, a city of millions, saw the harbour and the skyline, but apart from that just passed many huts, stalls and shacks. For the Batswana it was a similar experience as for us. They were looking on intently, because the poverty was more visible and striking than in Botswana.

Johann and I
A group of Mozambican fans in pickup truck in front of us signalled us to follow them and they really lead us to the stadium. It was in a very poor area, but people were cheering us and showed us that they thought Botswana was going to lose 4:0.

 

We arrived at the stadium around 2:30 PM. It was a fantastic sight: the stadium is lowered into a hill, and we saw thousands and thousands standing in line to get into the stadium. Everything was peaceful and there was not a moment when we felt not safe. We edged our way to a gate, only to be told by the police that the bus should go to a gate on the other side. By then, Mozambicans were dancing around our bus. We made it to the other gate, our bus was admitted and we were subsequently led by the police to the stadium gate. We still did not know how we were going to get tickets. The problem was solved easily: We didn’t need tickets, they simply admitted us. We had a block right at the middle line of the pitch with excellent view. There was no security whatsoever between the Mozambique and Botswana fans: I was sitting beside two Mozambicans, who were drinking Ballantines.

Supporters
The stadium was still filling up when the teams entered the pitch. This was when I noticed that there were soldiers in the stadium with machine guns. Not exactly what I would call a measure to heighten security in a stadium…

 

The game started and the Mozambicans, who had been suspended by FIFA for several matches and did not have much practice of playing together, were better than the zebras: They were quicker and played better passes. Botswana has a great goalkeeper though, so they did not manage to put the ball behind the goal-line. In the first half, a Botswana striker was running alone with the ball towards the goal, but he was becoming slower and slower and the defender was coming on his heels. In the last second the Motswana kicked the ball and hit the goal: 1:0. You should have seen us singing, dancing, shouting and hugging. It was totally unexpected. The Mozambicans even congratulated us!

 

In the second half, Mozambique scored the 1:1 and I thought okay, now this is it.

Security
Botswana will lose this one. But, they managed another goal in the 80th minute or so. Then, the Mozambique fans became angry, but not at us, and started leaving the stadium in masses. I had never seen anything like it. The referee from Swaziland was totally perplexed and at first did not re-start the game until a FIFA guy told him he should. Botswana managed to hold on to the 2:1. Some Mozambicans were throwing water bottles at their bench. We said good-bye to our neighbouring fans and then left the stadium singing and dancing. Coming out of the stadium, we saw that the window of our bus had been smashed. This was bothersome, but nothing had been stolen, so it was not a big deal. You always find idiots at any sports event. It took the police forever to organize a police report and an escort for us, and we only got on our way at around 6:30. Germany was to play its first match at the EURO at 8:45.
Mozambicans leaving
We knew by then that we would never be able to make it in time back to the hotel. We told our bus driver he should hurry up so we could see the second half at least. And he really did! At times it looked like we would be able to make it even in time for parts of the first half. I have no idea how he did it!! But, eventually, he screwed up big time by missing an exit (they were supposed to drop us off at the hotel, and then they would continue to the next Nando’s)…and then missing another one and then heading straight into Mbabane, Swaziland’s capital to go to Nando’s. We were so mad with him, because it really looked like we could have made it. The Nando’s in Mbabane had already closed, so we were losing even more time for nothing. When we arrived at the hotel compound, Johann and I jumped out of the bus and raced to the hotel bar. We arrived when the clock was showing “91:36” and saw 1 minute 24 seconds of the game. Germany won, we had a German beer (Beck’s) and a guy was kind enough to tell us who scored. We waited for the re-run of the highlights and then went to bed, while our friends were feasting and in the go go bar.

 

The next morning, we were supposed leave early, but finally the beer was taking its toll on our friends.

Celebrating
Also, the buses looked so awful (beer, chicken bones over bones) that they needed to be cleaned. Another member of the group had her purse stolen so she needed to go to the police. We were just sitting and waiting…and waiting. The zebra supporters used the time to get more booze. One meeting after the other was being held on what to do. The Botswana way of doing this is very peculiar: Even the group leaders always only make suggestions that are then being debated extensively. It is a very time-consuming and potentially exasperating method…

 

We left at 10:00 AM, leaving one bus behind to wait for the one at the police station. As if we couldn’t have done that earlier…

 

Our driver knew that 18 hours, like on the ride to Swaziland, were not an option because the South AfricaBotswana border closes at midnight.

More celebrations
And he made it. Wee wee breaks were rigorously kept short and our driver caught a speeding ticket. But we were back in Gabs by 9 PM. Quite a record. The ride home was calm, most were resting from the exhausting days. In Gabs we said good-bye to Moses and then went to a pub to really start watching the EURO, which has turned out so nicely.

 

With Botswana’s victory they topped the group, including Cote d’Ivoire, which seems to have been a first in a lifetime.

 

I was back at work the next day. My colleagues had seen Johann and me on television when watching the games…

 

Moses dropped by to tell me about the planned motorcade for the following Saturday. They really wanted us to participate. That Saturday, Botswana was playing Cote d’Ivoire at the National Stadium.

Happiness
There was a big frenzy all over the city and tickets were selling quickly, which is normally not the case. We got tickets for the Zebra Supporters area in the stadium and I promised to appear for the motorcade on Saturday morning.

 

The turnout on Saturday was pretty big, they had organized a huge truck to carry I’d say 120 people, we were driving in Moses’ mini-van. Before we started, a camera team from BotswanaTV was there and conducted interviews. They also interviewed Johann and me. I now fully understand why politicians talk so much nonsense when they talk to a mic: Before the interview, Johann and I agreed that Botswana could only lose that game. Johann thought 4 or 5:0, I thought 3:1. When looking at a camera, we both predicted a decisive win for BotswanaJ

 

The motorcade started and music was playing loudly and we were the first car behind the police car.

and sadness
It was so much fun! The people on the streets were totally surprised when they saw two whites in the group and cheered and laughed. We were driving all over Gabs for hours and so many people were dressed in national colours and excited about the match.

 

When Johann, I and Stefan (a German intern at FES) later entered the stadium, people in our section started cheering and clapping and we felt like rock stars. Stefan was quite impressed with our following and we advanced right into the middle of the supporters, were being hugged and handshaken. The game was ok, Botswana played much better than against Mozambique, scored an awesome goal, but Cote d’Ivoire eventually was able to draw. The atmosphere was really nice and peaceful and the stadium was quite filled.

 

When we walked home from the stadium a policeman stopped us.

With a Motswana
He pointed at Johann and me and said: “I saw you…and you....” We were quite shocked, didn’t know what was going on.

 

“On television!” he screamed and he started laughing. We shook hands and walked on.

 

Turns out that we are small celebrities now, I have been honked at in the street, a cashier at my supermarket says she saw me on telly. I have started a habit of waving at everyone…which I must stop because my arm starts hurting.

 

During the last weeks we continued watching the EURO with bigger following: A German development aid worker from Zimbabwe, Tania, a lawyer also, arrived to stay for a while at the guest house because the government withdrew all aid workers temporarily. We get along just great and I am very happy she is here. We also befriended two American students, Nina and Hong, Nina being a soccer referee.

Crafts
They both study at University of Pennsylvania and are here for a two month internship. Hong is a med student and Nina a philosophy student. We’ve been doing a couple of things together and a nice friendship is developing there.

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Stadium
Stadium
Mozambicans dancing
Mozambicans dancing
Queueing
Queueing
The stadium
The stadium
Flags
Flags
Johann and I
Johann and I
Supporters
Supporters
Security
Security
Mozambicans leaving
Mozambicans leaving
Celebrating
Celebrating
More celebrations
More celebrations
Happiness
Happiness
and sadness
and sadness
With a Motswana
With a Motswana
Crafts
Crafts
Spent
Spent
Other are tired too
Other are tired too
Meeting
Meeting
Cool
Cool
With Franks girlfriend
With Frank's girlfriend
South Africa
South Africa
Food break
Food break
Motorcade
Motorcade
The Inspector
The Inspector
Interview I
Interview I
Interview II
Interview II
Children
Children
Dancing
Dancing
More children
More children
Our minibus
Our minibus
Claps
Claps
True Supporters
True Supporters
More dancing
More dancing
Ululating
Ululating
One team
One team
Game against Cote dIvoire
Game against Cote d'Ivoire
Watching the match
Watching the match
15,802 km (9,819 miles) traveled
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Maputo
photo by: pearcetoyou