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).
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
Africa – Botswana
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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…
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!
second half, Mozambique
scored the 1:1 and I thought okay, now this is it.
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.
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
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.
morning, we were supposed leave early, but finally the beer was taking its toll
on our friends.
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
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…
knew that 18 hours, like on the ride to Swaziland,
were not an option because the South Africa
border closes at midnight.
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…
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.
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.
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 Botswana…J
motorcade started and music was playing loudly and we were the first car behind
the police car.
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.
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.
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.
television!” he screamed and he started laughing. We shook hands and walked on.
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.
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.
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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