We Go, We Go, Uganda Cranes We Go!
It’s our time we go! No matter what we go!
We have to score we go! We have to win we go!
A few months ago, Ray asked if we wanted to go a Uganda Cranes football match (yes, it’s football, not soccer here) that was scheduled for last weekend. I love soccer/football/whatever you call the kicking-ball sport, and it’s sort of Uganda’s national athletic pastime, so I thought going to a game in the big stadium would be a fun, cultural experience. I typically get bored at professional sports games, though, so I had all sorts of plans for leisurely wandering the stadium, finding the Uganda equivalent of Cracker Jacks, buying a token pendant or two. I even thought of bringing a few card games to play while we watched.
Obviously, I had never been to a Uganda Cranes football match, especially not one that determined whether or not they qualify for next years’ African Cup of Nations. The last time that Uganda came this close to qualifying was 1974 – 34 years ago. It was, to put it underwhelmingly, a pretty big deal.
Even in Kampala, the atmosphere that day was electric. I’m used to that in Kampala, but mostly it’s a result of elections, riots, police tanks bearing down on the city, etc. Now Kampala was wired not on tension and fear, but excitement and eager anticipation. Vuvuzelas blared out of every open car window and taxi door. Boda drivers, street vendors, even business men were all wearing Uganda Cranes jerseys, and the Ugandan Cranes cheer (We Go, We Go!) had suddenly become everyone’s ringtone and car horn tune.
We left for the stadium (about 10 kilometres away), two hours before the match, just because traffic was so ridiculous. When we arrived at the stadium an hour later, they were closing the main gate because the stadium was already getting full. We made through the rear gate, to find an already packed stadium. There was not one seat left in the place.
So first, imagine a 40,000 person stadium filled up with 10,000 extra people. Now arm each of those people with a vuvezela, whistle, horn (that sometime manage to blare all at the same time) and a big gourd (yes, gourd), of banana beer (Uganda’s most popular form of alcohol) – and you begin to get a picture. It was CRAZY. My eardrums will never be the same, I think.
We finally found some standing room way up at the top, next to some lovely drunk village guys who were armed with water bottles that were sprayed everywhere when the Cranes made a goal. Thankfully, they made not one, but two goals that day, easily beating their opponents, Guinea Bissau. I was happy that Uganda won, not only because I love Uganda, but also because I was just relieved to be in a crowd of 50,000
drunk exuberant people, instead of 50,000 mad people.
I think the riot police stationed around the field were probably relieved about this, too.
I’m not sure how quickly I’ll jump at the chance to go to the next qualifying match vs. Kenya, but I am glad we had the experience – and I’m especially glad we got out of the experience alive.