Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Greatest Gift

While I was MIA for my last 2 weeks in Southern Africa, I was feeling & experiencing so many different emotions that it would be difficult to focus on a specific theme. I spent a week back in Durban spending my days at an International Film Fest. A phenomenal film that is yet to hit the states which also demolishes the Buena Vista Social club theme, "Kinshasa Symphony", a German made documentary is the most visually stunning documentary I've seen in some time. An absolute must see! I was considering vanning back to Mocambique and lazing on a beach for my final week, however I was talked into visiting Cape Town by all my Durbanite friends who clained, "You can't come to South Africa & not see Cape town." To this idea I succumbed while taxing on the runway I texted my July Durban Horse race (South African version of Kentucky Durby) predictions to friends in hopes of bringing them good fortune. I saw in the paper the next day a picture of President Jacob Zuma holding 160,000 Rand in cold cash, with the Indian owner of the horse smiling at the money, hmmm I wonder if the race was fixed? My prediction Happy Valley 1/13, White horse/ black jockey ran middle of the pack.

My friend Tsidi a University professor in Durban gave me a contact for my arrival in Cape Town. Within an hour of arrival Thebeng swooped through to pick me up from my hostal. Thebeng reminded me of a dude from the East Bay, Ca, mixed race, scuffy beard, beenie cap, beat down old mazda bucket, & foremost for his use of vernacular slang, sometimes spliced w/ neo American words, "Bra" en substitution for Bro.

Thebang took me for a luncheon to meet up with his posse at an Indian diner in the Rondebosch University neighborhood of Cape Town. For the following 3 hours we had an old fashioned round about from everything from Politics to Corporate global dominance. The youngest of the 5 black men was Lukhanyo, 28, he had the air of a 60's black panther academic. Using phrases, "That Boy", "You see I scheme...",Naturally these dudes were carrying a severe chip on their shoulder, many of them having grown up in townships in a country where South Africa ranks #1 in the world in inequality. Lukhanyo: "I can tell you that my father was a political activist who was causing the gov't problems, so they killed him." Lukhanyo coincidentally had a film in the Durban Int'l film fest titled, "Unfinished Business" which is a piece dealing with the unsolved murder of his father & the "Cradock 4" in 1986'. He said he was not invited personally to attend the festival, I wasn't sure to presume whether that was an exaggeration or an economic issue, the truth or something other.

"Everyone pays for the American way of life. You know there is a joke I heard once, When god was creating Earth, thus dispersing mineral & natural wealth throughout he decided, I'll put most of the oil in the Middle East, I'll put gold in South Africa. & then he got lazy & decided, "I'll just put everything else in the Congo!".. We were all bursting into laughter. "But you see, life here is impossible wo/ money. I for one am unemployed. Literally I can do almost nothing wo/ money. This meal will set me back." All of these young men were in Cape Town for work, or in search of work whereas they were extremely adamant in clarifying that they did not fit into the local Capetonian identity cultural scheme.

Capetown on the whole is a beautiful city, for the elites that is. It's reminiscent of the CA coast, only more beautiful. The reality that most all people "coloreds" speak Afrikaans in Cape Town 85-90% the pidgin version of Dutch that arrived in the 1600's & was the officially imposed Apartheid language gives it an identity distinct from the other cities/ regions I visited in South Africa. A side note of mention, many of the Black South African Soccer players during the world cup gave post game interviews in Afrikaans. When I asked how come there wasn't a stronger emphasis for the whites or specifically Afrikaners to learn Zulu, Xhosa, or something of the Bantu like, the only response I got was, "Thats a very good question." However what I most disliked about Cape Town was definitely the most extremely aggressive begging I had experienced in a long time, coincidentally on Long St.

Throughout my entire 2 final weeks in South Africa it seemed so apparent to me that in Mocambique, within a rural poverty, people seemed to live a much happier & relaxed life. South Africa is America's & the greater International corporate extension in the continent. With this comes all the ills of "Development", supermarkets, where one may have Zimbabweans who were formerly doctors 10 years ago, know hustling to collect coins from parked cars. Most Educated South AFricans I met(at least 6-7, specifically in Durban) had never been to Mocambique which is a close 3.5 hour drive & only 180 rand from the unofficial lower middle class transport station in Durban. Yet all these South Africans had been to the U.K & if they hadn't already, they all had a greater desire to go to London before ever wasting their time going to a timeless country in Mocambique.

I opted to take the Shosholoza Meyl train from Cape Town 2 Jo-burg, a 27 hour journey as a more economic & scenic approach to seeing the country side while having to arrive in Jo-burg to fly out. The wine country just north of Cape Town gliding through the mountains, with the occasional views of sheep, zebras, & ostriches made the first afternoon very pleasant. However approaching sun-down my initial sleeper became too much to bear after the first 10 hours as their was a drunk who was just obnoxiously out of control in his ranting. one of the few Afrikaner words I picked up due to persistent harassment was "Puus" a word I heard constantly when walking Long ST. in Cape Town for a bite to eat, a word intended to provoke reaction, and unsettle. I would look at this man's face as he was slobbering drool, out of the control in his emotions, a face completely scarred from various beatings & had to imagine a life of abject poverty & violence, relegated to go pick for Diamond in Kimberely.

I didn't find this out until I changed sleepers & was introduced to my 2 new sleeper mates. "How's it?" A colored man, Edward Newing told me his life story, how he was retired from working 25 years at a Chicken Farm, (of the mutant chicken variety we Americans consume from Safeway Supermarkets.) The man had very high spirits & strong soul, however he could be taken very easily to be in poor physical health. Edward told me he was to disembark in Kimberely at 7am to go Diamond hunting at the mines. I aked Edward what his real name was, he gave me birth name "Xol Ani". We spoke for hours on end about the diamond market. He educated me that the black market rate for per karat is 1 thousand 500 rand =220 dolares rougly. & that the biggest he had ever encountered was "3 karats"

Of all the conversations I had my entire 2 month journey, the look in Xol's eyes retailing his life choosing (perhaps addicted) to pick diamonds because a national pension after a lifetime of work is not enough to live comfortably on a monthly basis, made me realize I need to buy one of the Flip Cameras for future filming.

"You must be born for it!"
"Some people are lucky, some people are unlucky. I can be digging for 2 weeks, it's better to work in groups." "If you work alone u can starve! "I've been digging for diamonds for 6 years. If I can just get to 1.5 million rand, I know I can live until I die. My son is 36, unemployed w/ a family for over 2 years now in the Northern Cape." Xol told me that when the buyers come down on the train from Jo-burg, they sell them the diamonds in plain street view & not behind closed doors, whereas dealing in privacy will cost you your life immediately.
5 hours later I awoke as the train arrived in Kimberley. Xol told me a joke how he'd be waiting for me to send him a check in the mail, we left the train & we wished each other well.

The train began to pick up speed bypassing a man-made lake just outside of Kimberely that was frosted w/ thousands of pink flamencos which appeared as popcorn bobbing on the water. Much of the pink popcorn took to the sky. That was beautiful.

I later realized I was still carrying my mini Jabulani soccer ball that I had brought to Africa in my bag. Approaching Jo-burg about 2 hours away, the rural townships began to appear. Whereas there may be only a train or 2 per day that pass these communities by. I wanted to give the coolest gift imaginable to a young kid. I waited until I saw a group of young boys positioned aside the train-track, When I sensed an eager group jumping about restlessly, I placed my arm outside the train window & aimed the ball directly towards them from the moving train. They immediately sprinted down the ball as they had unexpectedly missed the catch & were tenaciously running into a small dirt ditch to retrieve the Jabulani. Within 10 seconds they were out of view & the lasting view I have of them brought me immediate joy. The Red shirt was the most determined as he had beat the others, & was first to the jabulani.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grande Hotel Beira

There are many things that take one by surprise in life. Upon arrival in Beira, now over nearly 2 weeks back I had asked , "What is there to see in Beira?" To my surprise the major historic point of interest was not a museum or the beach, rather a decadent, monstrous hotel built in the 1950´s post WWII to attract the wealthy & well to do from Former Rhodesia, as well as around the world.
For nearly 3 decades & through the 2nd Mozambiquen Civil war, the hotel has been a refugee camp for the extremly poor & many whom flock to the city. Upon arriving at this massive beach-side Monstrous cement housing complex I was completely dumb-founded by the visual. There were boys playing soccer inside the massive former courtyard, next to the art~deco structured building, perhaps once even the hotel garden. I realized immediately I was seeing something all together unique from my other experiences traveling in over 28 different countries. As the sun began to drift I wandered around the outside the exterior of the building premises, where there still exists an olympic sized pool, built parallel the base of the hotel. On one edge of the pull, there was trash filled corners & rats scurrying around. On the deeper end of the pool there was a bit of fetid water. A mother brought her child poolside & with a roped plastic bucket lowered it into the fetid water to extract & then bath her son. Immune system= extraterrestial!
I would suppose many people reading this would already be critizing, "what are you doing vouyering into a community as such?", however it was unprovoked & rather unplanned, as well as totally unexpectedly surreal on so many levels. I couldn´t determine what I wittnessing was purely awful & tragic, or rather a monumental yet slim glimmer of hope, viewing human kind that is innocent when not having any conditions but to take to such a squalid yet impactful living setting due to it´s monstrous size.
Walking to the back of the art~deco hollowed out hotel, there was a movie room/ hut constructed of hay & wood that was blasting an unrecognizable yet horrid american movie from the 80´s as well as another unrecognizable trash hip hop song from a later period. There were countless girls jumping around dancing with sticks, joyously immune to their health standard- living situation. For many a moment I felt I´d been transported to a Post-Apocalyptic world, the nergy was soemthing I had never experienced. There seemed to exist no condition for hatred, violence, anger, rather a simple & shameless content life & self existence.
I would have expected individuals to be rather aggressive towards me intruding upon their living grounds, territorial rather. However the exterior conditions suggested, "What is there to ask 4?" of what material value would be placed where in the interior of the hotel if not out of reach- sight of the other 700-1000 inhabitants of the Grande Hotel?
Having a local take me inside the following day was even more shocking & somehow bizarrely profound. Within many of the corridors & the darkness, I was impacted to see the same style of African women in colorful garbs "Capulanas", seated on buckets behind their produce- soaps,little piles of carbon (which is used to cook everything in Mozambique, being that it´s more affordable than gas!), alluminum packed snacks for sale! As if one were going for a casual stroll in the town praca center or random market. There these women were, waiting, chatting, laughing, the only difference being that they were squatting inside the darkness of their housing facility, extreme darkness on a normal sunny afternoon. Electricity, plumbing= non-existant to most of these people before they ever moved into the Hotel at seperate periods & for various lengths of time.
Over the course of 1975-1981, the entire hotel was stripped of all its prior grandeur, marble, gold, (glass is a luxury in many parts of Africa). The only occasional decoration aside from hung-to-dry Clothes & wraps is random Graffiti & FRELIMO (The still governing political Party) Propaganda. Rotting Stickers of FRELIMO, the Drum & rocketing Corn diagonalling across the drum. Corn the mass produced crop to evict hunger & which supplies about 80 percent of the population from hunger in non coastal areas.
!Frelimo e que Fez!
!Frelimo e que Faz!
Perhaps the most striking aspect aside from the precarious housing refugee reality, is that the building(disintegrating due to proximity w- sea salt) has been stripped of everything. It appears in inital stages of construction & the Art-deco archictectural building. Imagining the ball room as it were, but rather staring into the ceiling to see streaks of sun shining into the darkness of what once was while children run around full of energy unconscoius of a seperate world otside of their neighborhood. Just a 10 min stroll up the coastline north is a nicer neighborhood known as Miramar, where there are a few Beachside Bars owned by Portuguese selling Beer to locals & a few random tourists.
Atop the highest point of the Grande Hotel roof top terrace, the building offers the most beautiful views one has to offer in the entire city of Beira & along the coastline stretching North to South. Truly another world apart.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

End of World Cup Rollercoaster Frills

While I would have to back track my journal entries, there was much writing that I was unable to post for the last 3 weeks doue to lack of internet accessibility.

However I´ll fly through what were my immediate dissapointments & poor predictions at the quarterfinals stages. Basically, I was delighted with the final 8 teams, & w-Spain being my least favorate (also the least convincing team to have reached the final 8), all 4 teams I wanted to win, Ghana, Brasil, Argentina, Paraguay lost!

Where to begin, with Argentina, my San Palermo prediction fell way short as their was no defensive discipline, & a lack of ideas when getting to final 3rd of the box to finalize. It was almost embarassing for a growing Argentina to go out the way they did, I was watching in pain as the score had turned 3-0, 2 mins later the power went out at the bar in Maputo where we were watching the match. I still hoping for a miracle ran 2 blocks away to another & watching from outside couldn´t help but smile when the 4th was blasted in by Klose. Watching a replay of the last 20 mins 5 days later in my hotel lobby in Beira I´ll never forget the Portuguese commentator stating after Messi had one last shot on goal easily placed right to the goal keeper, "Agora, Messi vai pra casa sem marcar nehum gol, Argentina vai pra casa totalmente Humilhiado!" I recall so many Argentinians stating , "Oh yes Messi hasn't scored, but still I like &think that he played well." I personally never subscribed to that, the greats have to score, other wise it´s never the same. Messi playing out of position as a number 10 in the midfield was the ultimate reason for his failure as well. Me & Eric will forever be Villero supporters of the tenacious Tevez, who always left it all on the pitch!
The hardest game to swallow was the Ghana vs. Uruguay, hands down the most exciting match I´ve ever witnessed, yes it had a tragic ending, but for me stands as a historic game & easily surpassed the prior most exciting game I´d ever watched being Argentina vs. England 98´.
Naturally when Gyan missed the penalty that was supposed to have sealed the game in most dramatic fashion there was still some sort of blind fate I suppose.

For me without a doubt the height of the entire rollercoaster viewing experience was when Appiah slammed home the second penalty for Ghana, blasting into the upper corner & began pounding his chest roaring into the stands, I was whispering to Eric frantically, "They´re going to fucking do it man!" & the whole fate of Africa must have felt something similar. When Mensah stepped up for the 3rd I´ll never forget Eric tell me, "What´s he going to do, head it in?" & as a lame have step back & easy pass to the goalie, that was easily the lamest attempt I had witnessed under that sort of pressure.
While all of Africa had it´s fingers crossed for Kingson to make a stop on Uruguays last penalty take, I saw Loco Abreu´walking from Midfield & I subconsciously, removed from any sort of emotion realized & whsipered to Eric, "Fuck it´s over man, this guy doesn´t miss!". I had immediate flashbacks of Loco Abreu slamming in penalties for San Lorenzo in the Argentine league dating as far back from 98´as well as cool finishes for Botafogo only weeks before the cup. Ás he stepped up cool as ice, we watched in slow motion as he chipped the perfect penalty & subconsounciously pumped my fists not for the fact that Uruguay had won, but at how expertly he had taken the kick. It was the most silent moment maybe in the history of Africa, one could have heard a pin drop in the rakous restaurant. Africa was done, & many peoples spirits were devasted.
I realized a day later that Cardozo of Paraguay & Gyan of Ghana would have to attend the "Loco" Abreu school of penalty kicks under pressure, however on that stage, they will have to live with those misses for the rest of their lives. It´s a seperate experience to miss a a penalty at the end of a match in real time vs. a penalty kick shootout loss of concentration. Brutal is an understatement.
One of the only matches I missed, by axccident due to a 7 hour bus delay was the Spain vs. Germany match. Would Cacau & Mueller have made the difference if they weren´t suspended? I would say absolutely! For most all fans, I had taken my hat off to Germany & really wanted & expected them to slaughter all teams in their patch after 4-1, 4-0 demolishions of ARg & England. Still it was meant to be that I missede that match, I would have suffered too much.
Pulling into a rural bus stop 5 hours from Beira, I asked to young Boys,
"Que qanou o jogo?"
"Nao acreditou, como ficou? Quem fez o golo?
"Nao sei o nome acho que foi o numero 5."
"Puyols, aqulle cabellinho?"
"Sim foi ele!"

I had relegated myself at that point to rooting for Urugauy, & thought that although they were lucky to escape from Ghana victorious they played fabulously, & definitely gave Holland a run for their money. That Forlan goal to tie the match vs. Holland was something else!
As it turned that Spain was able to steal that final gol vs. Holland, whom I really prefered to take the cup, I think this cup is historic for the way it played out. A very mediocre team in Spain, loaded with talent & basically became a Barca 6 man starting lineúp after del Bosque figured out he needed to bench the pretty boy Torres for that nasty & aggressive Pedro in the final match. A team that should have been sent packing by Paraguay, (there was a first half gol, dissalowed, totally onsides, GO TO THE TAPE! The Cardozo miss.
The least convincing team to slide into the semifinals in the hsitory of the world cup, But then managing to play very tough in it´s final 2 matches to win the whole thing, still a hard pill to swallow! I would have liked any of the other 6 teams, Paraguay had no realistic Chance, but they still blew a schock victory OPPORTUNITY against the now World Champions. A Spanish friend e'mailed me to express his Shock & surprise of good fortune!

Monday, July 19, 2010


Midway between Beira & Maputo is a beautiful & pristine archipelago 10 km offshore from the town of Vilankulos. I arrived a week back late in the afternoon after enduring one of many Mozambiquen style (before the crack of dawn departures ranging 2am -5am) departures leaving Beira. I have been accompanied the last week by a young French kid named Samuel who befriended me in the Beira city-center market.
After a been-soup & cold Manica beer to decompress, we asked our server at the Vilankulos bs terminal where to head for budget accommodation? Apparently she she didn't receive that question to often, whereas she walked us down down to the beachfront (10 mins)& to a cement block (Bar Tropical) perched right on top of teh most beautiful sea view in town.
The owners of the bar offered us a traditional straw hut house inside of a well groomed sand courtyard, shaded by a massive manzanika tree for about $7.50 a night, "We´ll take it!"
I had a good feeling upon arrival, however we were presently surprised to find it the most paradisaical lazy stay in Mozambique by far! The entire town is built on sand, whereas waking up every morning to a coffee, later to be on the sea (literally in a boat, or knee deep crab fishing for our first lunch. I´ve never eaten endless amounts of fresh seafood for pennies on the dollar.
The first morning we were inquiring about snorkeling prices w/ the few tourist agencies, walking back on the beach Samuel found a stick & we were taken by the amount of fishermen/ women knee deep in Crystalline clear water 500 meters offshore. We became immediately inspired.
"Look I have one one! Im going to keel him!"
Samuel´s 1st kill was a baby crab that he punctured in half. Still we proudly scooped what was left of him & brought it to the gorgeous Bar tropical Maitre´d ee Samira. Samira is a 20 something bombshell whom is the epitome of a voluptuous tropical fantasy girl. "She´s perfect!" Samuel would continuously repeat during our stay. It couldn't sound more cliche, however Samira is one of the most beautiful woemn most men ever lay eyes on.
Surely if Samuel could snap a baby crab in inch deep water, the waters were destined to be plentiful. "Esta cheio!" gestured a lazy man seashore pinching his fingers together to demonstrate the Portuguese signal for full & plentiful. In-suing, we dashed into the water not properly equipped, me w- the Bar Tropical plastic dish holder & a soccer jersey which ended up to be crucial in holding our eventual catch.
As we approached the bulk of the fisher-women, most elderly dawning bright colorful head cloths "Capulanas" I tried to give Samuel some pointers on the proper techniques. Within a span of 15 minutes & from about 10 meters away we watched in awe as a 60 year old woman would take about 2 steps through the seaweed, methodically adjust her stance, loosen her foot & then plunge her iron rod a foot deep into the sand to pull out a neon-colored crab.
"oahh! Look at dat! Sheez incredibal!" The women to our amazement pulled up about 10 crabs in 15 minutes, decades of experience she had a 6th sense for hunting crabs. After realizing our stick was not sharp enough we relegated ourselves to an inferior & primitive job of digging our hands around in the sand for clams.
"Ahh fuck come on! Gibe me dee stick! Samuel had caught his first crab by luck after he had been bitten digging for clams. As the clouds began to darken overhead, a young man covered in squid ink approached us & warned it was time to go to shore, "Vem conmigo!"
Fighting the tide I spotted what was my last chance to puncture a nearly translucent looking fish. After the 2nd try I was sure I had lost him. Afelo however whose catch of the day up till then numbered 4 crabs & a similar number of squid stuck with the moving translucent creature. Powering- Sprinting in knee deep waterfor at least 200 meters, constantly watching his pace so as not to frighten the fish. AFter a 5 min further standoff Afelo leaped & plunged his iron rod one time, up he pulled a plump & black bleeding squid. I felt it was his catch, still he rewarded me with the #Lula# & showed me how to clean it!
After 3 hours on the water our 1st days catch included a crab, squid, & about 2-3 kilos of clams. Gleefully we returned to Bar tropical where within 20 minutes Samira had cooked up one of many incredible seafood meals. The following day Samuel was inquiring about Oysters "Ostras" the following morning the Bar Tropical owner had an 8 kilo bag filled w- hundreds of small live oysters waiting for a whopping $3 dollars! 100 metecais!
With such abundant seafood, we felt we were in heaven, every morning walking through the seafood market after our Petite Dejune routine of Coffee & bread. The same kids everyday holding massive tiger prawns in their hands & spiced w one liners, "Look my friend this is a tiger!"
"My friend, you looking for the tiger yes?" "Look it´s a big one!." or "My friend, this is a tiger!"
This beame the brunt of much of our inside joking over the next 5 days, when going back in the evening to haggle for prawns.
"My friend look at dees fish, you take it!"
Samuel; "Ahh, I´m looking for dee big one!"
Vendor "Vai levar o peixe?"
Samuel; "No! I want the Tiger, I want the big one!"

There are too many highlights yo pinpoint half of what was was so phenomenal about Vilankulos. We did a day trip to one of the islands, & yes the snorkeling & waters were splendid, yet my favorite moment was upon sailing back to shore drinking a coffee, having our captain teach me phrases in Matua (much to the Entertainment of the other 2 crew members.), one of 24 dialects in Mozambique.
The town & it´s inhabitants has a separate identity when comparing w- Beira & Maputo which imparticular have a distinct Muslim identity. Muslims are practically non-existent in Vilankulos, not sure why that would be?

I´m cutting it short due to time constraints, Maputo is the only place where internet functions at a respectable pace.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Visions of San Palermo

Just finished suffering through the Holland vs. Brasil match. I suppose it was meant to be on one behalf, whereas Holland are the strongest team in Europe contrary to many {expert analists views{. However sitting in a bar on 24 de Julio em Maputo Mozambique, away from the madness of an overcrowded South Africa, it was interesting that so many Africans in this Ex/Portuguese colony were rooting against Brasil.
@Agora acabou a historia do brasil!@ Shouted one dude after Felipe Melo was shown the red for an idiotic stomp on Robben. Brasil were somewhat dominant in the first half, in particular Robinho, ^ the stiff job that Bastos was putting on Robben was outstanding contrary to other suggestions of over fouling. However so much of the counter attack Mentality Dunga had based this Brasil team on, seamed to backfire under the heat. Ramires who was fantastic versus Chile but suspended for the Yellow Card rule, was sorely missed ironic enough. Where as Felipe Melo returning from the hot headed suspension vs. Portugal ^ had been one of the key players thus far turned in an absolute disastrous performance. Coupled with the absolute disappearance of offensive presence from Robinho ^ Luis Fabiano in the 2nd period, recipe for disaster!
@Agora o Dunga vem pelo Mocambique, nao pode voltar no Brasil!@ a man seated at our table commented amongst other one-liners that Dunga will be coming to join Eric and I in Mocambique before ever going back to Brasil! I saw it coming right before the red card, the loosing of the cool, the much emotion ^ anxiety, just like the Portugal game, Felipe Melo had lost his head and needed to be removed asap, Dunga didn]t see it, gameover.
Then to make it worst throwing everything on the line to tie the match last minute, it was a horrible mistake not to bring another striker in place of Gilberto or even Kaka. Only 2 subs, ^ Neilmar for Luis Fabiano, while the only other striker Dunga brought to South Africa in Grafite left on the bench to never even show his worth, that]s just plain stupidity. {Question mark!
I was a Dunga fan myself up until today, and to think Brasilian media wasn-t already having a field day, Dunga will most likely have to move to Portugal or Mcambique before ever stepping foot in Brasil again, what a shocker!
With 20 mins left in the match, a man shouts, @Mas, esa copa e do Maradona!@ As many with that Blind Argentine fate believe in a greater will that it is meant to be for Argentina this time around, I won-t go that far yet. In particularly if Arg manage to get by Germany, Spain poses a huge match-up problem for them ironically.
However the major difference in coaching tactics, is that sometimes you have to be a little crazy to make decisions that are offensive minded. One must believe that when the game is close late, whether a 1/1 or 2/2 scoreline headed into overtime, AND A LOADED Line/up *only# 3 viable subs, one better believe that the last will be reserved for Martin San Palermo to make history! I[m calling it right now, one minute into overtime, he will be inserted and score not one, but 2! to seal his fate as one of the craziest players the game has seen!
Of course I saw all this in dream, dozing off for 5 mins in the darkness having waited 2 hours at the Mozambique border checkpoint, driving through the darkness 1 hour until arrival in Maputo. I can see it now, PALERRMO!!! Pallermo!!!!!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

1,2,3 Viva Ghana !

“Gyan can you dribble you one & one, Mensah is good in the back, they can beat no one 2 3 defenders, they can beat anyone.” People are starting to gain confidence & reassured pride w/ Ghana.
Having attended the US /Algeria game in preference to the Germany/ Ghana game last minute it was heartbreaking to watch Algeria concede that extra-time goal. Not to take anything away from the US, it’s just their was never enough conviction to think the US deservedly moved to get out of the group stage. I would be considered a traitor by most people back home by rooting against the US, however this was for a greater purpose & sense of pride that African kids growing up have & 1st worlders, well they’ll be disappointed but probably just go back to playing video games.
The Algerian Chant 1,2,3 VIVA L’Algerie was resonating throughout the streets of Pretoria before the game vs. the US last week. I myself got to the stadium 2 hours before & with every African contingent, these Algerian boys are a bit more fanatical about the footballing heroes than most. The Algerian team came out 1 hour before the match dressed in suits & there was a fanatical craze & saluting. All the Algerian kids were going crazy to be acknowledged by their heroes. When you witness something like that you can’t help but root for them.
Leading up to game time I positioned myself in the Algerian faithful & was impressed at a higher level of order among the chaos. There were more kids sitting in the aisles than any other match I'd attended (The Pretoria stadium in particular is the most laid back in regards to security & allows for a more intimate view than the bigger stadiums) smoking cigarettes, such as there weren’t enough Orange Jacket Ushers to deal with them. This was also the only game where the no smoking sign flashes on the big screen every 10 mins. When a kid was caught sitting in a more well to do Algerian’s seat, he was simply suggested the nearest aisle space to stay to camp out. Although the US fan was the majority in number, close to the field, the Algerians have a history of making sure their players can hear & feel them. Preferential treatment also goes for chanting & singing over blowing that awful plastic device. Although the US had more scoring opportunities, Algeria dictated the pace of the game a bit more.
The Algerian Faithful had a a diverse range of chants I haven’t seen before. With a half hour left the entire faithful made a substituting motion w/ their hands all asking for Bou-deh-bouz! Bou-deh-bouz! Repetitiously for 5 minutes. The coach paid no attention & in the end the US goal was something typical of the American fitness running programme. As Belhadj played a great first 70 mins, he was caught dogging it & just didn’t get back, amongst others. Not that a tie was going to do anything for either team but that last min-goal really hurt. To see the faces of those Algerian kids, grown men alike just devastated, having taken so many pics before the match, I chose not to capture the latter. After the initial pain, & frustration of losing, within 5 mins time, all the Algerian faithful picked up the chant once more, 1,2,3 Viva l'Algeria!,1,2,3 Viva l'Algeria! clapping there way out of stadium & back to harsh reality.

On to the Ghana match. Watching from a Bar in Durban, Ghana showed up to play better than any of their previous matches, & really gave the public what one expects from West African football. Physical superiority, speed, flair, just a joy to watch! The US coaching staff figured out something during half time, because they really found a way to finally encounter the ball & take Kevin Prince Boa-teng out of the game. Again the guy Prince played like an animal in the 1st half, perhaps he ran himself a bit dry early. Overall one could see the psychical superiority of the Ghanaian side again start to manifest itself towards the end of the 90 mins & in overtime. Gyan whom went from lousy first touches the last 2 games & blasting the ball all over the place to finally getting it done in the clutch.
The US soccer federation must go to the drawing board & consider what they trying to represent in terms of play. If there was one guy whom I was sure ahead of time had no business being out there against a team like Ghana it was Chernudolo. It’s a double wammy because I’m sure in the States we have at least 5 rights backs who certainly would have been better selections than this guy. If I were to give a rating on a scale of 10, I’d give a generous 2! Heres what said about him, Cherundolo: 5.5 - The full-back had his hands full with Ayew and was roasted on more than one occasion in the first half. Ghana seemed intent to attack the flanks and that was bad news for Cherundolo who picked up an early yellow card and was rendered ineffective after that.
Ayew, what a game he had, just fabulous & it’s just a shame the he’ll miss the next match against Uruguay, for a “Fantom Foul”. It’s one thing for the ref to award a foul, but too many yellow cards this tournament for the real footballing fan. Did anybody see that “Fantom red card” when Torres did the same thing against Paraguay?
30 mins before the the US Algeria game in Pretoria last week, I turned & was surprised to see Donovan standing 15 meters away from me doing stretches. I felt maybe I should have said something to him to encourage, or perhaps talk a bit of smack, “Hey man you gonna play big when it counts?” I couldn’t find the words instead I just watched him. I think we all watched him fade or aside from the penalty, he really had no impact whatsoever on the Ghana game. Then again this write-up is about celebrating Africa’s final hope. In the bar in Durban, men began shouting, “I’m an African!” “Africa”!!!! When Gyan scored that cracker in the 93rd! few celebrated as jubilantly as I did, a man hugged me, cradling my head as if it were the soccer ball that had just ended up in the back of the net.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Face of South American Dominance

I advise everyone to tune into Univision today the 21st, there will be a 5 min excerpt on (The Argentine fan lifestyle), I came back from lunch yesterday to our hostel in Pretoria & found an Univision crew had already filmed a special with some real blue collar professional fans, disappointed myself that I was unable to make an appearance, this mail might not be enough notification.
On the experience of lodging w/ a rather zealous & not as open-minded crowd as used to traveling alone, this is just one of the many realities of visiting a country during a World Cup. The real face/ identity of the country is wearing a bit of make-up. After a few days it was easy to be put off by such vulgar & uneducated people, but as the time passes, it’s human nature that we warm-up to each other & it has become incredibly entertaining.
Lets cut to the Bizz. I can picture all the Western media harping at the Disappointing performances by the African Nations. All 6 are going home, I myself never did but a 100 on Ghana, & after playing 70 mins w/ an extra man & not even being able to hold onto the ball at the times I have lost a tremendous amount of faith. The main issue lies in the inability to finish. The best atmosphere yet was the Cameroun vs. Dinamarca game on Saturday. There was something refreshingly old school about how the Cameroonian squad warmed-up. Old school West African style stretches, & hugging exercises reminiscent of adolescent soccer camp drills intended to stimulate strong team chemistry. The Cameroonian faitfull was electric, the drums were rocking, dudes in traditional Cameroonian outfits with feather headpieces were gyrating about, Eto’o scored 20 mins in, everyone got excited, (This is it Africa is here to represent!) The drums were pounding, however this was to be short lived. Cameroun showed a lot of heart, but sometimes this is not enough.
I recall my 1st taxi driver in Jo-burg commenting about Cameroun, (Those boys push to much iron, you can see they can’t even move, only Eto’o, he is the only exception!) another businessman from Zambia 2 days back, (Those boys from Cameroun spend more time in the gym then they do training, they’re too big those country boys.) Makoun who plays in Lyon played awful as soon as he came on, directly responsible for the game winning goal by Denmark, you don’t let the man beat you instep, with an easy shot towards goal, if anything you force him to the line so that he still has to play the ball back, that’s just for starters! Emana the number 10 for Cameroun looked more like a body-building stopper. Although Emana played respectively well, it’s when having to create for your teammates, & having poise in front of the net that you have to demonstrate your worth. That Cameroun lost again Denmark showcased all the weaknesses in African football.
I myself never did put 100 dollars on Ghana, & after 70 mins up a man on a mediocre Australia, if one were tuning into the game in the 2nd half, you would never know they had an extra man advantage. It’s clear that being a strong defensive minded team, aside from Anna & Kevin Prince, they almost looked uneasy passing the ball in the midfield. As a whole the West African teams overall want to play defense & then counter attack with pace.
The Brasil game last night was an absolute Samba Baile. Clinical in imposing their will on the game, & I can picture the western media suggesting what an even battle it was going to be since Brasil had initially struggled to figure out North Korea’s communist defense network. For me it was pure intuition that when a great like Luis Fabiano has an awful game one day, (LOOK Out) because he’s coming for blood the next! I predicted Fabiano would get 2 & Brasil would get 4 to silence the critics. (3-1) wasn’t that far off.
The reality is all 6 African teams are going home, save Ghana, if they can manage a tie vs. Germany & or an Algerian win vs. the US. While, it seems clear that all 5 South American teams will make it into the final 16, with potentially 4 of the last 8 being South American, total dominance!
While most want to see the 2nd half vs. Slovenia Estados Unidos team come to play against Algeria, as is when coming to America, you never know what you’re going to get. I myself would give the edge to US on paper, but these games tend to be monumental for so many reasons. Speaking w/ Algerians yesterday, I was given a whole education on the structure of African soccer politics; I’ll give the short version. How the African teams have to go through hell just to qualify for the World Cup. The breed of the Northern African football is distinct from West Africa, not so much run & gun, however they have an ability to impose their swagger on a game, as demonstrated vs. a lack luster England.
I called it last December after the draw, amongst the salty unraveling of a rightfully rubbish French side with a politically backed & awful coach leaving out Algerians like Benzema & Nasri. Zidane himself has been attending the Algerian matches, supposedly the only African Nation to take their independence after a long bloody civil war, HABIBI, let me tell you I would not want to bet against Algeria in the last match. It’s going to be a killer! & remember this, the more physical the match, the more this benefits the Algerians who will go back to instinctively playing pick-up in their dirt yards, drawing fouls & getting under the skin of an over anxious US squad. No attachment one way or the other. Slovenia ties England. & Algeria shocks US 2-1 to go through.