Last week, I thought Linda could do with a night out, so, on the basis that nothing is too good for my wife, I took her to the Crocodile Bar next door to our compound, where they were showing football, Manchester United vs Stoke. The Crocodile Bar, which is really just a big corrugated iron barn with rough wooden benches ranged in front of a couple of TV screens, was, as usual, packed. We sat in the back row with sweat running down our backs and leaned against piles of empty beer crates. It cost one Sudanese pound to get in (about 20p), so with a beer in the interval, it’s was cheap Saturday night out. And we were back in our compound just before darkness fell, so we didn’t break the curfew.
Sitting there in my bright red Man U shirt, which I only bought because I needed something with long sleeves that I could wash the sweat out of easily, everyone assumed I was a dyed-in-the-wool Man U supporter. Oh the irony of it! If they only knew that I hardly know one end of a football from the other, but long sleeves are a protection against mosquitoes once the evening comes.
We sat just behind Ramires No 7 and Fabregas No 4. Then Torres came to sit next to us. The young man who sold me the beers was called Lampard. The shirts were all faded and probably were from several seasons ago, but it’s amazing what you can pick up second-hand in Rumbek market. One little lad obviously didn’t have any money to buy one of the cheap Chinese counterfeit shirts, so he had taken a biro and scrawled “OSKAR” on the back of his T-shirt.
This week-end it was Linda’s birthday, so I decided it was time to push the boat out and hang the expense. I invited her to the Crocodile Bar again, but this time for Man U vs Chelsea, which costs double, that’s 40p, each! To add to the thrill, the match didn’t start until 7.00pm, which means we would be coming home after the curfew. How daring is that?
Imagine our horror when we found that the Crocodile Bar had had to cancel the screening of the Big Match because the credit on their subscription had run out!
Undeterred, and quick as a flash, I devised an alternative plan. About 10 minutes walk away into the depths of the surrounding night there was a Youth Centre that had also been advertising the same match. So off we set, torch in hand, through the pitch blackness.
By the time we reached the Youth Centre, we had already missed the first Man U goal. We just heard the roar from the assembled youth.
When we finally arrived we were greeted by the spectacle of about 400 young men, sitting on plastic chairs arranged in front of a single TV screen in the compound outside the Centre. The only place we could sit was right at the back, so some delightful ‘youths’ went off and came back with two stacks of 6 or 7 plastic chairs for us to sit on. It was like sitting in the balcony. We had a brilliant view, even if the screen was about half a mile away.
The trouble was that every time Manchester scored a goal about 300 Dinkas would leap into the air and start celebrating wildly. Even from our towers of chairs there was no way we could see the action re-play because of the solid wall of seven foot tall, over-excited, ‘whooping’ Dinkas in front of us. When Chelsea scored, another, smaller, section of the audience went crazy.
I have never been interested in football. I still don’t understand why a bunch of young Dinka men could care less what happens between two teams from opposite ends of England, but they do, passionately.
In Rumbek market, you can buy posters with profiles of all the main players of all of the Premiership teams, for 3 South Sudanese pounds (60p) each, so there is no excuse for not being well informed about who Abramavic and Ferguson are, or for not knowing the difference between Rooney and little Oskar. (The nice thing was that, during the match, John Terry‘s face came on the screen and everybody boo-ed.)
I must say I enjoyed the game, even if the off-side rule is still a mystery to me. Although Manchester won, the other side, whoever they were, played very well and gave the Manchester goalie a lot of work to do. I couldn’t see what his name was. I think it was Aon.
The funniest thing was walking home behind a group of “youth” after the game. I would never have thought that I would have welcomed the company of large numbers of football fans, but when you are walking home, a hour after curfew, in the pitch darkness, it’s very reassuring to have some friendly company.
Eavesdropping on the post-match commentary was an education in itelf. My Dinka is not good enough to understand what they were saying except for the odd word. So what I heard was “Blah, blah, blah yellow card blah blah. Blah blah Stamford Bridge blah blah referee, blah blah blah three match ban. Blah blah”. I suppose the Dinka language, being based on the language of the cattle camp, would struggle a bit to come up with the words for a “three match ban.”
And what was the best thing? Well, being a Youth Centre, there was no beer. So in the interval we just had a can of lemonade, which means that it was an even cheaper night out. Who says I don’t know how to show a girl a good time?