Sunday 29 January 2012

Leaving Blues

Akwá, a diminutive of what a waste of rations

I don’t mind. Really I don’t. If I tell myself enough times then maybe I will believe it and avoid spending the rest of my life in an Angolan prison having been convicted of mass murder. Maybe, if I squeeze my eyes shut really tight and click my heels I will wake up in an intensive care unit in Europe with all of me well and truly smashed up being fed via a tube up my nose and realise that the last twenty years have been but a bad dream.

Given the horror stories we see on the various news channels, the poverty, the deprivation, the corruption that is Africa you might be surprised when I attest that this is the ultimate disposable society.

We are well into the Africa Cup of Nations. Just pause and think about that for a second. What we are talking about is a bunch of African national teams (eleven guys per team all playing as individuals in the hope they will one day play for Chelsea so, as teams they are rubbish) competing for the title of best team in Africa. So why isn’t the competition called the Cup of African Nations?

I detest soccer. I used to be a good schoolboy player and really enjoyed a good kick around but those were the days of Nobby Stiles when you barged on the ball, tackled hard and if your legs were chopped out from under you, you got to your feet and unless you had suffered a compound fracture AND it was pissing blood, you carried on playing. We wore shin guards for a reason. Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer played half a match in the 1970 World Cup semi final classic against Italy with a broken collar bone. Yes, Beckenbauer had a fracture but there was no blood so he soldiered on. Nowadays it is a pissy game for pissy girly prima donnas out for an Oscar, whistle happy referees and followed by the same sort of moron that believes professional wrestling is a sport.

As an aside, and just to assure the reader that I really was very keen on soccer, 26 years after what was described as the Game of the Century between Italy and Germany at the Aztec Stadium in Mexico City, I took a team there to play in the Cup of American Nations, representing Belize, and we opened the tournament against Columbia and scored the first goal. Columbia did recover and banged half a dozen into the back of our net but still, I join a relatively small group of player/manager/trainers (we were short staffed) who can claim to have scared, however briefly, the shit out of a team like Columbia. Although we lost all three of our opening group matches, we managed to score in every game against world class teams. Which isn’t bad, considering our team consisted of cooks, bottle washers and mechanics and we were blown away by both the altitude and the evening delights of Mexico City’s Zona Rosa.

I suppose I still love the game. After all these years I still remember the very first goal I ever scored. Bugger bending it like Beckham, I had the ball in the back of the net from a corner kick and I was a damn sight better at taking penalties. Now, the beautiful game is painful to watch. I was in Uganda moving an oil rig during the 2006 world cup and drove miles to the only tourist lodge on the shores of Lake Albert with satellite TV so that I could watch the Angola matches. Agony. Like many African teams, certain players are selected because they have connections. The poor trainer or manager is told who he will field. Angola lost their opening match, a blood match with their old colonial masters, Portugal. Only one nil but still a loss. Portugal is not a sniffy team but the maddening thing was Angola could have had them. The problem was their star striker, Akwá. He was going to win the World Cup single handed. If he didn’t get the ball, he refused to play. If he got it, he refused to pass, preferring a hopeless shot on goal or diving instead. I admire the balls of the manager who dropped him after that game. Angola drew the next two matches proving they had the talent but it wasn’t enough.

Our bairro, or neighbourhood, has had no town power for three weeks. All my neighbours have bought generators but apparently they are all bust. My generator has been running for nearly five years. Yes it is a bit wheezy and I bet it isn’t delivering the power on the label anymore but it still runs and it has clean oil and new filters. These bastards will buy a gennie and then keep stuffing fuel into it and running it until, with a choked up radiator and oil the consistency of water it seizes with an almighty bang leaving them in complete darkness. Then they will get a likely lad who will strip it, try and repair it before finally declaring it dead.

So now that the African cup of Nations is on, guess where they all pitch up? No problems. I can read a book, or type on the old laptop but it is hard to ignore a football match and that’s when I go crazy.

That wasn’t a foul.

You’re telling me that was a foul?

The bastard dived

Look, there’s the replay. Where was the contact?

Why is he being stretchered off?

Effing poufters.


Cross it!

For Feck’s sake! CROSS IT!

Oh fer God’s sake, what a wanker.

I can assure you, this sort of running commentary does not go down well here. There has been a bit of scandal in UK about racism in football recently. I can confirm that even if it is my house, my TV and my fridge full of cold beer and Coca-cola, all powered by a generator I maintained, with a house full of uninvited Angolans you do not say that African football is shit because all black players are mincing diving tarts and Vinnie Jones, who just happens to be white, holds the record for opening whistle to red card and would kick the shit out of the lot of them.

Being forced to watch football with a bunch of tossers though, is not the real needle.

Every plug socket in my house has a charging phone attached to it. I appreciate that a charged mobile phone is fundamental to existence now. They are the elixir of life, God’s breath into parched lungs and salvation in an emergency so I do not begrudge my neighbours the opportunity of squeezing a bit of life into them. But if they are going to leave them under my charge, so to speak, why can’t they switch the bastard things off?

At first, I ignored them but in Angola the mobile phone norm is that if the call is unanswered, just keep hitting the redial button. Irony is wasted on your average Angolan, undoubtedly something being lost in translation so instead of answering the phones, I switched them off. This got me into hot water as there was no record of missed calls. I am now an expert on Nokia, Samsung and any other make of phone. I can quickly change them over to silent mode and back again when the owner comes to collect it and I have discovered that redial tenacity can be curbed by answering, ‘Ministerio do Interior, Investigação Criminal’ (Ministry of Interior, Criminal Investigation). No one, no matter how desperate for social interaction wants to get involved with those guys.

The neighbours know I have sold the house and will be moving shortly.

‘How soon will you be moving out’ said the neighbour comfortably ensconced on my sofa with an ice cold beer of mine, not even looking at me while he watched Mali get thrashed by Ghana.

‘Not for another week’, I said.

‘Great, we’ll catch the final’.

I am so looking forward to getting out of here.


  1. I couldn't agree more, I like going to games but football on TV leaves me cold and bored, the conventions of the way its filmed leave out all the off-the-ball play that make the game.

    Your phone answering reminds me of a chap I used to work with who had married a very hot Brazilian chick who went by the name Lilian the Brazilian, every day she would ring his mobile which had its own ring tone to announce her call, he'd answer "hello immigration". They are now divorced.

  2. It must be wearisome, to say the least, when all the locals feel entitled to use your facilities at a moment's notice. It sounds like you won't be moving out a minute too soon.

    One of my many un-masculine traits is having no interest whatever in football or any other sports, except maybe gymnastics which is always worth watching for the sheer grace and agility. Males who make my acquaintance and assume football will be a sure-fire conversation-starter are sorely disappointed. They'd do better with their favourite moisturisers.

  3. And you don't drink whisky either, Nick.

    Well if we bumped into each other in the pub, it'll be a pretty interesting conversation with me avoiding all topics sporting or thuggish and you decently not talking to me about moisturiser. I have never ever used moisturizer in my life. I don't even use shampoo, the same bar of soap I scrub my body with does for my head too. Mind you, once we move out of the house and down to the seaside, we will camping so I will be washing in a bucket of river water until the first of the cottages is built.

    I lie, I have just remembered that when I got toasted in Northen Ireland, they used Eusol (Edinburgh University Solution) and Flammazene all over me at Musgrave Park Hospital, I suppose they could be considered moisturisers.

    See? We do have something in common and who'd have thought. Moisturisers.

  4. Actually I don't use moisturisers a lot myself, but I do occasionally dabble in Jenny's (highly expensive) L'Ocitane as I get very inflamed skin on my forehead. Oddly enough, what gets rid of it fastest is not moisturiser but sunscreen.

    Okay, you can get back to the footie now.

  5. I have seen Angola play. It was in 2006, in Leipzig during the World Cup. They played Iran in a 1-1 draw.

    We traveled up on the train from Kaiserslautern where we'd watched Paraguay turn over Trinidad the night before. We were still pissed, and once off the train we couldn't find the ground. If I remember rightly the local facists were marching in protest at Angola and Iran playing in their town.

    We only got to our seats at half time. I asked some bloke what the first had had been like, and he told me it had been shit.

    Once the second half started we got chatting to a couple of blokes from Mexico, and then some woman with large breasts produced a huge bottle of vodka. There was seven or eight of us in the end, sitting chatting and drinking, and my mate staggered off and came back with about 50 sausages!

    Suddenly someone said, "Oh, it's over!" We looked around, and there were about 20 people left in the stadium.

    What's not to like about football?

  6. What blew it out of the water for me was the no smoking rule. For feck's sake we are in an open air stadium. Then wait and see what happens if you pull out a hip flask...

    Angola lost two nil tonight. AGAIN cos they were just eleven pissy individuals trying to score all by themselves instead of playing as a team.

    I do a lot of business in Angola so believe me when I say, if one of them passes you something, make sure the pin is still in it.


Please feel free to comment, good or bad. I will allow anything that isn't truly offensive to any other commentator. Me? You can slag me without mercy but try and be witty while you are about it.