Football Kampala Style

Not having seen a live soccer (football) match since our thrilling experience in Istanbul back in August, I jumped at the opportunity to catch a game on Saturday at Kampala’s downtown stadium. We had passed it on the way into town on our return from the Murchison Falls area.  Confirming yet again I have a great wife, CeCe volunteered to take our backpacks to our hostel so that I could go watch.  She and our two large packs crammed on the back of a boda-boda motorbike – our friend Bentha once saw one with four goats on board so anything’s possible – and she quickly disappeared in a diesel haze.

For a ticket costing 1,000 Ugandan shillings ($0.45) I gained entry into a reasonably large stadium with a set of concrete bleachers on one side, and some more ramshackle boxes on the other.  The field is set in a surprisingly picturesque part of town, in a valley beneath a stunning modern mosque named after Libya’s  Muammar Gaddafi – a patron  to Uganda’s Muslims – and wedged between a colorful market and the throbbing minibus terminal.  A group of men quickly beckoned me to sit with them and I eagerly took my place.  As the only mzungu in the stadium out a total 750 spectators, I drew quite a bit of attention.  My hosts explained that I was witnessing the final game in a semi-pro tournament featuring two teams representing employees from two sections of the city’s Taseke market.  Those in yellow were Nuts and Bolts FC and our boys in blue represented a series of auto parts dealers.

Recent rains had covered much of the barbed-wire encircled field in puddles. Play was spirited if technically unimpressive.  The crowd was clearly into the action, vodka in single-serving plastic bags serving as fuel for many.  Dancing and chanting erupted periodically.  Enthusiasm ran so high that few seemed to notice the young man at the fence’s edge  in a Bob Marley t-shirt who appeared to be in the midst of an epileptic seizure.  No emergency personnel were in sight – no uniformed presence of any sort was visible – so the poor man was left alone, foaming at the mouth, writhing on the ground.  Mercifully, I passed him at match’s end as he walked in the opposite direction, looking stunned and muddy but otherwise none the worse for wear.

After a scoreless first half, Nuts and Bolts scored the game’s only goal on a powerful free kick ten minutes into the second stanza and held on for the victory.  A group of supporters mobbed the victors prior to the trophy presentation.  The winner’s share? A long-horned cow. (At first I thought they said “car“) The losers got a goat.

After receiving an invitation to visit the auto parts section of the market the following day, I said goodbye to my hosts and made my way in near darkness to the taxi and minibus stand.  I found a boda-boda in the fading light and after we agreed on a fare I noticed that at least one of his eyes was hazy with cataracts.  I couldn’t check on the other before we zoomed off, narrowly squeezing between a tractor trailer and a belching bus into the chaos of Kampala.


3 responses to “Football Kampala Style

  1. megan hamilton

    Hi Mark (who I haven’t met yet!) and CeCe (who I met almost right before you guys split!)

    Awesome job on the writing and traveling. For being one year out you sound GREAT!

    HOPE HOPE HOPE to see you guys when you pass thru B’more. I have tons of questions to ask you wise and weary ones. Dinner/lunch is on me.
    Thanks for what you are doing and sharing. You are a blessing to me!

  2. Love reading your posts…you guys are both excellent writers:) I’ve learned lots about the world from Letters to Milo. Miss you both & can’t wait to see you in Aug. xxoo

  3. Nancy Sieffert

    Sounds like you had a great time…….probably a better game than RB last night!!! We would have won the goat!

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