Kampala woke up in a state of excitement on Saturday. Namboole Stadium, not far from where we live, was due to host its home team, the Cranes, playing against Guinea Bissau in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. The Cranes were the favourites and long before kick off time at 4pm, the sound of vuvuzelas could be heard right across the city. Shortly after lunchtime, our minibus joined the crowds of matatus and boda bodas streaming out of town along the Jinja road towards Namboole. The crowds were in great spirits. Packed three or more to a boda, they blew their whistles and sounded their horns, some standing on the seats, 'musical' instrument in one hand and bottle of waragi in the other. No arrests for 'ride-and-hoot'on Saturday!
|Vuvuzela at the ready.|
|Hitching a ride on the back of our mini-bus.|
|Ever watchful police, water cannon at the ready.|
|Good-humouredly ambling along.|
|Are the police really needed here?|
'I don't think it's a good idea to take pictures,' said Stuart. I stopped.
'Police, don't beat!' came a cry from somewhere.
By this time, there were just minutes to go. The police forced the crowd back from the gate. Two or three landcruisers lurched forward and barged towards it, their passengers too important to be excluded like the rest of us.
We looked up at the nearest Robocop. 'Can you help us? We've got tickets for the VIP stand.'
He looked down. A thought flickered through his brain: mzungus, better let them through, or there might be trouble. Privileged by our skin colour, we were ushered through the gates, hearing them bang shut behind us.
There is very little to write about the rest of the afternoon. The stadium was packed, a mass of yellow and red. If Guinea-Bissau supporters had managed to make it to Kampala, they were not making themselves obvious. The crowd were in good form, impeccably well behaved, clearly enjoying themselves and applauding enthusiastically at even the most pathetic attempts at a goal. The cacophony of whistles and vuvuzelas battered our ears and left them throbbing. The nearest to misbehaviour was at half time when a foolhardy young man rushed onto the grass and was hauled off by about thirty policemen: well, they needed to find something to do.
|Policemen strategically placed among the crowd.|
|Packed stadium, Cranes on left, G-B on right|
'Man in the hat' preparing to greet them on the far right.
|We had a great bird's eye view.|
And we were happy too. Despite the best efforts of the law-enforcers to goad them into violence, the fans had kept their cool, determined to enjoy themselves. Whether or not that will be the case when Uganda plays Kenya (cf Scotland v England) will be a story for another time.
|Not the most inspiring chant, but sung with great gusto.|