Heather in Senegal

Thursday, July 13, 2006

July 1 Saturday
This evening France beat Brazil, 1-0, in the quarter finals of the World Cup. The boys who live in my compound, and most of the others who had come to watch the game, are avid fans of Brazil. Many people in Senegal, including Seck, my man at the garden, say that truly Brazil is their team. People here had so much faith in Brazil that I assumed they could not lose. Usually, by the last five minutes of a game, if the score is not tied, the boys are discussing the game in the past tense. Tonight, up until the very last seconds of the game, the boys in my compound were leaning forwards, clenching their fists, and staring pleadingly at the television.
Their expressions turned to misery and disbelief when the French players began hugging one another on the field. My mom and a few boys joined voices we could hear in other compounds, whooping in joy at the victory. Had there been a respectful silence after the game I think the boys would have been able to handle the loss with dignity, but the loud celebrations and the taunts from the France supporters, were too much for boys who had been fiercely pulling for the team ever since the World Cup began. Omar stormed into the house to be alone, and in the process he ripped the TV’s cord out of the wall. My mom snapped into fury. She chased after him. Through the window’s bars I saw her swing at him (he ducked, and I don’t think she really meant for the punch to land) as she yelled at him, calling him a fool and saying that his father had not bought the TV. (I was so pleased to be able to understand!) After she left Omar, muttering in anger and disgust, I went to the window and tried to reach out to him by softly making the wierd chirping hiccoughing sounds he likes to make at me, but he gave no answer. When he came out shortly afterwards his eyes were swollen from crying. He sat off from the group and cradled his head in his hands for a little while. I wonder what was hurt most at that point - losing the game, acting foolishly, or being publicly chastised for it.
In the twenty minutes that followed at least three pairs of boys come to blows. After my mom broke up a fight (she is tough!) and saw that one boy had blood dribbling out of his nose, she shooed the remainder out of the compound and spoke to them in front of our wall. Again, I was thrilled to understand what she said to them, but the content of her speech, and the fact that the fighting and blood did not upset her nearly as much as did the violence against her television, surprised me. She told the boys, all of whom remained quiet and attentive throughout her speach, that they should be supporting France, not Brazil. She said nothing about punching friends over a game played on another continent. She argued that because Brazil had beaten and eliminated Ghana, and Ghana had represented all of Africa, they should root against Brazil, and because France had colonized Senegal, they should cheer for France. She did not focus on the fact that the group of boys all speak French, but just that their land was colonized by France. This is a common argument in support of France. As my language improves I hope to better understand the local sentiment on France. I wonder if tonight’s events in my compound are indicative of riots taking place around the world.


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