Heather in Senegal

Monday, November 05, 2007

For the past few weeks there have been daily soccer games at the stadium, with cheering that can be heard kilometers away. Teenaged boys representing their neighborhoods play to full houses. They are in the finals of their tournament now. When Nene told me that a friend of ours coaches a team that has been on a winning streak, I said we should go watch.
The stadium has one giant cement bleacher that can probably fit about 500 people. The game started at 16:00, and people started filling the bleacher at 14:00. By the time we arrived police with giant guns on their backs were guarding the entrances to the bleachers, blocking the path. A knee-high cement fence surrounds the sandy field, and except where weeds have grown to high, people were huddled five deep around the fence. Nene, Assu, who lives next door, and I found a spot by the fence where we could see one goalpost and a quarter of the field.
Vendors set up shop selling small piles of peanuts, bags of juice, and water. A couple men were hawking bags of dried mango slices. "Mangos! Hey, getchur mangos!"
I never feel so white as I do when traveling or at big events. I feel then as if I glow, more neon glow in the dark white than the tanning peach that I am. But being with friends made a world of difference. When I am by myself or with other Toubobs kids steal strokes of my arms and people call out saying what they think of me. Today I got virtually none of that. Aha, this is that integration and safety in community business they've been talking about.
There was no scoreboard, and definately no screen showing instant replays, but someone in the stands was narrating the game over a loudspeaker, and during half time and after key plays dance music would overtake the stadium. Everyone would bounce along.
Throughout the game one of the omnipresent goats of Kolda grazed behind the southern goalpost, completely unfazed by the noise and the occasional stray ball.
Our team won, 2-1. We left a bit before the end of the game because Nene was scared to be in the stadium when everyone was pouring towards and trying to squeeze through the front gate. We could hear the announcing as we walked away, as well as the final cheering marking the finish. Almost immediately afterwards the parade of motorcycles and bicycles (no one owns cars) came pouring out. Those going in our direction were from the winning neighborhood, and they raced home, often two to a bike, hands in the air waiving their shirts in victory, as if guaranteed immortality.


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