Maybe it was the excitement of our last day in Dodoma. Maybe it was anticipation of the inaugural Mountpottinger Trophy football competition, or maybe it was just the combination of the birds and the dogs letting me know that they weren’t going to let up just because this was our final day with Kids4school, but I woke early this morning.
When the alarm did go off at 7:30am, I lumbered out of bed and headed for what I thought would be my penultimate run around the shower cubicle before finally sticking myself under the cold drench which has been the usual morning and sometimes evening routine. Cold showers are something you really don’t get used to.
First question when I got to the breakfast room was whether I was able to get the internet on my phone. This appeared to be the case, but looks were deceiving because while I could access the router – the usual problem – I wasn’t getting any return from the internet. And then all became clear again – we had used all of our data on the 25GB SIM bought on Monday evening. So, even when we were trying to be economical with our usage, somehow we managed just 3 days!
At breakfast we discussed the format of the forthcoming day. Dan is a man who likes to run a tight ship and was anticipating a 10am start, 3 x 30min games with 5min half time interval, a half hour break between games during which we would run the athletics competitions we planned. We should therefore be finished around 1pm allowing for a few photographs at the end of the games, a bit of injury time here or there and any slippage which might occur. We discussed the way the players and referee would wlk onto the pitch. We discussed the Tanzanian national anthem – now we couldn’t get the tune being played (because the internet had run out again). Would acapello be OK?
We left a little late for the Chihanga school – whose pitch we would be using for the tournament – and it was around 10:15 before
we arrived. On the way there, a few phone calls had been exchanged between David and Msalato school who said they didn’t have a teacher to go with the kids to the tournament and it looked at
one point that we would have to accompany the kids on their team
bus truck. But all fell into place and we weren’t needed.
We did a pitch inspection and fair play to George and the other teachers at Chihanga,for they had carefully marked out the pitch
using ash for the lines – which were very straightly drawn on the
turf dust. While we waited for the other teams to come, Craig and I went to finish the painting on the 3rd
classroom which we had only got emulsioned back on Wednesday.
Msalato school arrived eventually on their team truck – an actual truck, cattle truck to be precise – around 11:00am, with still no sign of Gawai – the third team in the tournament. The truck pulled up with the sound of many school children singing in unison – amazing! Out of the truck Msalato poured, team and supporters.
Gawai came around 30 min later in the same truck. You could hear this lot long before you could see them. This time when the truck pulled up on the pitch the exodus of children from this truck was comical. They poured out in 4s and 5s and this outpouring seemed to continue for ever. How many kids were on this truck – and how did they all fit in? Soon they were joined by classmates who had come cross country on foot or on bike. Now there was a serious number of supporters from this school and they had come with intent – you could see that by the sizes of the players when they got out of the truck. Questions were had about whether they were standard 6 or 7 because some of them were twice the size of the Chihanga and Msalato children. A stewards enquiry was held in this regard, but Jackie was assured that these were legitimate Gawai primary school pupils. (She intends to confirm in the coming days and weeks because the kids in Gawai are typically smaller than the other primary schools.)
We were finally ready to start the competition around 11:30am,with an explanation of the format, the rules and what would get you sent off. We started with a short word of prayer with the three teams and their coaches and got ready for the first game..
The first two teams – Msalato and Chihanga - walked on in true Premiership style - both teams walking either side of the referee – FIFA official Thomas Parke - who picks up the ball on his way through. They then line up side by side with the referee in the middle, the Tanzanian anthem is sung (very well by both teams) and hands were shaken. Meanwhile on the sidelines, the supporters of each – but especially Chihanga, the home side – are going bananas and it’s the girls leading it. These are primary school children, but the volume of the chant and the typically African dance moves do present a sense of threat!
The match was a keenly contested affair with a lot of midfield battle, but where both teams lacked a bit was in guile and a cutting edge up front (if they’d have called down to the classroom Craig and I were painting, we could have supplied it – I guess no one told them!). There were two moments of high drama in the match, both of which went against the home team. In one, Chihanga were on a breakaway – three forwards on one defender, closing in on goal – when the referee blew up for a foot injury on another player (yes – a foot injury!). Onlookers were perplexed, but Chihanga took it in good spirit. The other however was a gut-wrenching bit of poor fortune for Chihanga. In the 93rd minute – after the fourth official Ellie had already indicated that playing time was up, the Chihanga goalkeeper handled the ball outside the box. A free kick was given but came to nothing. Then almost immediately afterwards the same thing happened preventing a possible goal scoring opportunity. This time the referee gave a penalty to Msalato (Yes – even though no foul had been commited in the penalty area!). The penalty kick was taken and Msalato scored. The referee blew up for time immediately afterwards.
This was terribly hard luck on the plucky Chihanga team. Their manager George took the defeat in an honourable fashion even though you could see he felt the injustice. The referee was unavailable for comment.
In the break before the second match,athletics races were run which were hotly contested. Thevery strong Gawai squad proved victorious in all of these except one race – won by a much smaller girl from Chihanga. The doping samples from Gawai are still under analysis.
And so to the second match – Chihanga vs Gawai (boys vs men?). After the line ups and handshakes we got down to business. One thing that we had found in playing with the kids, not just from Chihanga, but Msalato and Nzasa, is that they really don’t care what size their opponent is, they go into a tackle confident that they will win the ball, and so it proved here. While once more there was a lack of cutting edge from the Chihanga team near goal, they fought well in midfield and from everything that I witnessed, you would probably call them the better team and more likely to score, despite the size advantage of their opposition. The referee, Chris Neill, didn’t have any controversial decisions to make and the game was played in a good spirit.
One the sidelines another battle was in play – that of the supporters and who could be the loudest. Chihanga I do honestly think had met their match with Gawai and a vocal battle royal ensued. Had you no pictures and just sound, you would wonder whether you were listening to the soundtrack of Zulu Dawn or a football match! It was deeply impressive and continued the full 40 min of the match.
Ultimately neither team were able to score and the match finished 0 – 0. Basically this meant that Chihanga were out of the tournament, as they only had 1 point from their two games whereas Msalato sat on 3 points and Gawai were on 1 point also. You could see the disappointment on the face of the Chihanga coach and his players, wondering what might have been had the refereeing decisions in the previous match been kinder.
It then all started to kick off between both sets of supporters. The Chihanga girls lauched into their dance routine invading the pitch as a result and edging towards the Gawai girls. The Gawai girls responded in kind advancing toward the Chihanga girls and soon we had both dancing face to face. Extra spice was added by occasional handfuls of sand being flung up in the air from the midst of this (friendly enough) melee. (If you saw the pictures from the fan zones in England during the World Cup when England scored, the spray of sand in the air looked very similar to the beer being launched skywards.)
More athletics events were done in the break between this and the third match, one of which was a mixed 4x100m relay. This was keenly contested with some very impressive individual legs, but again Gawai won and their fans celebrated in their own inimitable style with their dance/chant the full length of the pitch
And so to the decider – Gawai vs Msalato. Same format as with the other two teams for the walk on. Referee Dan Beattie from Moneyrea was in charge of this one. From the outset in this occasion, you could see that size mattered. Gawai controlled the pitch and Msalato found it difficult to get out of their own half or create threat on the Gawai goal, whereas at the other end GAwai were pressing and while the end result was not always great, surely Msalato wouldn’t be able to hold out the whole game.
And so it was around the middle of the first half Gawai fashioned a chance and scored. Cue mass-celebrations, cue pitch invasion, cue multiple somersaults from the Gawai goalscorer and several of his team-mates, cue the Gawai girls with their dance and chant.
Once crowd order had been restored , the game recommenced. Msalato fought on bravely and in the second half posed a greater threat to the Gawai goal than in the first, but to no avail. Gawai emerged victorious at the end of the match and with it a total of 4 points, to be champions over second placed Msalato on 3 and the unfortunate Chihanga (due to referee brain-freeze?!) on 1.
The closing ceremony was done and the trophy awarded to the captain of Gawai, who with due aplomb raised the trophy aloft to their fans. Cue mad celebrations and a lap of honour of the pitch by players and fans.
The kits (Crusaders, Linfield and Cliftonville) were given to Gawai school, Chihanga school and Msalato school respectively and hopefully will be used for future interschool competitions. Much thanks needs to be given to each of our Belfast clubs for their kind donation of 14 member kits. The boys looked well in them.
The competition was a great success and the younger members of our team should be congratulated in their organisation and running of it. Everyone present at Chihanga school today had a great time. We also used the event to give out any remaining gifts that we still had – colouring sets, toy planes, bubbles, balloons etc. We ended up however having to get teacher assistance on this and be really quite strict because at times it was simply a swarm around Zara and Beth handing stuff out. There then ensued riots trying to grab anything that was dropped and people were in danger of getting hurt. This does show a sadder side to the assistance that “rich Wasungu” bring. We saw this also at Nzasa yesterday. There becomes a sense of expectation and even entitlement by the kids because they know Wasungu always bring fun stuff. And one of anything isn’t enough. And out here, it really is survival of the fittest, strongest, biggest. Primary school children here are nice kids and get along with each other – except when the Wasungu have gifts.
We left Chihanga today blessed that we had created a bit of excitement and fun for all three schools involved and hopeful that the gifts we have given to the school can be controlled and used by the school in future (football stuff, some craft stuff)) to broaden what they do with the children. (Neither sport nor craft have any part in their curriculum). Dan also left knowing what its like to have a schedule and have no chance at all of being able to meet it because of circumstances beyond his control – we left at 4:30pm instead of 1:00pm!