Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Afcon

Congratulations Nigeria!  Winners of the 2013 African Cup of Nations!

The Canadian interns and I went to the finals.  Quite an experience, to say the least.

It began with the tickets.  There were three categories available: A for R200, B for R150, and C for R100.  When I first looked online there were only Category C tickets left.  I waited a couple days for confirmation from the other interns, then went online to buy them again.  Now there were Category B tickets available too!  Didn’t make much sense to me, but I was happy to buy them.

I printed my online receipt that said I could pick up my tickets at “any participating store.”  On the website it said all Spar stores.  Should be easy enough.  The Spar grocery stores are everywhere.

On the Wednesday before the game, I went to the Spar near my house.  The woman informed me that that Spar doesn’t print tickets and no, she couldn’t recommend one for me to go to.

Ok.  Cool.  The game’s not until Sunday so I still have a few days to get the tickets.

On Thursday my car broke down.  Combined with a whole range of other issues, I was rendered completely useless for a couple days.

On Sunday morning I told the other interns we needed to stop at Spar to pick up the tickets.

We went to the Spar closest to their house.  No luck.  We went to another one.  Again, no luck.  But at least this guy told us where to go to print the tickets.

Third Spar.  Third time’s the charm, right?

Not in this country.

The ticket company’s website was down, so Spar couldn’t print of the tickets.

“What are we supposed to do?  The game’s tonight!” I exclaimed.

“You’ll just have to go to the Stadium and see what they say,” the Spar employee told us.

Soccer City is a beautiful stadium in Soweto.  To get there, we drove to Park Station and took the free train.

Once at Soccer City, we wandered around a bit and asked people for help.  Got sent to Gate A and back again to the ticket office.

Stood in line for over an hour.  There was one ticket place for all ticket complaints, including unprinted tickets (like ours), fake tickets, tickets not scanning correctly, etc etc.  Basically eQticket had set up headquarters in a tiny closet with one table and two laptops.  At first glance you could tell it wasn’t a very efficient system.

People began pushing to the front of the line from the sides.  Oh no.  There was no way that was going down.  I started yelling at the huge black guys to get to the back of the line while the other interns told me to calm down.

There’s no such thing as customer service in this country.  When people complained that the eQticket people were taking forever, they were yelled at to go home.

The man standing in front of us had an iPad and streamed the inside of the stadium for everyone.  We watched the Afcon ceremonies while we waited.  Looked like it was a great show!  Would’ve been cool to see it live instead of standing in line.

When we finally got to the front of the line (lots of elbowing was involved), the eQticket database was down again.  We stood there for about 15 minutes while they restarted their computers and jiggled the cords.  Eventually they printed our tickets.

What an ordeal!

It’s amazing how happy something small (like finally having the tickets in your hand) can make you!  When everything is a battle, the small victories seem huge.

Laughing like crazy people, we made our way into the stadiums.

We got to our seats and a group of Nigerians tried to convince us that they weren’t our seats after all.  We pushed them out, but had one extra ticket (one friend didn’t come) so I gave it to one of the women and told her she might as well sit and stay.  She handed me one of her two vuvuzelas and we started dancing.  Her group of Nigerian friends stood behind us and we all had a great party.

I don’t know much about soccer, but it didn’t seem like a very exciting game.

On the field.  In the stands, however, was a different story!

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The stadium was packed!  Not only was it sold out, tons of people got in by bribing the security guards (like the group who tried to take our seats).

There was one particular section from which most of the trouble originated.

After Nigeria scored, someone set off a flare.

After halftime, someone else pulled out flamethrower.

There were fights.  Police pulled people over railings.

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One of my friends told me later that she was in that particular section.  Her and two coworkers were the token white people.  Surrounded by increasingly rambunctious Nigerians, she really, really hoped Nigeria would win.

Which they did.

And the party was crazy!

nigeria celebrates 2

We took tons of photos with the people around us.  As the three white people, they loved us!  Especially me and the other girl intern.  We danced.  We hugged.  One man asked to take a photo with me at halftime then kissed me on the cheek while we posed.  I pushed him away and told him to forget it.  For the rest of the match he teased me, “You want me.  I can see it.”

But it wasn’t serious.  We were just yelling and laughing and dancing.

After the game there were hugs all around.

Then the boy intern suddenly took off running.  Girl intern and I ran after him, trying to figure out what was happening.  Some guy had pickpocketed his cell phone.

We raced through the crowd, trying to catch the guy.  When we rounded a corner, he was standing with his friend and handed our friend back his phone.

“I saw a guy take it so I chased him and got it back for you,” he said.

We thanked him and there were more handshaking and hugs all around.

As we walked away, girl intern asked if we should give him a reward.

“Are you kidding me?  He’s the one who stole the phone!  He just gave it back when he saw that weren’t going to let him get away with it.”

I know 3 (white) men who got their phones stolen at the game – including boy intern who got his back.  But, in the big scheme of things, a lost cell phone isn’t worst thing that could happen.

What an adventure!  Best $17 I ever spent!

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