Me and All the Little Boys in Dakar (Fetchez la vache)
On my last day in Dakar, I got a chance to watch a neighborhood football match, that I think -- I can't be sure -- was an important game between two rival neighborhoods. Don't be fooled by the match being between neighborhoods. Both teams were equipped well, there were official referees (that were as blind as referees you'd find anywhere else in the world), there was a trophy on the line and there was a sizable crowd watching this game.
On one side of the field, which was effectively a large sandlot, there were large, covered bleachers, with a wall enclosing the rest of the "stadium." The bleachers were filled and people were perched on every spot along the walls.
I think just about every little boy in Dakar made an appearance, as well. They were all over the place, generally making a nuisance of themselves. A couple of the little boys were staring at me, others were enraptured by the game, others were picking on each other, but no matter what they were doing, you couldn't step without finding them underfoot. During half-time, they all climbed out of the bleachers and streamed over the walls to play on the field. They clustered around the players and played in the goals. After half-time was over, we in the bleachers almost felt under siege as they climbed over the walls, one after another, making their way back to their seats (Rachel said, "Fetchez la vache" justifying, yet again, why I like her so much). I found them all rather amusing. None of them tried to pick my pocket, which was an added bonus.
There were plenty of little girls too. One, in particular, stood out as a bit of an oddity. Rachel noticed her standing about midway between the stands and the sidelines. She couldn't have been more than six or seven years old. Her face featured a stern look (read: pissed off) and she was pointing at someone in the stands. After pointing, she brought her finger, very dramatically, across her throat. Yes, that means what you think it means. The scene was so absurd that I had to chuckle, albeit rather uneasily. It was strange site.
During the game, vendors walked around selling concessions. One guy had fresh pieces of coconut (I tried it...yech!). For beverages, a few different women had semi-frozen drinks in little plastic bags. To drink them, you had to bite the corner of the bag and suck out the contents. There were three beverage options. One was basically Tang. Another, called Bug Juice, was, I think, water, sugar, and hibiscus juice/sap/essence/whatever. Both of those were made with water, which was a little suspect, so I didn't try them. The last treat was made with milk, and had some juice/nectar that I can't identify (I'll ask Rachel later). It reminded me a little of a creamy, banana drink...it was tasty. I liked it. I didn't get sick. Hooray!
The football game itself was rather strange. The sand didn't allow the ball to roll freely, so much of the game was played in the air. I saw a couple of nifty, well-played bicycle kicks, along with plenty of skillful volleying. I did not get to see any scoring, however, due to the ball taking a lot of funny bounces on the sand. The players had no trouble throwing their bodies around (although, it looked damn painful), and they seemed to be playing very hard.
All in all, I have an enormous amount of respect for them, as they were playing on a very hot day (Well, every day in Senegal was a hot day). Not only was it hot though, they were running on loose sand, which I know is much more tiring than running on turf. They were in incredible shape.
Unfortunately, the game had to be decided by penalty kicks, which I was unable to stick around for. Regardless, I hate seeing games decided that way.
This was easily one of my favorite experiences of the week; due, in part, to the lack of translation necessary for that particular activity...I knew what was going on for once.
Posted by Mr. Eff on 06/04/2004