Randy decided that the most fun way that he could think of to celebrate turning 41 was to go see the Mali National Soccer team play the country of Tchad/Chad in the qualifiers for World Cup 2010. He had a contact within the Malian sporting community that clued us in to the how and where of obtaining tickets (harder than it sounds as the game date changed several times in the weeks before the game and even the game time was hard to figure out two days in advance) and he organized a group of 35 people to see the game. The excitement in Bamako on game day was palpable. National colors of red, yellow and green were everywhere. We got into the spirit, and Jenna and Gus went to the game looking quite patriotic.
As we were driven to the game on the outskirts of Bamako in a school van, people seemed to be pouring on to the road to the stadium from everywhere. So many people. Mali doesn't have a lot of different sports teams to support and there is an intense energy, and patriotism, that is directed toward the soccer team. We did notice there weren't too many other kids there - tickets are a luxury for many and too expensive to waste on kids that soon ask "When are we going home?" (Gus) but also the air is full a tense excitement and the sense that if the game doesn't go well the crowds may get a little too rowdy for the little people.
Here's some pics of the team playing. Notice the prominent red, yellow and green in the stands.
We decided to leave just before half-time and heard a roar as Mali made their first goal when we were exiting the stadium. Tchad came back with another goal in the second half, but Mali clinched the win with a second goal before the end of the second half. Way to go Mali!!
On the way home in the car, we could see the glow of televisions on many street corners with groups of people gathered to watch. All the guardians down the street had their radios on as well. Soccer/football is big news here. While we all thought it was fun to experience the real game experience, we may enjoy the next one from the serenity of someone's living room without the excited tension of very revved up fans!