24 November 2010
05 November 2010
02 November 2010
I found out a few days ago that the biggest soccer match of the year in the Congo was happening this weekend here in Lubumbashi. I had been to one soccer match here already and I could tell the Congolese here are quite enthusiastic about their soccer so I knew this match would be a must for me to go to. Africa's version of the English Premier League is the CAF Champions league, but it is for the entire continent of Africa. So all the best club teams in Africa play in this league and the local club team here, TP Mazembe, had advanced to the championship match against a team from Tunisia. I decided to go to the match with a Congolese guy I work with named Patrick. He and his brothers are big fans of Mazembe so they were fun to go with. We headed to the stadium and past through downtown on the way. The fanatics were already out in full force with their painted faces and costumes as they danced and sang in the streets. Once we got to the stadium it was much more of the same. We had to push our way through the crowds and police to make our way inside the gates of the stadium. We found some good seats and watched as the capacity stadium sang, blew their vuvuzela's (which I am now able to fully appreciate how obnoxious they are), and chanted as the team's warmed up. The opposing team was full of mzungu's, which is Swahili for "white person", so unfortunately I heard lot of jeering with "mzungu" thrown in there. Luckily I was proudly wearing my TP Mazembe shirt so I was not to be confused as a fan of my fellow white men, which brought much entertainment and laughter to the crowd around me.
Once the match started all focus was put towards the field. I very much wanted TP Mazembe to win, but I was able to watch the match with an impartial view of the refereeing and as I result it was very clear to me that the referees on the field were very biased in favor of the home team. I hoping to find statistics on the match somewhere, but I can guesstimate that the fouls on the Tunisian team were close to 30 whereas the number of fouls against TP Mazembe was maybe 5. The Tunisians probably got about 7 yellow cards to Mazembe's zero. The Tunisian's also had a player red carded and another one called for a penalty kick. It was the most ridiculous officiating ever, but the Congolese fans loved it. TP Mazembe took advantage of the situation and converted on some great plays to win the match 5-0. The stadium would go crazy after every goal. I almost got knocked over several times and definitely got splashed with lots of water. It was sad to see the Tunisian team totally dejected after the goals started racking up. When the final whistle blew the riot police rushed out onto the field to protect the referees because they knew the Tunisians were upset and were going to go after them. There were several skirmishes were the Tunisian players tried attacking the refs or anyone they could take out their frustration on. The police soon devised a plan to hold hands and encompass the entire Tunisian team. This was quite a site from the stands and crowd applauded it. They were led off the field and the celebrating began.
There was a mass exodus from the stadium and again we pushed and shoved to find our way back to the car. I felt like the most popular person there being a mzungu in a TP Mazembe shirt. People loved it and everyone had a comment for me. The car ride home was a parade as crowds lined both sides of the streets and cheered as the cars passed. We headed home one direction but saw objects on fire in front of us a ways down the road. Whether it was tires, cars, or Tunisian fans being set on fire I don't know but the people in the street around us told us to quickly turn around so we wisely did so. Another memorable sight I saw on the way home was a taxi-van with about 15 people crammed inside, including a marching band. The back door was open and there was also about 15 people riding on top of the van as it sped and weaved through traffic. Got to love the Congolese and their ingenuity. We finally made it back home alive. Quite the experience. I was kicking myself the entire night for forgetting to bring my camera so I don't have pictures to share. It felt like one of the crazy events that you only get to experience once in your life. Needless to say I was quite happy.
Found a clip of some of the mayhem after the match: