Understandably, Bjorn is feeling exhausted by his exertions of the past 13 months. I also feel pretty done in - both mentally and physically - by my much smaller contribution to 'The Shirt 2010' project.
It is hard to say, therefore, at this point in time, where exactly the project will go from here in the coming months. I very much hope there will still be an exhibition, book and 'The Shirt 2014', but it is impossible to say just now.
My advice would be to check this blog (let's say) once per month for any updates, and to continue logging on to www.theshirt2010.net every now and then to hear Bjorn's news and updates. I guess new previously unpublished photos will be added to both www.theshirt2010.net and www.justinworldcup.weebly.com on a regular basis in the coming weeks.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single one of you who has followed this project and supported us in any shape or form. The messages of support and encouragement were always greatly appreciated whilst on the road in Africa. I am sorry that it was often impossible to reply to you personally at that time.
I hope this project has encouraged us all to think more about the world's refugees. I hope each and every one of us will continue to think of the refugees in the future and, on occasion, offer our personal support to them wherever in the world they may be.
Thank you to you all!!
All the best,
Wednesday, June 9
The latest stats for this blog reveal that the site now has a decent following in South Africa.
The top 10 countries following www.justinworldcup.weebly.com over the last 7 days are...
1. United Kingdom 2. South Africa 3. Latvia 4. Lithuania 5. Switzerland 6. Kenya 7. United States 8. Zambia 9. Australia 10. Denmark
Please encourage your friends and work mates to follow my blogs over the coming weeks as well as those of Bjorn at www.theshirt2010.net
Monday, June 7
England became the first national team at the World Cup finals to comfirm that they will definitely NOT be donating a shirt to this project.
I guess an England fan cycling and hitch-hiking 6500 kilometres across Africa is expecting a bit too much asking for a signed shirt.
The answer from the English FA was rather predictable and sounded remarkably like a cut and paste job:
"As you can imagine we receive a significant volume of requests of this nature and it is not possible to please everyone.
As such The FA has a charity policy which we re-evaluate every year, and these are our chosen partners that we seek to assist as much as possible."
Monday, June 7
The World Cup might be starting on friday but most foreign fans still haven't got much clue where they are staying and how they will get to games.
Because accommodation was initially so overpriced the majority of 'normal fans' are turning up this week with no accommodation booked. These fans are also pretty unclear just how they are going to get to the stadiums for their team's opening match.
The same applies to myself and England's first match in Rustenburg. It is only 2-3 hours from Joburg but, as I want to avoid driving, the options seem limited. Every time I try to book coach travel online the websites either crash or do not accept foreign credit cards. Accommodation, meanwhile, in Rustenburg seems to be totally booked out for the England v USA match.
Friends from several countries, who are due here in the next four days, have contacted me asking for my suggestions on where to stay and how to get to matches. After three weeks here I can't say I have much more idea than them. Looks like a case of making it up as you go along. That's how the Africans often do things so we should probably adopt the same strategy.
Monday, June 7
Yesterday's stadium accident in which dozens of South Africans and Nigerians were injured is easily explained.
The match between North Korea and Nigeria was played at a small, non-World Cup stadium with next to no security on hand. Having already attended a match in Zambia where free match tickets were handed out to the local community I have experienced first hand how the nice gesture of free admitance creates excitement, huge queues and a potential stampede.
The moment that many of those queueing outside think that the stadium is close to capacity they begin surging forward in the hope of getting inside before the gates are closed and they remain locked outside the match.
Yesterday's accident is understandable and easily explained. This same scenario will not be played out during the World Cup. Those attending matches will need to pass through three separate security cordens.
It is also worth noting that the stadiums in South Africa are as good as if not better than those we are used to in Europe's top leagues.
Monday, May 24
I am fortunate enough to attend South Africa's pre-World Cup friendly with Bulgaria at the Orlando Stadium.
The stadium is in the infamous Soweto suburb of Johannesburg, within sight of many of the country's most notorious townships. After total refurbishment in 2008, this new state-of-the-art arena now seats 40,000 fans.
It is chaos on the roads leading to Soweto. Despite leaving another Johannesburg suburb at 7, we are only able to double-park on one of the roads adjacent as the match kicks off at 8.30.
Many of the streets leadng to the stadium are unlit and the noise is deafening. Once inside the arena the volume level goes up several more desibels. It is so raucous, in fact, that I cannot hear my friend Norris, stood next to me. It is very cold; maybe only 6 degrees Celsius. It is more like a chilly November evening than the summer paradise many foreign football fans are expecting.
The Orlando stadium actually shakes as tens of thousands of fans jump up and down in unison and dance rythmically from side to side. Truthfully, I have never heard noise anything like this from 40,000 fans. It is deafening.
When Bafana Bafana take a deserved 1-0 lead it is time to apply index fingers inside the ears.
Bulgaria have good support in the stadium. I can only assume the couple thousand present reside here in the Rainbow Nation. Cyrillic flags include: Slavia and Lokomotiv.
When the Bulgarians equalise it also feels more like a full international rather than a friendly.
At half time I realise, if I didn't realise before, strolling around, that the majority present here are straight out of the Soweto townships. There are a lot of, shall we say, quite 'rough and ready' lads present. In the toilets the local males think little of sharing urinals, rather than waiting their turns. Three blokes sharing one urinal is a first for me.
The stadium is located inside a giant natural bowl and, as it gets colder, mist begins to hug the floodlights giving the occasion the feel of a packed out November evening FA Cup replay.
Bafana Bafana look like a much more decent side than they are given credit for, look dangerous at set pieces, and are inspired at times thanks to Steven Pienaar. If this kind of support is behind them for their Group A matches with France, Mexico and Uruguay I believe they can and will qualify for the second round.
The match finishes 1-1. I break my 'never-leave-a-match-before-the-final-whistle' rule on 87 minutes, otherwise I will be spending the whole night in Soweto rather than one of Joburg's rather leafier suburbs.
Wednesday, May 19
Nata - Gaborone, Botswana
Peter, the owner of North Gate Lodge, sorts out a large portable board for us that we place surrealy by the road sign marked simply:
Very little traffic passes here in this vast, sparsely populated country of 1.2 million. Nata is on the edge of the Sowa Pan, part of the world’s largest, the Makgadikgadi Pans. Sadly, we neither have the time to cycle all the way south from here or to bike west to visit the pans and their magnificent bird life.
We find a lift to Francistown, 120 kilometres away, and then pick up a midday ride leaving for Gaborone. Truthfully, the 600 kilometre journey down the A1 is rather monotonous compared to much of what has passed these past weeks. We cross the Lose River and spot the first mountains in Botswana as the Mahalapye River comes into view.
But best of all we cross the Tropic of Capricorn, meaning I have completed one of my personal targets; namely ‘hitchbiking’ from roughly the equator to the tropics.
I wish we could have spent much more time in Botswana. It is certainly the most developed country I have seen in Africa. We have seen no poverty. No-one appears to beg on the streets. I guess the tourist board might Christen it ‘Zimbabwe as it once was’.
The numerous national parks and game reserves deserving of many hours will have to be visited another time, but at least I have educated myself about the beauty of this place.
In Gaborone we cycle through the city centre to our hotel. The capital is decidedly more European than African. We swerve in and out of rush hour traffic, negotiate traffic lights and roundabouts and finally make base for the night at the President Hotel.
The UNHCR, well aware that this is the final night for us of the journey south, have shouted the night at the President for us. It is a gorgeous hotel although bizarrely the adjacent shopping centre is so reminiscent of its counterpart in Coventry city centre that it sends my head-a-spinning as I stroll through it on my way to the local Spar. Outside the local newspaper headline reads:
Botswana foils World Cup terror plot
“I don’t know what to say on my final blogs. I am not sure how I feel,” Bjorn tells me as we crack open the first of the celebratory beer and whisky. Although we still have two or three hours of cycling in the morning, this hotel room represents the finishing line in many ways. Tomorrow we will be in South Africa and the ‘expedition’ will be completed.
“Don’t write anything just yet. Just enjoy the feeling of completion and the relief of making it all the way here safely. I don’t think you will understand how you feel now till you are back in Norway reflecting back on all this.”
After meeting the UNHCR representative for Botswana, the affable and extremely knowledgeable Mister Shana Kaninda, it is time for alcohol and reminiscences. Tales from the road; happy and scary memories merge. A sense of satisfaction and accomplishment builds inside. Dreams of what can be achieved at the World Cup in South Africa are discussed.
Part of me can’t wait to get to South Africa to know I have completed the journey. Another part of me wishes this wasn’t over just yet and that more adventures on the road were around the corner.
Jaime Morris has kindly dedicated an album to 'the Shirt 2010 project'. It is now available on itunes for download with 50% of the money from each track going directly to the project.
Please download a copy of 'More Than A Game' today.
Every CD or track sold helps us to provide school books, water pumps, goats etc. to projects such as the Mombasa Street Boys and the Chogo Refugee Camp. We can put this money directly into these projects so even one CD makes a real difference.
You can download the album by visiting the itunes site. Just click here to be redirected.
Thursday, April 22
Chogo Refugee resettlement Camp, Tanzania
Due to a little bit too much beer (at least I hope that is his excuse) Bjorn was cuddling up closer to me in bed than I would have liked and clearly was thinking I might be his Marianne :) Consequently, I elected to spend the rest of the night trying to sleep on the floor.
We travel up to the Chogo Refugee Settlement, less than 100 kilometres from Tanga. The camp is run by REDESO (The Relief to Development Society).
The vision of REDESO is as follows:
"A community where vulnerable people have access to equal opportunities and empowerment".
There are around 2,800 resettled Somalis living at the Chogo Camp. The idea is that they become self sufficient and naturalized as Tanzanian citizens.
Both these ideas seem appropriate to me. Chogo is a beautiful place. It is hilly, full of lush vegitation and enjoys the occasional cooling breeze.
The camp's residents, young and old, are very friendly. We meet the camp's Elders. They want to be totally self-sufficient, but first they need a little more help from people like you and me. They need school books for the kids; they need electricity and running water.
Much has already been achieved at Chogo from when it was originally nothing more than one huge UNHCR tent. Now thousands live happily in their own houses, go to their mosque, cook on coal-heated stoves and, of course, play football.
But these people have shown that if they are given the tools to become self-sufficient, they can do just that.
It would be nice to think that somebody who reads this might help to put those books into the Chogo classrooms and the waterpumps into the orange Chogo soil.
For more details:
Wednesday, April 21
After the previous day's trials and tribulations, a relaxing evening consisting of several Safari beers, a tasty Indian curry, Champions League football, clean white sheets and an air-conditioned room meant that I slept like a baby and woke up feeling as fit and sprightly as a teenage lad.
The two hitchbikers sat out on the breakfast veranda with its fine views of the Indian Ocean, and the dhows that ply the waterways in the distance. It might only be just after 7am but the Tanga Immigration boys are out and about early doors looking for foreigners who might not be who they say they are. So breakfast is spent with Tanga Immigration who, perhaps not surprisingly, are a little taken a back to hear Bjorn's well-told tale of cycling from Norway to South Africa for the refugees. Our Indian-Tanzanian hosts look a little tense. I guess we look more like drug smugglers than cyclists. Well, Bjorn certainly looks dodgy :)
A photo of Bjorn with Sepp Blatter and a letter from the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs soon clear things up.
Wednesday is supposed to be what we call 'a communication day'. This, as the name suggests, is a day when we set aside 5 or 6 hours to blog, email and edit stories. It is also the first time I have had proper access to my emails in around a week and the first thing I discover is that my father has had what he calls 'a mild heart attack'.
It goes without saying that this news worries and stresses me greatly. My dad is in China and must have a serious operation the following day. I know there is nothing I can do to help and that only adds to the tension.
In the evening I am hoping for a quiet beer alone but as I enter the hotel bar I get introduced to two South Korean lads wearing German football tops who want to talk about football. There is a 1997 calendar on the wall, two toy white Persian cats plonked near our beers and a white man with a German accent who speaks fluent Swahili stocking up the beers. I am worried about my father but I guess surreal distractions are a good thing.