Tuesday, April 27
Testing African Time to its very limits we schedule meetings with the UNHCR, Simba Football Club, the Tanzanian Football Federation, The ITV television channel and the Guardian and Citizen newspapers.
Our early morning meeting with the UNHCR was straight forward and ran on time, although I reckon I managed to upset a senior member of staff there. You see, I cannot understand why, after 10 months on the road, Bjorn is not receiving better support from the UNHCR. Not only is he working free-of-charge for the organisation, but he has also spent thousands of pounds of his own money and will be away from his family for almost a year. I told the UNHCR representative in Dar es Salaam that I cannot understand why they knew next to nothing about his trip before our arrival and also offered next to no support in the country until we were leaving. The same story has been repeated in respect to the UNHCR in nearly every country Bjorn has visited.
We were told that we need to communicate more with the Head Office in Geneva. I do not agree. Geneva needs to communicate more with us…and with every other regional office in southern and eastern Africa. To date, this project has spread the word to more than 80 million people worldwide. It is time the UNHCR woke up and started helping us more.
My message is: when we get to Malawi we want the UNHCR to organise a press conference with all the national press and the country’s main football clubs. We want transport around the city, a simple bed to be provided and good internet access. I do not think it is too much to ask for.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
The girls from Star Sports Television might not follow the most orthodox style of journalism but, none the less, they really came up with the goods after the interview they made with Bjorn and I featured on their pan-African sports channel. Viewers in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo now know about ‘The Shirt 2010’ project and our efforts to spread awareness about the world’s millions of refugees. It goes without saying that when you walk down a Tanzanian street and a random passer by tells you “I saw you on the television,” you feel the project is going in the right direction.
One thing I have quickly learned in Kenya and Tanzania is the concept of ‘Africa time’. If somebody tells you they will meet you at 1pm, chances are they will actually turn up at 7pm…or not at all. The prize, however, for the best Africa Time example to date must go to the African Confederations Cup match we attended on Sunday between Simba (Dar es Salaam) and Haras El Hadoud (Egypt). The high profile match was held at the Tanzanian New National Stadium (capacity 65,000) in front of more than 20,000 spectators. OK, so the Kick Off time was supposed to be 4pm; millions awaited live TV coverage in Egypt and Tanzania. But following the rules of Africa Time none of us should have been surprised that the match kicked off 33 minutes late. The reason? There wasn’t one!
The strangest feature of this entertaining match was the decision by more than two thousand rival Tanzanian football fans to turn up and support the Egyptian team, rather than Tanzanian champions Simba. Apparently, rivalries cut so deep in Tanzania that rival fans actually pay good money to turn up and support foreign opponents. It’s the equivalent of 2,000 Everton fans turning up at Anfield to support Benfica if they were playing against Liverpool!
For the record, Simba won Sunday’s match 2-1.