Wednesday, January 30, 2013 (Day 21)
I am watching Andy Townsend and a heavily frowning Tony Adams discussing football tactics ahead of the Arsenal v Liverpool match on South Africa's Super Sport. The last time I saw Townsend was in the press & media centre at Lvov Stadium in Ukraine during last summer's Euros. I remember he was unshaven, wearing what appeared to be a military flak jacket, and looked like he hadn't slept for a month. Such was the paranoia in the lead up to Ukraine 2012 perhaps.
Anyway, I am name dropping Townsend because my memory of spotting him last summer makes this moment all the more silly: I am sat in the pitch dark in an insanely humid corrugated hut with around one hundred African lads watching tonight's matches between Arsenal and Liverpool, and El Classico between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Some of the boys go mental as Suarez puts the Reds in front. We are seated on approximately 20 wooden benches, each of which is named either after a football club or player. Tonight I find myself sweating for England on the 'Malaga' bench, busily swatting mosquitos and planning an escape route back to the house at half time. Oh my word! Surely that isn't the famous Jordan Henderson who has just put Liverpool 2-0 up?! Again, I find my mind racing back to the tomfoolery of the 'euwos'. Tonight, here in Makeni, that feels like a lifetime ago and a completely different planet from the one I currently inhabit.
I slide my way outside. It is pitch dark aside from the headlights of motorbike riders, lone figures walking past with torches and the occasional candle lighting up a doorway. The stars above look magnificent. Alasand's brother is kindly going to accompany me back to the house because I don't have a decent torch with me plus I am still not willing to walk home alone in the pitch dark. Yes, it feels perfectly safe here but it isn't something I'd do at home, let alone as the only white man in the suburb. It only takes one nutter.
I have managed to make the small radio I brought with me to work. I listen to one local news programme about making the roads in Sierra Leone safer i.e. insurance, helmets, driving tests etc. It is quite amusing listening to Krio. It is like you are listening to English and then it suddenly goes off at a tangent into archaic English and street slang and the conversation is part 2013; part 1813.
"And just before the news, here are your current regional temperatures: Makeni, thirty six degrees. The humidity has dropped a little to ninety two percent."
Good God. No wonder I am dehydrated.
More Than a Game joined The Collective and the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Sierra Leone for a seven-week voluntary placement in January 2013.