Wednesday, January 30, 2013 (Day 21)
David Beckham stayed in Makeni once. Seems hard to believe but it is true. The former England football captain visited this town when he was working for UNICEF and is said to have ordered his driver to stop the car at one point so that he could indulge in a kick around with some local boys he spotted playing in the street. He did some very good work here and raised a lot of awareness for the people of Sierra Leone. Beckham stayed at MJ's motel across the street from Flamingo's night club. I thought about that today as I strolled past in the scorching sun and saw the club advertising its upcoming reggae night. The hotel was looted and vandalised during the civil war, in the days when Makeni became a stronghold of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The hotel reopened three years after the end of the civil war; Beckham visited three years later and now I am here, five years after Beckham, thinking about dropping in and asking whether I can take a photo of the room he stayed in for More Than a Game.
"Justin! How are you? Where have you been? The coach was asking why you haven't been back to training." Moses asks me, spotting me outside MJ's. I had intended to join the lads for training this morning but when I woke up feeling like I'd spent a night in the Gobi, I knew I just wasn't up to it. The lads have their playoff match tomorrow evening and Moses has invited me to join up with his team to watch it.
It has been a funny old day for me. Touch wood, I haven't been sick once during my time in Sierra Leone; not as much as a stomach ache or an emergency dash to the toilets. But somehow today I find myself quite blatantly dehydrated. My three-day-old habit of drinking a small bottle of fizzy drink (ginger beer/lemon Fanta/orange parrot) every morning and evening doesn't help; it quenches your thirst but in truth all of that sugar is doing you no favours. I never ever touch fizzy drinks back home. And so I find myself drinking and sweating like a Saharan lorry driver. Fortunately, I thought to pack some rehydration salts but, after a solid morning in the office, it is clear I need to get myself home at lunchtime for a kip and an afternoon session of trying to get my head back together after Monday's events.
More Than a Game joined The Collective and the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Sierra Leone for a seven-week voluntary placement in January 2013.