Sunday, February 10, 2013 (Day 32)
There must be almost fifty white faces in this bar. It feels very odd and I am not sure I like it very much, if you know what I mean.
I am in ‘the Clubhouse’ in Makeni watching England grind out a professional performance to gain victory for the first time against Ireland in Dublin in a decade. The Six Nations rugby has drawn in a right old combination of Europeans and North Americans. If there are four dozen whites in here then I reckon I saw 20, tops, during my previous five weeks in Makeni. It is good news though for the excellent charity Street Child which operates this cosy, friendly restaurant and uses the profits to help run their charity. You’d struggle to get this many expats together in Riga or Vilnius – European capital cities.
There are a load of sixth form kids from Merseyside that are here to help at one of the schools. Then there are a load of slightly too loud English blokes – almost certainly miners – who are singing ‘Sweet Chariot’ aloud and sound like football blokes trying to pretend they like rugby. And there is also more than half a dozen twenty-something English public school girls who are out here working for the various NGOs operating in Makeni. I get chatting to Thomas, a French lad, who is working at St. Francis. He drove to Sierra Leone from Senegal where he was working prior to here. His adventurous journey took him through Guinea Bissau and Guinea; thirty hours of it on the back of a peanut truck. Thomas says he didn’t experience one single negative incident during the journey through ‘dangerous Guinea’, or during his time living in Senegal: “When I lived in Brussels I was attacked with knives on three separate occasions.”
Thomas’ excellent company aside I feel rather keen to escape this white enclave. This feels like some conscious bolt hole away from Africa. With only two weeks remaining in Sierra Leone this isn’t the kind of place I feel like hanging around in and I am not sure British school kids (as nice as they are) or miners or young public school girls (as nice as they are) are the kind of people I am going to have an awful lot in common with, despite coming from the same country as them. I am dreaming of Yeane’s and the final of the 2013 African Nations Cup.
This is more like it: there must be close on 200 African lads and a sprinkling of ladies sat with eyes glued to the two monitors in Yeane’s. Many are fans of Nigeria but others, like me, have been won over by the excellent football of Burkina Faso. I have really enjoyed nights like this; cold bottles of Star, sweat dripping down my forehead, watching the African Nations Cup in Yeane’s with a crowd of friendly, football-mad Sierra Leoneans.
Nigeria are just too good for Burkina Faso. Once they take a 1-0 lead thanks to a brilliant strike, they just close up shop and strangle Burkina Faso’s midfield. As is often the case with finals, the game doesn’t live up to expectations. Nigeria and their 170 million fans badly want to win this cup for the first time in 19 years and they don’t mind doing it by killing the game in midfield. Bance is having a disappointing final. Petroipa can’t do it all on his own. Nigeria are deservedly champions of Africa.
More Than a Game joined The Collective and the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Sierra Leone for a two-month voluntary placement in January 2013.