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Saturday, June 4, 2011

“We Go, We Go, Uganda Cranes We Go!”

Today was a laid back day filled with recreational activities for the Drake and MUBS students. The group was excited for today because we were able to attend the Nations Cup Qualifier soccer game with the Uganda team taking on Guinea Bissau in the late afternoon. The Drake students refer to the sport as soccer, while the MUBS students and the rest of Africa (and the world) call it football.

It was a slower morning, we were able to sleep in and eat breakfast at Red Chilli with fresh fruit, vanilla pancakes and omelets as some of the choices. After a quick breakfast, we hopped on the bus and headed to a small craft market to do some shopping for our last minute gifts. On our way to the craft market, the streets were already filled with people wearing Uganda Cranes jerseys, honking, making loud noises with whistles and the large horns called vuvuzelas. It was only 10:00 in the morning, and the city was already buzzing with excitement for the big game. When we finally arrived to the market, we spread out and started to do our shopping. We had about an hour time limit and each student had a list of items to purchase such as picture albums, dresses, jewelry, fabric and other gifts. At this point in the trip, we all knew the tricks of the trade when it came to bargaining and making deals with the Ugandan vendors. Shopping was a piece of cake! This market had a mixture of items for sale. Most of the vendors had very similar items to what we had already seen in past shopping trips, but there always seemed to be something new. As we walked through the market sporting our Uganda Cranes jerseys, the shop owners asked if we were attending the game and thanked us for our support for their country’s team. They were just as thrilled as we were, and hoped for a win for their Cranes.

After finishing up our shopping we made our way back to Red Chilli to drop our items off and then head to MUBS for lunch. Lunch went by quickly and we jumped back on the bus to be dropped off at the stadium. As we were weaving in and out of traffic, the city was booming louder with cheers of anticipation and excitement for the game. When we reached the parking lot of Mandela National Stadium in Namboole, it wasn’t what most of us had expected. People were crammed together waiting to get into the stadium as cars were driving up to the gate. There were comments from our group comparing the situation to professional games they had attended in the United States. The reoccurring theme was that professional games in the United States were much more organized and regulated than what we had seen so far. After waiting in line with our tickets for awhile and being passed by some persistent and enthusiastic fans, we were able to safely get into the stadium and find our seats up in the top row. The stadium was packed and an estimate of about 70,000 people attended the game! Fans flooded the aisles and the outer sides of the field with police supervision. It was interesting that the seating was first come, first serve. This caused some chaos that required a large amount of officials for crowd control. The security measures were lacking despite the numerous police officers. There could be a possible increase in revenue if this system was more organized and controlled. This would require fewer paid police officers and demand a strict form of security. Also, having the tickets correspond to a specific seat would greatly reduce the chaos and allow for increase ticket prices. Concession stands and spirit wear sales could also make for a more sustainable system.

As the game started the level of noise increased to an overwhelming amount. One of the Drake students said that the vuvuzelas and whistles sounded like a swarm of bees. Eventually we became accustomed to the buzzing noise and even joined in with our own cheers and gave the vuvuzelas a try. The Cranes dominated the first half with multiple shots on goal, but it wasn’t until the 39th minute that they scored the first goal. The fans cheered and sang their national chant and we all joined in. During half time an unruly fan ran across the field with his shirt off. As the police escorted him off the field he raised his hands in triumph and the fans went wild. The second half started and the Cranes were at it again and scored another goal. Before we knew the game was over and Uganda had won and qualified for the 2012 Nations Cup for the first time since 1978. The fans were celebrating the win by dancing and cheering while the sprinklers were going off on the field in celebration. After the crowd died down, we gathered our group and made our way towards our bus. We waited in thick traffic for about two hours before we started moving back to Red Chilli. The city continued to celebrate the win for the rest of the night, and the sounds of vuvuzelas could be heard as we were going to sleep after an eventful day.


  1. I have attended many different sports games in America, but the soccer game was unlike anything I have ever been to before. The crowd was out of control, and in the beginning, I was questioning whether we would even make it through the gates. With thousands of people rushing to get in one small entrance, I felt very helpless and unable to do anything but hold on tight to the person in front of me. After being treated like a celebrity so many times since coming to Uganda and wanting to be considered ordinary, this was the one time when I would have liked to have special treatment just for being from America. However, standing in the crowd allowed us to be put in a situation where we were treated the same as Ugandans, and I feel that it was very beneficial for us to experience this in order to have a better understanding of their way of life.

    It was also very amazing to see the dedication and pride Ugandans have in their soccer team. Once safely inside the stadium, every fan was friendly to one another, relating due to their relentless love of the game of football. The Ugandan soccer team brings the entire country together at least just for the couple of hours while the game is going on. More activities such as this should be established in the country to strengthen Ugandans' unity and allow the country to work together towards progressing into a developed nation.

  2. The safety issues that we witnessed as we waited to enter the game are grounded in infrastructure issues around the stadium. As we waited to entered, a large crowd gathered outside of one of the gates. People began to rush through the gate, and the stadium officials were unable to control the swarm of people. Eventually the Ugandan National Police Force emerged and closed the gate.

    After we waited for a while for the gate to reopen, the same problem reoccurred. We waited patiently as we saw hundreds of Ugandans run through the open gate. These people rushed past the ticket taker and bypassed the security checkpoint, so they entered without tickets and without going through a metal detector. The Police Force reacted quickly and emerged with batons and nightsticks swinging. At least one fan was hit with a nightstick as the police attempted to control the crowd.

    These problems could have been mitigated by having a better designed gate into the stadium. Many American stadiums have turnstiles that help to limit entry to one person at a time. With these control devices, the crowd is forced to queue as tickets are inspected and security searches are conducted. At the Ugandan Football match, hundreds of people rushed through the gate without tickets and without being searched because the infrastructure was insufficient to meet the demands of a large and lively crowd.

    After the game Professor McKnight commented that the crowd at this game was about double the size of the crowd at games he had attended in the past (the Ugandan National team has been successful this year). This may have contributed to the caos we witnessed before the match, but better infrastructure designed would help to mitigate these problems. Modern stadiums are designed with crowd control and crowd safety in mind. A better designed stadium would help to ensure that the fans enjoyed a safe and fun experience at the venue.

  3. The soccer game was one of the most interesting and unique experiences for me. I had never been to anything like that, and I have been to my fair share of NFL games. People were yelling and blowing their horns everywhere they went and then shoving to get into the stadium. If I could change one thing about how that stadium was run, I would change would be to have tickets with seat numbers, compared to people buying tickets and then seating is first come and it results in people acting crazy.

    By having assigned seats that have the better seats would be more expensive then it would decrease how crowded and pushy the stadium and parking lot were. They could also make more money off of this because they could make more money off of those nice seats, compared to everyone’s ticket being 15,000 shillings. A lot of people that travel internationally were at the game, and I think a lot of them would have bought the nicer seats, which creates a better experience for them. I think by making this change, there would be less security problems at the stadium, and they could end up making more money.

  4. The soccer game was unlike anything I have ever attended before. The crowed and national pride was amazing. And the noise was louder than any college or professional game I have ever attended. We got lucky with how good the Uganda Cranes are this year, and that it was a qualifying match we attended. It was a lot of fun hearing all of the national chants. I wish we had something to compare it too in the United States, but there is no one team we all cheer for with that much passion. I got the sense that it really brought the country together.

    To address the seating issue, assigned seats would definitely help order at the game. however I don't think it would be a significant increase in revenue. Seeing as if they raised the price for the better seats, they would have to decrease the price for the lower seats, unless they believed that goal wouldn't need to be met.

  5. I was so ecstatic to be able to attend a Ugandan football game and my expectations were only exceeded! I have always wanted to attend a professional soccer game in Africa after watching all of the World Cup games religiously this past summer. It was an awesome feeling to finally be able to join in the insane cheering and even add to the “buzzing” with my own vuvuzela honking away! There was such a sense of national pride at the game; I only wish that Drake Athletics could capture a quarter of the spirit that Ugandans have about the Cranes.

    I agree full heartedly with the previous comments about the lack of organization of the game itself as well as entering the stadium. I think that an easy way to fix this would be to install multiple gates and have security placed at each area. Each gate could have a metal turnstile to prevent everyone rushing in the gate at once. I would also like to see some metal detectors or checking of bags at the entrance. I was shocked to not see anything because most other entrances to high traffic buildings, such as the main building at the MUBS campus, have metal detectors placed at the door. Simply selling assigned seats would also help with crowd control as well as be an easy way to become more sustainable and make more of a profit on the strong fan base.

  6. I was also extremely excited to be going to the soccer game. This was my first live international game. I love soccer, so it was very rewarding for me to actually get to "experience" the game. The fans were so crazy. Their passion for the game was very inspiring.

    The lack of food and souvenir stands was very surprising to me. If we had been in any stadium in the U.S. people would have been trying to sell us food and souvenirs, but I didn't see any of these at the Uganda soccer game. I think opening up some shops in the stadium could open up some new markets and help contribute to sustainable development because it would create jobs and perhaps offset some of the costs of having the stadium cleaned and serviced.

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  8. The morning of the soccer game gave no warning, only fleeting glimpses and flashes of the chaos and disorder that was to come with the slight increase of traffic in the regularly congested Kampala, and of cars filled with hopeful and joyful fans in colors of green and yellow. The set up seemed normal as we went from shop to shop, until we were violently hurled into the crowded chaos of the entrance gates. I must admit, even with all I have seen of Uganda and especially Kampala, I was a little taken back by the sheer magnitude of the "Soccer Game". In the front of our line I saw first hand Ugandan police brutality at its finest as the crowed swelled and overwhelmed the gate and were met with the indiscriminate crack of the baton, both regulation and homemade. I would say that we barely made it to our seats as opposed to "safely" made it to our seats, as I was swarmed by countless fans rushing for seats at any cost, but we obviously made it as I am sitting in the comforts of my home right this moment with my working lights, outlets, and fan. The soccer game was one event I will never forget, and that is a statement coming from a person who watches sports at a rate that is slim to none. I would agree that if they had seat numbers they could charge more for seats, generating higher profits, and as consequence order, at least to a degree would follow. I also agree that this event would be far more sustainable as far as revenue is concerned if they had concessions and souvenir vendors inside the stadium .

  9. I found it interesting that in the final discussion before we left Uganda, people were arguing that the Uganda Cranes national football team created unity throughout the country. The chaos that was observed at this game seemed to be anything but unifying to me. The fact that the police came out and beat citizens back with nightsticks before the game began showed complete disregard for the welfare of the people. But, this was rather necessary to prevent anyone from getting injured as the crowd shoved forward as people tried to hurry through the gates as selfishly as possible. Not to mention that we saw a game in which the Cranes won, but what would the situation have been like if they lost? I'm sure we would not have seen any unity then, but rather riots and destruction. Ugandans need something to unite them, but I do not think that the Cranes are the answer. I can understand wanting to have national pride, but that should come from something other than a sporting event.

  10. The soccer game was crazy! There we so many people packed into the stands. The fans were blowing their horns and whistles non-stop! There was a huge lack of organization at the game. Because there are no assigned seats, they squeeze as many people as possible into the stands. Many sections of the stadium were packed so full that there was only room to stand. If you needed out of wherever you were sitting, you had to crawl over everyone around you as well as on the gates and rails. The security was also slim to none. There were hundreds of police standing around, however that was basically all they were doing, standing. I carried in my large backpack. Never once did we walk through a metal detector or have out bags put through a scanner or have them searched. I could have carried in whatever I pleased. That to me was crazy. One, that would never happen in the US and two, the whole trip we have been walking through a metal detectors and having our bags searched. Even when entering some of the MUBS buildings. The game was really fun to watch, however there are many things that really surprised me about how the game and its fans were organized.

  11. I went to that game too, it was nuts! The stadium was so over crowded we didn't actually make it all the way up the stairs to the bleachers which bummed us out. Luckily the Tusker guys were selling beer for only 2,000/- (a steal!) so we just hung out with them.