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.