Three dollars to Cairo

The football tournament Afcon ended on Friday night but with the tournament conclusion comes stories of how several Namibian football lovers journeyed to watch some matches.

22 July 2019 | Sports

LIMBA MUPETAMI



The Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is a prestigious football tournament in Africa, bringing together best footballing countries to compete against each other for the coveted title.

Namibia, after a long 10-year hiatus, returned to the grand stage competing at the tournament in what was called the group of death.

Many across the country could not travel to witness the country compete, but for some lucky few, dreams of witnessing the competition came true through a SMS competition which was run by mobile communications company MTC.

MTC announced their first batch of winners on 12 June. These four winners, namely Paulus Pataya and Ute Tjiriange with selected companions, travelled to Egypt to watch the Brave Warriors play against Morocco, Ivory Coast and South Africa. The Warriors did not make it past the group stages, but the memories these winners made were priceless.

The second batch of winners followed soon after with football fans Lavinia and Maria Uutoni, as well as Petrus Kalola and Mathilde Fillipus, flying to Egypt for a week to witness the grand finale.

They were also privileged to watch the third-place playoffs between Tunisia and Nigeria. The latter emerged victorious after beating Tunisia 1-0.

“I personally enjoy the way the Nigerians dance and sing at stadiums hence the fact that I decided to support them. A lot of people we met at the stadium actually believed that we were from Nigeria.

“The thing with us Namibians is that we generally just enjoy football and once our team is out we continue to support our neighbours. But I guess the Nigerians knew otherwise, because most of the supporters know each other very well, as they come from supporters clubs.

“This is actually a great initiative on their part. They are very passionate fans because they travel all the way to support their team. I think Namibia can learn a lot in this regard,” said Maria.

Maria's story of how she got to travel to Egypt is quite simple. She entered the competition three times. An SMS cost a mere N$3. “I think MTC contacted a couple of other people before me. But I understand that those people didn't have travelling documents and that is how they ended up picking me. Call me lucky,” chuckled Maria, a final-year accounting student at the University of Namibia.

Lavinia, her cousin who is a third-year law student at the same university, accompanied her on the trip. She shared some of her sentiments saying that the matches were exciting and united people who were mere strangers to one another, even just for the duration of the matches. “I played football back in high school and I'm passionate about the game. I'm also very much into fitness so I really enjoyed the two matches.”

She further said that she experienced cultural shock when she arrived in the country as the people were deeply religious and used to a certain way of doing things.

“We stayed in Giza. It is pretty humid. This means that one cannot really be out and about in long-sleeved clothes. In Namibia when it's hot we normally dress in shorts. But it is so different here because wearing that means that people will stare at you all day in disapproval.

“A bit uncomfortable but I guess it's who they are,” she said.

She further said that the best part of the trip was sitting in a stadium with close to 70 000 people as Algeria and Senegal competed for the trophy.

“The noise was electrifying. We entered the stadium quite late on the last day as security closed the gates three hours before kickoff, something to do with fans not allowed to enter the field after the president has taken his chair.

“We had to stand outside and only managed to enter close to halftime. Had we known this earlier, we would have made our way to the stadium a little earlier to avoid the inconvenience, but nonetheless, it was a worthwhile experience because we travelled from far to watch the final. I think luck was on our side.

“During our wait outside we got to meet people from all over the continent behind the fence. Can you imagine, I have never met someone from Central Africa, or Sudan for that matter. Some didn't have tickets, and were just waiting for the chance to be allowed in. Football is truly a big thing,” she said.

Another winner of the competition, Petrus Mwaudanawa, said he was supporting Algeria throughout the tournament.

“The guys just know how to play football. No one believed me when I said that Algeria will win.

“I met so many people during my stay in Egypt and will always cherish the memories I have made. I have pictures which I will share with my family. Maybe one day I will return to Egypt for another visit,” he said.

Mathilde Fillipus, whom he had picked to accompany him on the trip, said she was overwhelmed by the country. “Nobody slept after the match. The Algerian people were screaming in the corridors all night. They were really happy to have won the tournament. I'm actually happy they won, even though I was supporting Senegal because I was scared of the after-effects, had they lost.

“A local told me that they can become a bit unruly and cause fights so I didn't want to see any of that happening,” she added.

Lilian Simataa, who was also watching the match live from Cairo, said she wishes Namibia would one day make the nation proud by reaching the finals.

“We have a young, brilliant team with a lot of potential. I know that with the right coaching tactics and investment the players will reach their goals.”

She further said that hosting a tournament of such magnitude is also possible if Namibia invests in infrastructure.

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