Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The Living God

I was sitting on the steps outside the RFI studio at the hotel in Accra and a man came up to me.

He introduced himself and asked me for my name which I duly gave him. He then inquired about my profession. And again I obliged.

He told me he had been in touch with RFI a host of times to ask them to pay for his flight to France so he could spread the message about him being the Living God. And as I seemed to be connected with RFI, maybe I could help out.

Still feeling quite tender from a bubbly tummy, I said wanly that I was on the verge of a six hour drive to Kumasi so I wouldn’t be able to help out until at least Friday afternoon at the earliest.

As it was, we left 90 minutes later than planned for Kumasi, Pierre spent the time doing something. Ninety mintues? He didn’t say what he was doing and I did not ask.

I mean why not just say 10.30?

But the upshot was that we still had to be in Kumasi for a 5pm kick off and the road is very slow.

Pierre has got a cold – quite a feat with the searing temperatures that we’re in - so it meant the air conditioning couldn’t be on in the car. No problem for me, I’m a windows open kind of guy.

But he was an impatient passenger and felt that the route to Kumasi should be done by going along the coast to Cape Coast and then up from there.

Personally I think it is going to take a lot longer than the five hours we spent today but we will try this route out on Friday when we return to Accra.

And since we don’t have to be back in Accra for any particular reason it is bound to take longer. For example we plan to stop for lunch.

So it was a stressful ride because the driver, Foster, is not a speed merchant and the man who made us late was trying to get him to drive faster.

It all added up to a worried Paul in the back as Foster was egged on to overtake where he really didn’t want to overtake.

Ultimately I implored Foster to take it easy. And since I wasn’t the one who had held us up for 90 minutes I would have risked a frisson in the car by pursuing that line.

The stadium for the Egypt v Zambia match wasn’t packed at all. Strangely the noisiest supporters were positioned right in front of the commentary boxes, so I guess all the listeners to the broadcasts would have thought the stadium was full.

Oh the deceptive joys of radio. TV couldn’t get away with such subterfuge. The cacophony didn’t bother me as I wasn’t commentating – just watching and waiting for the mixed zone.

What impressed me the most was the way the rowdy bunch stopped making any noise when it was time for the national anthems. They stood in silence as the Zambian one was played and sang their hearts out when it was the turn for the Egyptian tune.

They then returned to their joyous uproar. Seeing that perked me up. Nirvana was attained as both teams came through the mixed zone. The Egyptian player who speaks good English, Mohamed Zidan, didn’t stop but enough of the Zambians did.

The Zambia skipper, Chris Katonga, had been answering questions for a few minutes when a burly policeman took it upon hiself to start hustling him though the mixed zone.

It was starting to look like harassment with Katonga analysing the state of Zambian football while being brusquely moved along by the long arm of the law.

Ultimately a very tall South African reporter told the copper to stop it because if a player wants to talk then he should be allowed to chat – especially a captain who scored a cracker of a goal to equalise.

The overzealous officer still hovered over Katonga. Finally the South African journalist said while pointing at a man with quite a few stripes: “If you don’t stop it we’ll tell your general what you’re doing and he’ll transfer you to Tamale.”

The policeman arrested his behaviour.