Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The Paranoia

The Africa Cup of Nations sponsors MTN were at the training ground on Tuesday to dish out 50,000 dollars to the Ghana team for getting to the semi finals.

Rather charmingly I asked if it was going to go to a charity of their choice. No said a man from MTN, it's for the team.

As I noticed he was up there on the podium handing out a large cardboard cheque, I thought he might have something to do with the company.

So since I trained as a news reporter, I asked for his name, which he gave to me. He also told me what he did. He was the chief financial officer.

I asked him another question. He said he couldn't answer it so I took his card and said I'd call for more details. As I turned to see if there was an actual footballer to talk to, a woman came up to me and asked me where I was from.

Now since the microphone has RFI on it. I worried that she might think I was being facetious if I said the BBC. So I looked down the microphone, held it up slightly and said: "RFI. Radio France International's English service."

She asked: "What did you ask him?"

"His name."

"What did he say?"

"His name."

She said that he wasn't supposed to speak. "There's protocol."

I wondered if she might be related to the policeman in the Kumasi mixed zone.

"Yes but if you're the protocol, you weren't there when I spoke to him."

I took her card but frankly I don't think I'll be interacting with MTN.

I will be in touch with UNICEF however. I went to the Street Academy with two UNICEF young reporters, Stephen and Edith, who went to the academy to encourage the children to attend school.

These Street Academy kids come from homes where the parents aren't altogether chuffed about their offspring going to school. Some as old as 15 have not had any formal education.

One boy, Joseph, told how he hadn't been allowed to go because it caused too much trouble.

The school was housed in a building overlooking shacks near the National Arts Centre.

It was ragged. The football pitch was dirt and sand and the children played barefooted or one had a sock for his right foot.

The side of the pitch was effectively an ersatz rubbish dump which unfolded towards the beach.

While the boys practiced their football, the girls sang songs.

Joseph wanted to be an engineer when he grew up.

Who was his favourite footballer?

"Frank Lampard"

"Frank Lampard? You support Chelsea?"

"Yes," said Joseph.

"That's my team too."

I didn't really think it was the moment to talk about my disillusionment with the whole Chelsea concept.

From worlds apart, we were communing. I've never known anything like his suffering. Though they split up I had really supportive parents.

I phoned my mum on Tuesday night before the trip out to the Street Academy.

She laughed when I told her the pineapple was so sweet that I didn't want to share it.

"Don't be so mean, Paul."

"But the pineappele's sweet."

It's so good I only eat it in my hotel room now.