Monday, February 13, 2012

Football (written in the) Stars





The crackly excited radio is on behind the lodge kitchen, in the laundry. Its raining outside and all woodsmokey inside. I think its still the days when we use coal irons to iron the guests' clothes. The chefs and waiters pop in and out when they can, between serving courses to the punters. Everyone else is huddled around the radio listening to the world cup qualifiers. I forget what game it was but Zambia is doing really really well. Kevin Mutale has recently scored a hat trick against Mauritius and we're on top form. We're tipped to qualify for the football World Cup for the first time in history. It's 1993. I'm not usually into football, but when Zambia are playing (and doing well!) my heart soars up into the sky attached to helium balloons. A few months previously there was a Zambian Airforce plane shuttling relief maize up to Luawata, where my uncle works. I go out to the scraggly old dirt airstrip in the park and watch the crew load up sacks and sacks of maize. They ask if I want to go with them on their plane, on a day trip to Mpika but I worry that my parents will be worried about me, taking off without telling them, so I decline. They're happy burly men, full of laughter. Its this plane, with this crew, that the Zambian football team are on, flying from Gabon to Senegal in April 1993 when it crashes into the sea, killing all 30 people on board. The rising stars, all gone. And so Zambia's Africa Cup of Nations victory last night in Liberville - the first time a Zambian team had been back to Gabon since the team perished there 19 years before. They played Ivory Coast against the likes of Didier Drogba. The underdogs we were, but it was written in the stars.   It's awesome I tell you, just awesome!