Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nigeria wins, the crowd goes wild (all over Africa)

The news from Beijing that Nigeria has beat the U.S. men's soccer team to knock them out of the Olympics tournament probably won't interest all that many Americans, but I can guarantee you the people are going mad in West Africa.

My wife is from Togo and has family there and in Ghana. During one of our visits home, the World Cup was on, and every time a match started - especially if an African team was playing - there would be large crowds huddled around every television. In the smaller towns and villages, where watching television is by necessity a communal activity, you would see throngs of people around roadside "spots" (their word for bar or foodstand) that own a television.

One day we took a taxi up into the hills north of Accra to meet my wife's eldest brother (my eldest brother), Eric. The area, Aburi, is known for its carving arts, and Eric, a carver and musician, set up his studio there to be in the thick of things. As we arrived, boys and young men were chipping away at drums and statues in the lot next to his studio, though they vanished suddenly – to watch a World Cup game on television, Eric explained.

Another day we were driving around with my wife's sister (my sister), Mary Magdaelene. She was listening to soccer on the radio. MM, as we call her, has a beautiful and sly sense of humor. She is widely traveled and understands cultural differences very well, and she likes to point them out.

At one point she leaned toward me, conspiratorially, and pointed at the radio. "The boy is not actually watching the live soccer match, you know," she said, of the play-by-play announcer. "They just watch it on TV and call the games as if they are actually there."

Believe me, as Nigeria beat the U.S., all over West Africa you had fearless DJs watching the game on television and screaming the action out into the night over the radio.

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