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Diary of a Volunteer





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The BIG Match

First Half
Build-up to the Malawi-must-win football match against Cameroun in the African Cup of Nations More...More

Second Half
Report from the game: will Malawi start crossing the ball better? More...More


August 1995

Fans of the big game between Malawi and Cameroun

No more exertions - it's time to watch someone else do the work. It's time for an ambition to come true: to watch an International football match, in Malawi.

First Half

SUNDAY 16th August - time for the big match. No, not my third game for Royal Insurance (we won 11-5 [eleven] and I scored four [4] - but the 'Malawi must win' match against Cameroon. An international football match at Kamuzu stadium (now called Chichiri stadium) - a crowd's roar from our home.

I went with Chris Kuhn, Macbeth and colleagues of Macbeth. These ever so nice colleagues had a vehicle - no trudge in the rain for us, today. Despite the typical British summer that we were suffering - you know: hard rain, fog, a teasing patch of sunshine, more rain (I kid you not) - we were all excited at the prospects of a must-win game for both teams. (Each team must win, to proceed to the final stages of the African Cup of Nations.)

And what queues greeted us! The ten Kwacha queue - the cheap seats - had no end, seemingly filled with a rainbow of umbrellas. It was definitely the thirty Kwacha (posh) seats for us.

Oh yes! A much more civilised queue - its head and tail both in view - we still weren't moving though. A scrum of supporters tried to squeeze through the enter-sideways turnstile; this made it easy for opportunists to join in at the front. Still, we were able to savour the soggy atmosphere; to marvel at the armaments on display: MK41 rifles, grenade launchers, tear gas grenades. Is this a football match? (Did they know we were English?)

At last, the queue shortened - rapidly. A severe and rotund military woman had organised things: single file - ten at a time - wait!

Thirty Kwacha - thank you very much - in! And out - you never stay long in the toilets at a football ground. Malawi was no exception to this footballing rule. No seats either - just a grassy corner of the ground. Umbrellas, and black faces everywhere. But why the aggressive whistling? Apparently, the vice-president of Malawi had arrived. Escorted by police, he circled to our right, waving - pretty pompous really!

But why the laughter? Is that a streaker on the pitch? In Malawi!? A fat belly with ample breasts seemed to be jiggling and dancing - and the crowd were loving it. He was chief supporter of Bata Bullets (a Blantyre team) - famous, and now chief crowd pleaser. And when he slipped on the wet grass - uproar! Great fun.

Then another cheer - the teams are on the pitch, Malawi first. Forty minutes to kick-off, so time for a warm-up. And what a warm-up! Synchronised! Stretch - kick - right leg, stretch - kick - left leg; bounce - bounce - leap, jog - jog - twist: together. Both teams! Groups of players covered the whole pitch, engaged in an assortment of sequenced movements - truly bizarre, especially to the fan brought up on the more macho machinations of English football. (Imagine Vinny Jones doing his impersonation of Morecambe & Wise's famous exit. Never!)

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Second Half

WHEN President Muluzi arrived - thankfully on time - odd became surreal. An entourage of jeeps, motorbikes and cars preceded him as he entered the stadium, opposite us. The party faithful were there too - dancing and smiling, alongside their Lord - Muluzi. Then there was Muluzi himself, in open top vehicle, underneath the daintiest of umbrellas. (Note: NOT a multicolour-of-the-people's type of umbrella. Oh no!) The crowd whistled with delight - again - and clapped, and paid their respects. The National anthem echoed through the tannoy. "Let's get on with the game!" said Macbeth, not amused at this vainglory.

Ah! the game, the game - Malawi lost: three goals to one. Outplayed, outthought, out-hustled, out-jumped - Cameroun were out-standing really! But at least Malawi scored, producing a bedlam of outstretched arms and whistled whooping and bouncing. Ten minutes of it - a spur for their team to get the next one, and the next. It ended, only when Cameroun scored their third - a soft, but stylish header to make it three-one. Silence. But the Cameroun players loved every bum-wiggling second of it!

Almost as good as Malawi's goal was their much-awaited first period of pressure (after four minutes they were already one-nil down). A five move sequence of accurate, purposeful passes, that seemed to brush Cameroun's defences aside, increased the volume - feverishly so. But they fluffed it. It made us think though; Malawi were good; Malawi could beat this Cameroun team; "Come on Malawi!".

And that was that.
They just weren't good enough.
And all the supporters knew.
(Ask any Englishman, it aint a nice feeling.)

Malawi's keeper knew too! He'd make a save, then juggle with the ball Grobbelar-esque. It cheered the fans, but players' heads bowed.

It didn't stop us shouting and yelling:

  • "In the space on the left",
  • "On the right!",
  • "Put it on the ground, for goodness sake!",
  • "Oh! Keeper, keeper!"

The final whistle blew. The crowd traipsed home - disconsolate: no Africa Cup for them this year (or any year for that matter)!

We were disappointed for Malawi, but it had been a good day for us, as football supporters.


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