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Game 38: Makunduchi Village, Zanzibar

After two marvellous games earlier in the day, we decided to head back to the east of the island for a bite to eat. If you’ve read the posts about games 36 and 37 you will know that my “tour guide” for the day, Ali, was a self-serving numptie of a chap. We’d motored up to the north of the island on his vespa, which conked out as soon as we started to head back. Just about summed this fella up.

Thankfully, we were in sight of a great mechanic who was fixing scooters on a patch of land behind yet another dishevelled, broken down building. A crowd of young lads quickly gathered at the sight of a mzungu (white man) out here in the sticks. Ali said the repair would take minutes….it took two hours.

I took the chance to get a game of footy going with the watchers on.

These bash street kids were skinny, mostly barefoot and dressed in ripped clothes. A real contrast to the healthy, clean and well fed kids I’d met at Makunduchi secondary school earlier. I was told that they all went to a different school nearby, Miwaleni. Something told me that these boys’ living conditions were far worse though than those other kids.

The game turned out to be a cracker. A 5-5 on the dirt track leading to the main east coast road. Rajabu, Abdallah, Panama, Hakim and Mwaeb were on one side, Riduli, Fani, Hakim, Idrissa and Ma were on the other. Idrissa was an elegant player…a good solid centre half…captain material holding the fort at the back. Ma was a ragged and rugged all action box to box player. With these two in attack and defence they quickly jumped into a 2-0 lead. Abdullah in his Liverpool top was having none of it. It was clear that he was a bad loser. He almost single handedly got his team back in it, ploughing into tackles and levelling the score with two powerful drives. At one point he cut his ankle on a rock, wiped the blood clean with his top and cracked on with the game. Fani made it 3-2. He was the eldest of the gang and seemed to be well respected by all the lads. Panama was too cool for school. You could tell he wanted to join in more but had to save face in front of his mates watching on. Hakim was probably the youngest but sharp as a tack. He was an intelligent player with the ability to slow the game down and find space despite the relentless to and fro of the game. It was Hakim who scored the equaliser. 3-3 the final score. Fitting for a game as evenly matched and competitive as this.

A great game with a great set of bright, polite, well mannered, energetic lads, rich in spirit and brotherhood but living in abject poverty. Football working its magic again, bringing joy where it’s so hard to find. These communities have been totally and criminally abandoned by central government for decades. At least these chaps have each other.

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