Tuesday, January 02, 2007



It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon 30th and after an early morning session of some laps around the football field when the temperature was a reasonable 15C, it is now about 33C and too hot to go out “in the mid-day sun”. The dirt field is situated conveniently behind my house. Some local boys joined me – the picture shows one of the boys wearing a familiar Canadian shirt. Others came seemingly from nowhere and started an enthusiastic game of pick up football as they looked somewhat bemused at an opporto ‘ol pa huffing and puffing his way around the perimeter. Some younger wannabe footballers came later and I encouraged them to join me and it made the last few laps enjoyable.

I have mentioned this before but it is amazing how crazed Saloneans are about their football (soccer). It seems that this is the central and seemingly sole form of entertainment and thought among the boys/men although a smattering of women take an interest as well. Despite the huge distance, the English premier division is passionately followed with Arsenal, Man United and the occasional Liverpool or Chelsea being the most favoured and in that order. Games are shown on old style TVs at a number of shacks around the town where signal is received (stolen?) at a satellite dish. Entry is a mere 500 leones (20c or 10p) or 1,000 leones depending on the game and one stands to watch with a hundred or so other sweating and sometimes rowdy souls. For another 2,500 leones you can buy a Star beer or 500 leones will buy (if you dare) a cup of the local palm wine. I remember passing one of these shacks a few weeks ago when Arsenal were playing Liverpool (1,000 leones) and being impressed when the former scored their 3rd goal to none and the huge roar from inside was echoed when those outside discovered the news.

Football fervour extends well outside the shacks and satellite signals. The poda podas acting as buses, commonly very badly beaten up VW vans, are all decorated with football or religious slogans. One amusing slogan that caught my eye announced “Allah is Great – and so is Arsenal”. I’ll have to see if I can capture one on my camera. All of the trappings of football are here such as football jerseys (pre-worn) with the team insignia which sell for a premium in the “junk shops” and cost about $3.50. The photo shows a solemn supporter since Arsenal lost today 1- 0 to Sheffield. In Makeni football fields are laid out in several locations but not a blade of grass; just dirt. Nonetheless in the early mornings and late afternoons most will be used, in particular at the weekend. Players frequently play bare footed or with amazing skill in flip flops; rarely with running shoes. The ambition is to rise to the little league where professionals earn a pittance (playing occasionally in Makeni at Wusum Field). My last comment is that it usually pays to be an Arsenal supporter although I hadn’t recognized that my barber was a Chelsea supporter and you have seen the resulting short back and sides.

I have been thinking of family and friends and although I am enjoying this time and the adventure in Sierra Leone, I am reminded that it is far from home and I do miss everyone. A happy and a healthy New Year to all.

Thought of you during the holidays. Saw Blood Diamond the movie about the diamond trade in S. Leone during the civil war. Graphic! You look like a school boy in your soccer attire (avoid swollowing the dust) and look like the a tribal poo-bah in your smock (just missing the beads).
Of the 5,700 odd letters you posted/delivered how many will get responses back from (a guess)?
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