The Chappas from Central Maputo to Estadio Machava takes half an hour and costs the same as a loaf of bread. There were no barricades in Maputo on Sunday. All roads led to the Futebol.
It was difficult to detect the unease of recent days as expectant supporters cracked open bottles of “Doshem”, ripped into tetra pak cartons of cheap red wine and exchanged predictions. This was not a day for the usual colonial replica shirt. No Benfica. No Porto. No Sporting. You had to be wearing the Mambas red, and you especially meant business if your scarf or shirt was wrapped around your head.
My mini bus was bursting as it passed the monumental Mac Mahon brewery, home of the 2M, the “Doshem”. City blocks gave way to cabbage fields. Palm trees waved in the distance. It could have been a scene from “The Thin Red Line” were it not for the sight of four floodlight pylons. We were now immersed in a red sea of supporters, not even Moses could part, but the Chappas found a way.
What was it the man said, “Porque Goshem de futebol”. He forgot to add they also like their chicken. The barnyard creature was being crucified overroaring charcoal fires in fields all around the stadium. Coolers crammed with cervejas provided perfect pre match company. The women of Mozambique certainly understood the business of football.
The Catenaccio was deployed in Maputo the last time Libya played Moçambique. Green shirts, green shorts, green socks all stacked up against the Mambas. Smoke from the said SMS revolution had barely cleared when Libya sneaked away from Estádio da Machava with a 0-0 draw. Last night in neutral Cairo, Libya also remembered to score.
Rebels 1 Mambas 0. It must have been that sexy new kit.
Angela is mopping the again floor at Milanos. The Revolta Popular appears to have ran its course. A closer inspection reveals although most folk want to believe it is over…”more or less”, they say. The reality maybe somewhat different.
Angela made it to work, but many others have not. Some shops are open, but many are not. The schools are closed. The roads are not congested. A few Chappas (mini buses) work their regular routes. Spacious rides with extra leg room today.
I traversed as much of the city as I could in the past five hours. What I mean by “the city” is that which makes the cut on most of the tourist maps of Maputo, not including the predictably safe Embassy area of Sommerchield and the more exclusive Polana district, save for a visit to Maputo Central Hospital and the Josina Machel Secondary School. Here is what I heard and saw and felt from folks along the way.
Can Africa’s World Cup qualifiers respond and take their game to a higher level. There were precious few clues in Angola to suggest they could. One would tend not to identify Pussy Cats, Super Turkeys and Tuskless Elephants as World Cup winning species, but if Cameroon, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire apply themselves like Black Stars they could move beyond the shadow of the Pharoahs and rediscover their fierceness.
The Black Stars were not predicted to shine in Angola. A significant number of their established names were injured or sulking. But with Milovan Rajevec, an old Yugoslav in command of the x’s and o’s, and a squad of U20 World Cup winners to choose from, folks should not have been so surprised. There has been plenty of talk of those who filled the boots of Appiah, Essien, Mensah and Muntari. Agyemang-Badu, Asamoah, Ayew and Inkoom are now household names, the equal of any Pharoah or sulking star. Ghana’s graduates will give pause to Australia, Germany and Serbia, who should note the Pharoahs may not have been so pleased with themselves if Rajevec had also introduced goalkeeper Daniel Adjei and centre forward Dominic Adiyah. Ghana were just an Adjei fingertip and an Adiyah toe poke away from closing down the party at Club Pharoah.
So how will Les Éléphants, Les Lions Indomptables and Super Eagles respond to their inglorious exits from Angola? Will they promote from their junior ranks? Will they advertise for an old partizan with a chalkboard? They could do all of the above, but nothing will change for them if the likes of Drogba, Eto’s and Yakubu don’t believe.
The 2010 African Cup of Nations provided a political appetizer to Africa’s first World Cup. A stubborn stain remains, but it should not distract from Egypt’s remarkable three consecutive African Nations Cups.
Props to the Pharoahs! Hassan Shehata had them playing some seriously penetrating football. They were passing and moving like a Bob Paisley machine — and that’s the highest of all high compliments one can make about a football manager. Aboutrika, Mido and Zaki, all seemed like yesterday’s men, as precocious and timely talents like Shikabla and Geddo combined with creative mainstays like Hassan, Motaeb and Zidan to persuade the ball into their opponents net. Gomaa and El Hadary ensured there would be few arguments at the other end. The Pharoahs will be missed in South Africa, especially when some European adventurers hack their way South in search of the treasure that is avoiding defeat.
And how will Africa’s World Cup qualifiers respond? The Pharoahs provided a clinic, but there were also important lessons to be learned from the performances of Malawi and Zambia. In a word: BELIEVE.
URUGUAY has 4 Stars on their shirts because…(“BUZZ…Jesus, Jones College, Cambridge”) because…Uruguay have been World Champions on 4 occasions: 1924, 1928, 1930 and 1950. The Gold Medalists of Paris and Amsterdam were recognized as World Champions by FIFA.
Uruguay has never played a fixture against 5 of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. They are: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Greece, and Nigeria. It is possible for Uruguay to play against Greece and or North Korea in the 1st Round in South Africa for the first time. Los Charrúas will have to wait until the later rounds to get its claws into the Lions Indomptables, Les Éléphants and or the Super Eagles…Garra Charrúa!!!
Uruguay has beaten Argentina on 54 occasions, including the 1930 World Cup Final.
Uruguay has scored more goals against Argentina than any other qualifier. 213. Count them. Más goles! Menos culata tranplantes!
Uruguay has beaten Brazil on 20 occasions, including the final fixture of the 1950 World Cup Final. Uruguay’s victory ensured they lifted the World Cup in Brazil.
Uruguay is ranked 19th by FIFA, but is ranked 10th by Nate Silver, he of Soccer Power Index fame.
Uruguay has never beaten Algeria, Denmark, Germany, Honduras, Portugal, or Spain. Uruguay could face three of those nations in the first round.
Germany, Honduras, Uruguay and Portugal could be El Otro Grupo de la Muerte!
Slovenia is the smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup. Uruguay is the smallest to win a World Cup!
Nate Silver is a box score genius. Nate Silver can call states, counties and wards like no other. But can Nate predict the winner of the World Cup?
Some of our global readers may find Nate Silver’s statistical offerings on “soccer” other worldly. Who is this four eyed American running the numbers on our game, I hear some of you dismissively spit. But can it be true one can only understand football if one starts drinking about eleven in the morning in a backstreet pub or bar in the vicinity of some corrugated contraption called a football ground. There has to be a middle ground. Nate Silver deserves the utmost respect. But you know among the remnants of ale, chips, pies and gravy that your guts can tell you something Nate’s numbers cannot.
Nate has promised to delve into football realm for some time. His arrival is most welcome. FIFA has improved its ranking system. FIFA’s seeds were the deserving form teams (though Silver has a minor objection preferring Portugal over Italy.) Still, Silver’s Soccer Power Index is the Snow Leopard of upgrades. It is on paper at least, the best ranking of international football.
But can the running of fun football statistics really predict winners with such scientific certitude. How can it, for example, adjust for the emergence of a Uruguayan midfield prodigy, the determination African Disapora players from random places like Honduras to perform at that higher level, or the late call up of that left back capable of both the beautiful football and the most horrendous crimes ever witnessed on a football field, where one No.3′s mis-kick can find the back of the net or break Beckham’s leg in three places, not to mention all the other shenanigans?