En­joy­ing Mabrrr’s beats in mal Mali

MY AF­CON NOTE­BOOK

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

ATIP to any as­pir­ing soc­cer jour­nal­ist: learn to speak French if you nurse hopes of cov­er­ing foot­ball on the con­ti­nent. I still can't speak the lan­guage but boy was grate­ful to be trav­el­ling with col­league Jonty Mark back in 2002. Gold­en­boy - as we call him - is not that flu­ent ei­ther but his ba­sic French got us out of a pretty tight spot in Ba­mako, Mali back in 2002. Bafana Bafana were based in Se­gou but we had to get into the coun­try through the cap­i­tal Ba­mako and first se­cure ac­cred­i­ta­tion for the tour­na­ment. Our of­fice had booked us ac­com­mo­da­tion via an agent but couldn’t pay for us (my­self, Gold­en­boy and Carl Peters), so we had to carry the cash.

When we left Ba­mako, the agent wanted us to give him the money be­fore we could see the place in Se­gou – which we duly de­clined.

Fol­low­ing a long ar­gu­ment, we got into a cab and headed to­wards Se­gou, some 240km from Ba­mako.

Oh they love their roadblocks in West Africa. For in most of the coun­tries I’ve trav­elled there are in­ter­mit­tent stop­pages. Our agent no doubt knew this and headed for the first one out of Ba­mako where he duly got the po­lice to stop us.

He had clearly spun them a yarn about our ar­range­ment with him and a scary po­lice of­fi­cer got all three of us out of the car in­sist­ing we do right by his coun­try­man. But alas, Gold­en­boy could speak French and once he had done the ex­plain­ing, the po­lice waved us off.

As it was, we ac­tu­ally didn’t use his ‘ho­tel’ when we got there but found a lodg­ing where our col­leagues from the Times Me­dia – Bareng Batho Kort­jaas and the late Clin­ton Asary – also stayed.

Away from the foot­ball, Mali 2002 turned out to be a fantastic ex­pe­ri­ence. I still have vivid mem­o­ries of a night­club that al­ways played the late Brenda Fassie’s Vulindlela when­ever we walked in. “The South Africans are here”, they’d shout.

And we didn’t dis­ap­point them as we took own­er­ship of the stage, some of us danc­ing the night away bet­ter than oth­ers of course.

On the night of my birth­day, some young lass hap­pened to have her birth­day party and some­how we man­aged to gate-crash it and I made it known it was my spe­cial day too.

The band that played was pretty ter­ri­ble though and in one of their songs – sung in French and what­ever the lo­cal lingo – Gold­en­boy some­how man­aged to hear them say “the moth­erf ***** from Ba­mako killed my sound en­gi­neer”. Hi­lar­i­ous!

Oh an­other tip, don’t drink Fanta orange in Mali. Well, that’s if you value what peo­ple think of you. I love the drink and al­ways bought it when­ever we went out un­til I re­alised the mirth that al­ways met my pur­chase. Cu­ri­ous, we asked what was the mat­ter and dis­cov­ered that men who bought the drink out are gen­er­ally gay or per­ceived to be such. Ja nee!

While we all had fun and en­joyed cov­er­ing our maiden Af­con, things were not so cool for the late Asary whose of­fice in­sisted he got an in­ter­view with ei­ther Roger Milla or Sey­dou Keita who were in far away Ba­mako. But be­fore mak­ing his way to Se­gou, Asary had tried to get Milla but the old man said he only spoke French.

Asary had a mis­er­able tour­na­ment and when we all came back home after Bafana were knocked out in the quar­ter-fi­nals, he had to stay be­hind – his money al­ready ex­hausted from his ef­forts to get hold of Keita and Milla.

We all sold our lo­cal sim-cards and gave him the money made from that as well as what­ever lo­cal cur­rency we still had left as we headed home.

It was a pity to leave Mali with­out go­ing to the his­toric Tim­buktu. But such is the sched­ule of cov­er­ing the Na­tions Cup that there’s just no time to be a tourist.

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