Enjoying Mabrrr’s beats in mal Mali
MY AFCON NOTEBOOK
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.