Good to see Gabon show some back­bone against French

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

THOUGHT about watch­ing Zim­babwe’s game against Al­ge­ria on mute be­cause the French com­men­tary would be lost on me on day two of the Africa Cup of Na­tions.

The ac­tion had moved to Franceville while I re­mained in Li­bre­ville.

IBut I de­cided against mut­ing the com­men­tary, think­ing that I could learn a word a two.

It was a disas­ter be­cause the com­men­ta­tor was so dull, it didn’t feel like he was watch­ing the same en­ter­tain­ing spec­ta­cle that we were all en­joy­ing.

But what put me off the most was that the back­ground noise from the sta­dium was muted.

It came here and there but for the most parts of the 90 min­utes, all I could hear is French with­out any­thing else in the back­ground.

That’s how the days I have spent here have been, all French with­out any­thing else in the back­ground.

I haven’t heard any­one speak­ing any of Gabon’s lan­guages, which is bizarre be­cause this coun­try has at least 40 eth­nic groups.

Every­thing is French, from the tele­vi­sion sta­tions to the bill­boards and even the wine on their stores.

It was dis­heart­en­ing to see a coun­try which has spent almost six decades in­de­pen­dent of France look and feel like that coun­try’s prov­ince.

Gabon doesn’t have a soul or it’s own iden­tity that doesn’t touch on French.

It’s be­cause of this that I was pleas­antly sur­prised when a French­man walked into a packed restau­rant, ev­ery­one watch­ing Sene­gal against Tu­nisia, and was turned down when he asked if they could change the chan­nel so that he could watch a Ligue 1 match be­tween Olympique de Mar­seille and Monaco.

I couldn’t be­lieve his gall be­cause the en­tire es­tab­lish­ment was at a stand­still, cap­ti­vated by Sene­gal as they held on against a ram­pant Tu­nisian at­tack in the sec­ond half.

He sat in his chair fid­get­ing as he watched the match, no doubt think­ing about the game he was miss­ing.

No-one en­ter­tained him from the staff to the pa­trons.

I was proud to see this coun­try that’s so French de­velop a back­bone, even though it was a small por­tion of it.

We watched that match un­til it ended be­fore the chan­nel was switched to Mar­seille and Monaco right be­fore the start of the sec­ond half.

It was 3-1 when that hap­pened. I tried to read his ex­pres­sion to see which team he sup­ported so that I can loudly cheer for the other team just to an­noy him.

But it took too much work and I can only stom­ach so many min­utes of Euro­pean foot­ball at a time.

I love the Af­con be­cause we get to see the true iden­tity of most of our play­ers ply­ing their trade abroad.

John Obi Mikel in the green and white of Nige­ria is a slick play­maker with skills and the foot­ball brains to match.

At Chelsea, he is a zom­bie who has to clat­ter at play­ers. Alex Song and Sey­dou Keita are also among those who slipped into their com­fort­able roles in their na­tional teams.

There is this ter­ri­ble mind-set that an African player must be a strong de­fender, cen­tral mid­fielder or a striker.

A few of them are signed to show their skills and foot­ball brains. For almost a month, we get to see them dis­pel the myth that they are only good for their mus­cles.

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