Li­bre­ville is a city of bro­ken prom­ises – like Gabon’s poor start

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - Njab­ulo Ngidi

SIT­TING on the “win­dow” side of the ferry, which had the part that cov­ered it on the side par­tially opened, seemed like a good idea to me in­stead of sit­ting on the isle.

I would get to see the sea and our des­ti­na­tion as we ap­proached it with­out any­one block­ing my view. But what I didn’t con­sider was that the waves the ferry hit, as it sped from Li­bre­ville’s port to the is­land Pointe De­nis, would come straight at me.

The wa­ter didn’t di­rectly hit me but the arm I rested on the plank was wet by the time we reached our des­ti­na­tion.

The is­land, with its tran­quil sur­round­ings and clean ocean, was a wel­come change from the hec­tic sched­ule that comes with cov­er­ing the Africa Cup of Na­tions (Af­con) and the dirty sea that’s just 200m away from our ho­tel. It was a good op­por­tu­nity to recharge the bat­ter­ies be­fore fly­ing to Port-Gen­til for last night’s Group D matches and then re­turn to Li­bre­ville to­day for the sec­ond round of games in Group A.

I man­aged to swim in the warm ocean of Pointe De­nis as we re­laxed on day three of the tour­na­ment. On the same day, Herve Renard’s at­tempt at win­ning a third Af­con with three dif­fer­ent coun­tries didn’t drown but rather took a knock as Morocco lost to the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo.

Be­ing on that is­land felt like I was in an­other coun­try. There was noth­ing there about the Af­con or any­thing that had to do with civil­i­sa­tion, even though they had a cell­phone network tower and wi-fi. At Pointe De­nis, you can be away from the real world but the real world is a click away.

News of the un­rest in Gabon prob­a­bly doesn’t touch th­ese parts, though. It’s only when you’re mak­ing your way back to Li­bre­ville that it re­al­ity hits you. There are a num­ber of un­fin­ished build­ings in the city cen­tre of Li­bre­ville, in­clud­ing one that, three years ago, was meant to be a world-class port. The artist’s im­pres­sion that sur­rounds that plot show what a won­der­ful thing it would have been. But that project was aban­doned be­cause of fi­nan­cial rea­sons like the Stade Omar Bonga that Pres­i­dent Ali Bongo Ondimba promised to build in hon­our of his late fa­ther. It was to host the fi­nal and Group A matches but never got to be fin­ished de­spite mil­lions be­ing spent on it.

Keep­ing prom­ises isn’t some­thing the cur­rent pres­i­dent seems to do well, though. He promised to build 5 000 houses each year when he took power seven years ago. Eight years later, he has built just over 800 houses ac­cord­ing to our trans­la­tor.

Li­bre­ville is a city of bro­ken prom­ises. The Pan­thers didn’t help to change that with their dis­ap­point­ing draw in the open­ing match against Guinea-Bis­sau.

There was huge prom­ise lead­ing up to this match that they would wipe the floor with the min­nows. Togo also re­fused to budge against African cham­pi­ons Ivory Coast while Zim­babwe al­most stunned Al­ge­ria. It’s as if there is some kind of a revo­lu­tion on the pitch – per­haps like the one on the streets here that was rudely quashed.

Gabon’s poor start means the party is on hold. The pub­lic view­ing area in Li­bre­ville looked dead on Mon­day. They sat there on their chairs as if they were at a meet­ing rather than watch­ing a foot­ball match.

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