Waiting on waiters in Libreville
ISPENT my last hours in Gabon in a place that became a second home while in Libreville – Rivoli. It was a refreshing sight after enduring a rain-filled day in Port-Gentil. It’s the rainy season in that part of the world. Their year is separated by the rainy season and the dry season – not this concept of winter, summer, spring and autumn. It’s either hot or hot with rain. Rivoli is a modest establishment that sells freshly-made pizza, a chicken stew that will remind you of your grandmother’s and their famous chilli pepper, which I took home with me amongst other things. This establishment became our hangout of choice for the night games of the Africa Cup of Nations that were played in Franceville and Oyem. We would watch the early evening games in our hotel rooms and then proceed to Rivoli for supper and late nigh football.
That’s where a Frenchman had the audacity to ask for the channel to be changed to a Ligue 1 match from an Afcon game that was being watched by everyone there.
If that Frenchman had asked the owner, I am sure she would have gladly changed the channel.
The most senior member of our crew, Daily Sun sports editor, Mathews Mpete, became our spokesperson and managed to have the channel switched to the Gabon v Cameroon game. I thought it bizarre that any self-respecting Gabonese wouldn’t want to watch the game. The Panthers, after all, were on the cusp of becoming the first hosts to crash out in the group stage of the Afcon since Tunisia did so in 1994.
Minutes into the match, I understood why she didn’t want to show football. The staff quickly congregated in front of the TV and left the patrons to fend for themselves, dashing back to the TV after serving the food. The usual “are you still fine?” rounds were scrapped. We had to raise our voices to get our drinks. The mood was lively at first as the Panthers started brightly.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s miss of a simple tap-in stunned everyone inside.
The two Cameroonians in the restaurant’s staff were the most cheerful. We even saw a huge smile from a waitress who seemed constantly grumpy on all the nights we spent there. It was difficult to pinpoint if she was happy because she is Cameroonian or because she saw the waiter she fought with on our first day there, distressed at the sight of Gabon struggling. I could make out the two who backed the Indomitable Lions because they were wearing sweatbands with the colours of Cameroon.
The pair celebrated goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa’s save that took the Indomitable Lions to the quarter-finals. Even though I had to work extra hard to get my drink, I didn’t mind because the sight of the employees saying “screw work, our national team is playing” was beautiful. Sadly for them that would be the last time they watched their country in this tournament. But that won’t be the last time the staff squeezes in watching the Afcon while at work. They did that in all the other matches. It’s just that when their team was playing, they weren’t coy about it.