After a nice afternoon at Virage beach, Kelly, Laird, Dylan and I strolled back to our car in the parking lot. There were lots of people sitting in cars, doors open and radios broadcasting the same soccer match.
“Who’s playing?” I asked.
“Senegal is playing in Cameroon,” someone answered.
We started loading up our car and as I was about to get into the driver’s side, a cab slowed down next to me and said – “Where are you headed?” I answered we were on our way back to Almadies.
“Don’t go that way. There are power outages and lots of rioting.” He seemed to be huffing and puffing.
This odd comment made sense to me, though. Senegalese are serious about soccer, and when the power goes out in the middle of a big grudge match, it often means . On the road between Virage beach and our house, there are dozens of charred circles marking the spots where tires have been set ablaze by frustrated sports fans.
I thanked the cabby and we headed up to the junction of the main road and had a glance in the direction of our neighbourhood. There was no sign of trouble except for the few dozen cars driving in reverse in our direction. We decided to take the long way home, the opposite direction and around the airport, hoping not to run into any other riots.
We heard later that there had been loads of rock-throwing and that the Senegalese riot police arrived and fired off some tear gas canisters. Things calmed down after a while and word started to filter that Senegal had prevented a Cameroonian win – good news as the teams jockey for a spot at the 2012 African Nations Cup.
Riots also happened in Cameroon apparently… Cameroon had needed the win for a solid chance at qualifying, but its captain, Samuel Eto’o missed a penalty kick and instantly turned from national hero to pariah. Unfortunate fans in Cameroon wearing Eto’o shirts had them ripped off their backs by angry mobs.
People in Senegal and Cameroon have bigger problems than how their teams do in soccer – but it’s the soccer that seems to get them into the streets.