Panem et circem

ludoBy Ludovic Langlois-Therien

This Friday, something big will happen in Africa. People will turn on their TVs or gather in bars to witness the opening ceremony of the World Cup. Trust me, describing the hype as “ecstatic” would be a euphemism.

Yesterday, I went to Ahidjo stadium, with nearly 40,000 other Cameroonians, to pay my respect to the national team, the Untamable Lions, who flew early this morning for SA. I had to wait 1h30 squeezed in the jam-packed bleachers, but it was worth it. I finally got to see the local living gods, Samuel Eto’o, Stéphane Mbiya and Alexandre Song.

After President (dictator?) Biya made a nationalist speech, thanking the players for their patriotism and wishing them good luck, the team was divided into two squads. They then played a one hour-long friendly game. As players were obviously avoiding injuries (it is insane how many great players will miss the WC due to last minute injuries), the pace was definitely slow, but the skills showed off still very impressive.

Poster Despite the global sense of joy that Cameroon World Cup qualification commands, I talked to people who were a bit dissatisfied with the Lions’ recent performances. Let’s remember that when the Cameroonian Lions did qualify, the government decided to invest tons of money (millions of Euros, apparently) in their preparation.

While it is debatable on whether this money would have otherwise serve to reinforce social services or to build another presidential palace, poor results in the last preparation games, notably two loss against Serbia and Portugal, were enough to cool off the excitement of the most pragmatic fans. In any cases, truth will come up next Monday, when Cameroon will play its first “real” game. In the meantime, Eto’o jerseys are selling pretty well, and people are happy.

After the game, my cab was caught up in a cheerful riot when non-pragmatic supporters tried to stop the team’s coach. Policemen and militaries were dispatched, and gunshots were fired.

I can’t wait for next week!

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