6 PM. Magunga Williams. Radisson Blu. Nairobi, Kenya.
I tried to protest. I told her that there is no way we could go watch the FIFA World Cup Finals at a place like that. This is football, jameni, not Formula 1 or Golf. If you want to enjoy football, and I mean really feel the beating of the sport’s heart, you need to watch it in a place where there is no concept of personal space. Where you and the next person are standing ka gi ka, and when he raises his hands to celebrate a goal, you can smell the Brut off his skin. But then this madam that God gave me was born of purple blood.
“You, if you want, you can go to sijui Njugunas or wherever. Me naenda Radisson Blu,” she said, as if it was a suggestion. I have been with this woman three years now and I can tell the difference between when she is offering an option and when she is issuing a threat. It also did not help my case that she had been going on about this for over a week now.
And so there we were at Radisson Blu. This prim and proper spot towering on the hills of Upperhill, overlooking Madaraka Estate. It has high ceilings and even higher standards. Mostly occupied by wazungus and peppered by a few Africans here and there. The wait staff said please and thank you, the volume of the television was at a respectable level, and most painful of all, a plate of five samosas the size of Trump’s hands were going was going for KES. 900 bob. Like, it would be easier if you could just add KES. 999,100 and just buy the whole damn place mara moja. You know? Economies of scale and what not.
This was definitely not a place for ogandawallas like me who have to estimate the cost of their Taxify rides before hailing a cab. Hell, they looked like they snap their fingers when a person scores like it is some kind of poetry slam. Yet here we are. The things we do for love. Hera mudho, I tell you.
We perched ourselves on the stools at the bar and ordered for beers instead. The sun was just now sliding behind those Madaraka Estate buildings, the rays bleaching the sky orange as the fire died. The Heinekens arrived just as the French and the Croatians lined themselves up to mime their national anthems the way those Mexican soap operas actors speak English on television.
It was not easy choosing which team to support. On one hand, 80% of the French team is African. They had avenged us, against Argentina for beating Nigeria in the group stages, and then avenged us again by painfully edging out Uruguay like they did to Ghana in 2010. And then on the other hand, there was Croatia. The country that never colonized us and does not continue to force African Nations to use a central bank in Paris. When terrorists attacked our Garissa University in 2014, the Croatians stood by us. And then there is also the small matter of their President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who gives the best hugs.
I went with Croatia. My ancestors would understand. Even them if they saw President Kolinda’s face, they would have done the same.
And then we lost a game that we should have won. Fuck VAR by the way.
But losing was not as painful as paying KES. 600 for a bottle of beer at a hotel that cannot even spell the colour Blue correctly.
6 PM. Mohammed Telbani. Gaza, Palestine.
It’s 5:45 and everyone is waiting for this big match with France that no one expected Croatia to be in. I watched it in Jabalia camp, a camp for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, in a coffee shop. For every big match, all the coffee shops fill up with people. My people love football very much. It was hard to get to the coffee shop in a taxi because everyone was waiting at home or somewhere else to watch the game. At 6:00 p.m. the match started. Everyone had his own chair and his own drink.
France scored the first goal, by friendly fire. I didn’t expect it. It was sad, but I still hoped that Croatia could come back. For others it was not sad. A lot of people cheered. Then people were silent. We knew anything could happen.
For the second half, I went to my friends’ house, Ali and Mahmoud. We drank coffee and Coke. France scored another goal and another one. We asked for more coffee. One of my friends was for France and the other was for Croatia. After the match we talked about how referee was no good, because he used the video in the second goal against Croatia. Ali was happy and Mahmoud was sad. (I just enjoyed the game).