In line at 6am to buy tickets. Huge lines of people shoving and pushing and yelling as the ticket booths opened an hour late. What?!?! Only the expensive tickets can be bought in this line? Canny smile. What if we buy a lot of the cheap ones? Is it possible? Fantastic. WHO WANTS TICKETS! RAISE YOUR MONEY! Great. We want 20 2000 FCFA tickets. Twenty?!?! Yeah. That’s enough, right? Okay, we’ll wait while you go get them. Finally. Who’d we buy tickets for? Get out of our way! We aleady bought ours. We want out of the mob!
The whole town was filled with spirit for the Benin vs. Mali soccer game. A qualifier for the Cup in Ghana in January. Yikes. Faces painted. Everyone wearing yellow, Beninese flags, outrageous hats, and of course, drinking.
The game was due to start at 16h00. We packed sandwiches at my house, and the Benino-American posse left my house at 12h30. The parking lot was packed and we were glad we’d left the motos safely ensconced in my building’s courtyard. When we got there, it was a mad rush to get in the gate to the stadium complex. Tickets waving above our heads, we ran through with everyone else. Of course they didn’t stop to check ours.
We finally arrived at the stadium proper, they tore the corners off our tickets and directed us to the 2000 franc section. What? Already full? We pushed and shoved and stepped on people until we found enough seats to accomodate our party. Three hours to go. Some drummers were behind us and the crowd was singing and dancing. Go Benin! 3-0! 3-0! 3-0! (The anticipated score.)
At 14h00, the stadium was packed. Only the expensive seats were left. At 14h30, even the expensive seats were full. What? The stadium oversold the tickets? They do that for every game! The oversold are angry, and they break open one of the stadium doors, rushing in. People are pourning over the inside walls. They’ll stand and watch the game from underneath the seats at field level.
The field was circled several times by traditional religious leaders, “charging” the field for Benin. Any advantage is welcome because the Malians are supposed to be a tough team. They even let a pigeon loose on the field.
Finally, it’s game time. The game isn’t nearly as exciting as the build-up, but there are some decent plays. The first half runs to 52 minutes. Halftime is actually half an hour, and the second half was also 50-some minutes. The game ended in a draw. One point in the series for each team.
Neither team had scored, which means that Mali didn’t score against Benin, and isn’t that something to celebreate? The crowd files out, disappointed, but not angry. We met up with friends, and wearily walked home to collapse into bed.