Yesterday was one of the most fun days I have ever had. The Uganda Cranes playing the Kenya Harambee Stars at Namboole Stadium, Kampala, and I had press passes. Absolutely wonderful. I’d never been to a large football game before, let alone an international match between two old rivals such as this. And it was all hanging in the balance- Kenya had already qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, while Uganda was the closest it had been to qualification in over 30 years, and would qualify if they won this match. Coverage in the Ugandan media had been a constant drum-beat for the past month, and public enthusiasm was through the roof.
Kampala town centre was a party by 8am, and a heavy downpour wasn’t doing anything to stop the crowds.
Every corner of the town was draped in Uganda colours, and the sound of vuvuzelas was interminable.
Touts thronged the streets selling tickets to the match at inflated prices, and business was brisk unless it was interrupted by a desire to wave a flag.
We drove down to the stadium in the MGS Video car (I was working for them) and after a considerable security perimeter we were allowed into the area outside the stadium. There, the world’s least interested sniffer dog was dragged past our gear and we were allowed to enter the pitch itself.
The stadium was filling fast (this is 6hrs before the scheduled kick-off) and spirits were high.
The Kenyan cohort had turned up too, and despite being out-numbered they were determined not to be out-crazied.
The passion on both sides was absolutely magical.
There were also gangs of hype men doing laps, geeing up the crowd.
Not that they really needed much encouragement-
The best hype man by far was this guy, accompanied by his flag-bearer. He is, I think, an MTN plant, but I enjoyed him enough not to mind.
He had the desired effect!
There was, as there always seems to be at football matches, some small violence. Ugandan and Kenyan fans clashed over who was to occupy an area of one of the stands, but it was a short-lived and fairly low-key dispute.
Thankfully none of those clowns ruined the mood of the rest of the stadium:
And also this happened:
There were also famous people, I think:
And dignitaries getting rained on:
Not everybody got in though:
The stage was set, and the teams were paraded-
And then, perhaps 90mins late, the game began. I lack experience when it comes to sports photography, but here goes:
The game was, in the end, a 0-0 draw, which knocked Uganda out of the cup of Nations.
It was a terribly sad result, a game in which they dominated from start to finish and beat everybody but the goalkeeper, and the Ugandan fans felt it keenly.
But what an absolutely incredible day. Webale Uganda, you know how to party!