We Go, We Go…

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.

A boda-boda driver gets into the mood

Kampala town centre was a party by 8am, and a heavy downpour wasn’t doing anything to stop the crowds.

Supporters parade in front of the Bank of Uganda.

Every corner of the town was draped in Uganda colours, and the sound of vuvuzelas was interminable.

Heading for Namboole by motorcycle.

Supporters' gear on a windowsill in the middle of Kampala.

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.

A tout, touting.

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.

Suited and booted for the game! (Picture by Anna Kućma)

The stadium was filling fast (this is 6hrs before the scheduled kick-off) and spirits were high.

Supporters sitting on the edge of one of the stands.

More fans.

The Kenyan cohort had turned up too, and despite being out-numbered they were determined not to be out-crazied.

A chicken. Or a sheep. Or maybe something else. All I know for sure is it supports Kenya.

A Kenyan fan wearing women's underwear stops for a chat during the pre-game cheering.

The passion on both sides was absolutely magical.

The placard says "Bring It".

A Uganda fan.

True support from a Kenyan fan.

A Kenyan fan wrapped up in the moment.

There were also gangs of hype men doing laps, geeing up the crowd.

A Kenyan supporter getting the crowd going.

Ugandan fans running round the arena, getting everybody on their feet.

Not that they really needed much encouragement-

A superfan.

Awesome hair!

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.

Getting the crowd going pt. 1

Getting the crowd going pt. 2

Getting the crowd going pt. 3

Getting the crowd going pt. 4

He had the desired effect!

The Ugandan fans cheering the men in white uniforms.

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.

A Ugandan fan punches a Kenyan fan in the back of the head. To be fair, somebody had just stolen his drum, thus depriving him of a safer way to release pent-up aggression.

Ugandan fans clash with police.

Thankfully none of those clowns ruined the mood of the rest of the stadium:

If you're happy and you know it, toot your horn.

The Kenyan stand. Amazing amounts of noise coming from a very small area.

Toilets and Refreshments.

A Kenyan flag.

And also this happened:

Yes, this actually happened. In front of the VIP stands.

There were also famous people, I think:

I think this guy is famous.

Mister MTN Hype Man meets somebody famous. I think it might be Radio or Weasel, I'd have to ask my brother to be sure. UPDATE: My brother (who is up on his Ugandan artists) informs me that this is in fact Bobi Wine.

And dignitaries getting rained on:

Dignitaries getting rained on.

Not everybody got in though:

Children who failed to get in peer through the locked gates.

The stage was set, and the teams were paraded-

The team.

The Ugandan stands.

Pigeons disturbed from their roosts by the cheering.

"Even Spain Can't Survive Namboole".

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.

A disappointed Uganda fan after the game.

But what an absolutely incredible day. Webale Uganda, you know how to party!

Namboole.

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About Muzungu

I’m a Uganda-based freelance photographer (and occasional writer) working for a broad range of clients including NGOs, newspapers and magazines and development agencies. My work has taken me across East Africa, South America and Europe, and previous clients include USAID, the World Bank and the East African. I also work on personal documentary projects in my spare time. If you’d like to hire me or to know more, please feel free to get in touch.
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12 Responses to We Go, We Go…

  1. Samson says:

    Webale Will,
    The guy wit the MTN Hype is Bobi Wine a local musician. BTW you looked great in the yellow Jersey. Great stuff.

  2. Great set Will. Thanks for sharing.

  3. casallina says:

    Awesome pictures as always! Great post.

  4. petesmama says:

    The pictures are fantastic Will, but I am still too emotionally unstable to comment on that game or that day.

  5. Awesome takes. You had a lot of fun man. Had taken a while without visiting…good I thought of you today 🙂

  6. quichel says:

    Wait – Kenyans wear red and Ugandans wear yellow? Or do they both take their pick? In the photo of a man getting punched they’re both wearing red! (only the words are different). Looks like an absolute hoot.
    Your pic was in Metro and Miles is saving the paper for you. xx
    p.s. Anna’s photo of you is splendid

    • Muzungu says:

      Uganda has about four different strips from what I can see- that chap obviously didn’t own the right one. They were playing in yellow that day! It was a good day though, despite the result. Thanks for saving the paper Rach, much appreciated! And I will pass on your compliments to Anna! xx

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