Freetown, Baby!

For the love of the game by jc2010sl
February 27, 2010, 1:19 pm
Filed under: society | Tags: , ,

It’s a truism that football is a world game. More than that, it’s a world religion. People gather to play anywhere vaguely flat enough and large enough for 2 people to kick a ball. “Pitches” are hewn out of the steep side of the hill I live on, goal posts fashioned from a couple of sticks, and 3-a-side games played continuously. Where the sea levels the sand you’ll see locals making sandcastle goalposts and starting a game.

A hillside pitch in Freetown

Bureh Town FC

I got my first taste of action today with the “Expat All Stars”. The name is something of a misnomer since the majority of the players, and certainly the best, are all Salones. Amongst the team were a current top division player and a former Sierra Leone international – the latter is brother to Mohammed Kallon, one-time Inter player and business moghul of Freetown. The sun is so ferocious that games kick off at 8:30am. Today’s venue was the training pitch beside the National Stadium – one of the best pitches in the country. There was not a blade of grass on the entire pitch, which is essentially compacted sand.

The Training pitch in the "shadow" of the national stadium

Because the grip is so poor, and the surface so abrasive, there was no chance of my bringing my typical combative “style” to the game. Just as well as our opponents were the Armed forces team. Within 5 minutes of warming up I was utterly drenched, and by the end of my 20 min substitute appearance, utterly wrecked. I may not make it every week, but I hope to play more often than not.

In the late 1990s, Nike ran an advert in the UK featuring Eric Cantona et al turning out to play on Hackney marshes. “Your stars are like you” it implied; “they play for the love of the game.” I can’t imagine today’s Premiership names turning out for a park side at 8:30am on a Saturday, but here the love runs deep.