Saturday, October 21, 2006

Match report : promotion for Cyangugu Espoir

Let me say first that as my 2 companions were my neighbours’ sons, with very limited English, it took me a while to understand the background to this match, except that Cyangugu Espoir, the local team, were playing Butare University. In fact, I was supporting the wrong team for the first few minutes, as the 10-year-old misled me!
There was a crowd of about 2000 I would guess in the local stadium, the scene of some horrific events in 1994. It’s about the standard of a Scottish lower division team, some tiered concrete seats under cover and a wall round it. A young policewoman was making some fruitless efforts to get the people in front of the stand to sit on the grass.
The pitch was in terrible condition, lots of bumps in it and although some of the play was quite skilful, the advantage this gave to the defenders meant that a “kick and run” style of was most effective. However, the first half passed mostly uneventfully, with a few near misses at each end. The teams were fairly evenly matched, the crowd noisy but good-humoured. The singing and profanities of a typical Scottish football crowd were missing, however.
Half way through the second half, the play in the middle of the field was suddenly stopped and everyone’s attention went to one goalmouth where a couple of players were lying prone. The players rushed up and there were some scuffles, but the referee and the police soon restored order. The goalkeeper of Cyangugu lay on the ground for about 10 minutes before he eventually went off. I can only assume he was suffering mostly from a guilty conscience, because when the match finally restarted they only had 10 men!
Perhaps the referee caught this bad conscience, because 5 minutes later he sent off one of the Butare men, to great cheers from the home crowd, for a rather innocuous tackle. Despite some further near misses from both teams, the match ended 0-0. By this time, I had learned from some students in the crowd nearby that this was a promotion decider and so there would be penalties.
The first four were well taken, 2-2 and rising tension. Butare missed, Cyangugu scored! Butare missed again and the crowd invaded - further evidence for Sheena’s assertion that mental arithmetic is not strong here. When the pitch was eventually cleared, Cyangugu duly scored and the crowd came back on. Someone had even managed to find a Roman candle type firework! So, the home crowd went away happy – a free afternoon’s entertainment and a home win. Unfortunately, since it is now the break for the rainy season, it will be a while before I am back. Bring on the first division teams!

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