Monday, October 15, 2007

Tanzania = Premiership-land

The fastest way - bar none - to start a conversation with males in Tanzania is to wander around with a shirt with some kind of Premiership team connection to it. Not something as naff as an actual replica shirt (there are plenty of those around, but wearing them on vacation in sunny climes tends to mark you out as a wide boy) - just something with a team name and a slogan.

When I wore normal clothes - linen shirt, etc - nobody noticed me. When I went around in my Arsenal is Life T-shirt (which, let me assure you, was brought strictly for the purposes of this experiment) I had difficulty moving more than five metres without someone reading the short alound and adding the words "the Gunners!". This would usually lead to a chat along the lines of "do you support them?", to which the answer would always be "yes" or "no, Liverpool/Manchester/Chelsea/plus one poor bastard running a curio shop who supported Newcastle".

I would estimate between 5 and 10 percent of the boys and young men one seens on a given day wear various forms of replica shirts (a subject for a later post) of various teams, roughly 2/3 of which were English in origin, with Arsenal seeming to have slightly more support than any of the other teams. More damagingly, their football literature seems to have been imported entirely from the FA (England World Cup Heroes!) and of the various folks wandering around in national team shirts, a disturbingly high proportion of them wore three lions shirts. Instilling the idea that England are a side worthy of emulation and adoration is a terrible post-colonial burden to shoulder and no doubt accounts for Tanzania's utter crapness at the international level.

I estimate that at least a third of all plastic bags at markets come with a team logo (again, always the big four) emblazoned upon them. Owners of dala-dalas (route taxis) that operate as "public" transport in Dar and in Zanzibar sometimes emblazon their vehicles with massive stickers and decals provlaiming support for their team (these drivers, for some reason, are massively pro-ManU, although I did se one brave soul in Arusha completely break ranks and decorate in support of the NY Yankees (MLB comes to Africa courtesy of South African satellite sports channels).

In print, local football always gets the back page in English and Swahili papers (there are currently big crises at both Simba and Yanga, Tanzania's Old Firm), but Premiership football gets most of the next four pages, which are usually unattributed wire stories. Radio, too, seems to carry results very frequently. Even in the middle of the Serengeti, tour guides always seemed extraordinarily well-informed about the previous evening's scores.

And, inevitably, there are Premiership slogans and posters daubed on all kinds of walls in public places (see photos, all taken in Zanzibar's Stonetown).

All in all, a somewhat surreal experience.


Anonymous ursus arctos said...

Is bigwa a good thing?

1:42 PM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

God, I hope so. No idea, really. Doesn't show up in any of the dictionaries I have.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

God, I hope so. No idea, really. Doesn't show up in any of the dictionaries I have.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous ursus arctos said...

Googling indicates that it is a place in the interior south of Dar Es Salaam.

7:26 AM  
Anonymous JJ said...

Should there be a Salary Cap in Football?
Personally I think there should be! It’s just getting to be stupid money in football at the top of the premiership!
It’s always the same teams at the top proving that football success is based purely on money which ruins the idea of it being a sport! They’ve done it in rugby, basketball, hockey and American football and it makes the sports more competitive and better to watch!
I do a little Sports Spread Betting from time to time and most matches don’t hold much surprise who is going to win, its boring! I want to see a team at the bottom pulling off an amazing season beating last seasons winners in a close fought battle!
Make things fair! It shouldn’t be about money!

8:22 AM  

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