Posts Tagged ‘football’

The Corona Chronicles, Bamako

May 24, 2020

Part seven – Le dépôt


This is a Malian institution and I happen to live near one of its finer specimens. Le dépôt can vary in appearance: from a dark den hidden behind a clump of trees to a fully-fledged garden with an on-site food service and tables and chairs. You go there to get your beers and before the Corona Curfew you could sit down at a rickety steel table and talk with fellow punters.

The dépôt is, basically, family. From arrival to finding a place to sit under the trees would take quite a while. Because you must greet everyone who is there. There’s the elderly man with a very loud voice who likes to insult everyone – all in good cheer, mind you. It is part of an old tradition that is designed to release possible tensions and ensure that good relations are maintained. It is, very emphatically, not to be taken seriously. A specific kind of humour, like a glue that holds society together and that is a necessity in a city that grew from barely one million to three times as much in the space of thirty years.

Tucked away in the back of the garden you would often find another elderly man (yes, we have quite a few of those…) who had somehow managed to wrench permission from the owner to park his motorbike inside the premises. A very special privilege. Mostly on his own, with the occasional friend dropping in (greetings, handshakes – now forbidden, how are you, how is the day, how is the family, how is your health all the way from the entrance to the back of the garden). He’d sit there, beer on the table, his face hovering over a collection of notebooks, until, fed up with whatever he‘d been doing, he got up and leave. The special privilege extended to his being allowed to start and profusely rev his bike until ready to go. With him, a perfunctory nod with the head and a few words would suffice. We’re all different, at the dépôt.


Will they be back, now the curfew has been lifted? Oh yes, they are already slowly trickling back in, elaborate greetings and all.


And many will insist of the whole ritual. If you forget to greet someone (how are you, how is work, how is the family, I hear your little daughter was ill how is she now, how is your own health…), be assured that you will be reminded of your egregious oversight on your next visit.

‘You don’t remember me?’

‘Why, of course I do, you’re always here.’

‘Well, yesterday, you forgot me. You know that’s very bad…very bad…’

‘Sabali (pardon me), mon frère, I must have been busy…’

‘Yes! You were busy greeting the other people – but not me…’

‘I will not do this again. What do I do now?’

‘Oh, nothing. It’s alright.’ (Just make sure you do not neglect me on the next occasion…)

And all is right with the world again. Discreetly send a beer his way; he will know who this is from…


Strangers are welcome here. Which is how I fit in. There are just a few requirements that you must meet: consumption is not optional, you must be on your best behaviour (this is a society that greatly values politeness in public places), and…you must pay for your consumptions. The very hardworking and highly accommodating staff are totally uncompromising when it comes to money. Beers arrive daily and tomorrow’s purchases are bought with today’s revenue.

This particular dépôt also has a habit of attracting musicians. There are live venues nearby and frequently you would find a maestro parked on one chair, his guitar on another, beer or something else in one hand, the other loosely draped around the back of the chair where “my wife”, i.e. the guitar, had been placed. No country on earth places a higher value on music, especially live. The lockdown has dealt a devastating blow to the live music scene from which I hope it can soon recover. On story has it that a maestro had left his guitar in on of the nearby music venues, thought better of it, recovered his guitar, returned home and discovered the next day that the place had been consumed by a fire. He was distraught for a full two weeks, only by the thought of what would have happened had he not followed his best intuition…


Not everyone is back yet, to the chagrin of the staff, who have been holding the fort for all of the six weeks the curfew lasted. You were allowed to pick up beers during the day but…round the back. It almost felt like a clandestine operation, performed with the two young men in their green overalls working there, whose faces spelt gloom whenever you asked them how business was going…

‘Just very slowly…’

‘Will you close when it goes on?’

‘No, the owner runs this place; we are not renting.’

That was obviously a concern. Your landlord does not care when your business goes down by 80%. There is another big worry, though: the woman who ran a roaring trade with her food service and who had given birth only days before the curfew hit. She hasn’t been back and no one seems to know where she is…

It still is eerily quiet in the depot, even when the clientele is slowly coming back in. One reason for this is simple: the television is off and stays off. There’s no football, English Premier League being the staple here. The televised roar of the crowds, now silent, would only be surpassed by the nearby mosque when calling for prayer. Drink and faith: there’s no hard and fast rule. I once watched in wonderment as an elderly man, who looked like he had come straight from prayer, sat down on a barstool savouring the beer he had just ordered. Malians overwhelmingly want to guard that live-and-let-live attitude.



Now, once you hear this deep bronze voice coming from behind one of those rickety tables, freshly installed, you know that things are going back to normal. ‘Really cold,’ the words mean, and it is a little ritual greeting between me and a corpulent man with a beaming face, who has made this place his second home. Former driver, in or near retirement, and determined to have a good time of it – and he has just drifted back in, too.

Maybe the old depot from before the Corona Curfew, is on its way back after all. But we will not be complete until our friend, one of the few women who has managed to become part of this place, is back with her soup and meat business. And her new child strapped to her back.


We have, on this day, 1030 COVID-19 cases confirmed, 65 have succumbed, 597 have recovered. From the Ministry of Health.

Football and Politics

February 4, 2012

Remarkable how the fortunes of Senegal’s National Eleven run in tandem with the political temperature in the country.

Ten years ago, the Lions de Teranga, as they are known, were at the top of their game. In the 2002 World Cup (for compatriots – that’s the one Holland failed to qualify for…) they played the curtain raiser against reigning world champions and former colonial power France – and beat them, 1-0.


Football success and a political honeymoon, two years after Senegalese voters had sent the ruling Parti Socialiste and its government packing. “Sopi” (change) had made a grand entrance in national politics in the shape of veteran opposition politician and at the time gloriously popular Abdoulaye Wade.

He claimed the National Eleven’s football victory as his own, never missing an opportunity to e photographed with the heroes.


Fast forward five years. Wade gets easily re-elected and is concentrating on a tried and tested way to keep himself into power: constitutional change. As usual, he gets his way.

Meanwhile, the economy starts a prolonged slump along with the president’s popularity.

And what about the Lions de Teranga? Well, they’re still OK in the African Nations Cup (ending second) but it’s downhill after that. The lowest point? October 11th 2008, when they failed to win their home qualifying match for the Africa Nations Cup against…tiny Gambia. Outraged fans did some spontaneous reconstruction work in the national stadium before moving on to the nearby Football Federation’s headquarters (it’s around the corner from where I live) and thoroughly smashing the place up.


2012. The presidential bid for a third term is well on course and there is precious little anyone can do about it. Elections are on the 26th of this month and you won’t catch anyone (including this blogger) making any predictions about the results. Protests against Wade’s third term bid rock cities and towns across the land, the economy tanks a little more as tourists stay away and investors think twice about putting their money in a country that looks increasingly wobbly.

“Give us something to dream about.” That was the message to the National Eleven from the political class just before they got on the plane to Equatorial Guinea, were they were among the favourites. There was the presidential photo opportunity and there was of course the promise of presidential money if they’d perform well.

Well like the economy, like the political situation and like most people’s mood – the Lion de Teranga were disastrously bad. They were also monumentally disinterested in doing their nation proud. Three defeats in the group stages and back home they went – some of them not even bothering to make a stop in Dakar to say hello to the few fans the team had left. This time, the windows of the Foot Federation stayed in place. People have other things to riot about.

Senegal’s football crisis

January 25, 2012

Two games in the African Nations Cup and one of the favourites can start packing their bags. What’s wrong with Senegal? I can’t be the only one thinking that I have not seen two football games but two theatre pieces. Here were eleven and a few football players trying very hard (and in my view not succeeding) that they cared about national pride on the football pitch.

I can’t lay my finger on it yet but the way the Senegalese squad were playing – bar a few moments – looked decidedly…disinterested. Word in my restaurant, here in Yoff: it’s all about the money and for that they go to Europe. Another word in the restaurant: it’s all the coach’s fault. Might be – but both don’t seem to cover only a part of the story.

So I don’t think we have heard the last about this debacle any time soon. But something’s not right. Oh and by the way: Football Federation’s building is around the corner from here. I’ll go and check the windows…

Lomé, Togo – one week ago

January 18, 2010

France - Togo - EU - US

Photo taken a few days after the news had broken about the attack on the Togolese national football team in Cabinda, Angola. The show, of course, went on regardless. More stories on