I spent yesterday afternoon at the national stadium, watching Sierra Leone's "Leone Stars" take on Mali’s national football team in a qualifying match for the African Cup.
Overwhelmed by the spectacle of sights and sounds, I seem to have lost all powers of narration, and can offer nothing more than a few disconnected snippets – a kaleidoscope of contrasting images.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. (Really, I did.)
Climbing over barbed wire and pushing through a jostling crowd to enter the stadium.
Police in riot helmets beating people with whips and batons.
An all-male pep squad (of sorts) clad head to toe in green, white, and blue – one sporting a Dr. Seuss striped hat and a cape, another wearing nothing but a g-string and a lot of body paint – clowning around on the sidelines: turning cartwheels, hamming for the crowd, kneeling on Salonian flags to pray.
Stunning views of Freetown’s hills.
A high-stepping band leader strutting his way along the sideline, leading his marching police band and balancing a four-foot staff upon his chin.
Masses of people pushing and shoving their way into Section 21 while a beleaguered handful of police officers tried in vain to hold them back.
A fat man beating back the crowd with an amputee’s cane.
Hot sun on the back of my neck.
Young men climbing in breakneck fashion along handrails and over razor-wire fences in search of a seat or a better view.
An army-green ambulance straight out of M*A*S*H.
Dozens of soldiers and police officers lounging near the teams’ benches, watching the game in peace, while chaos reigned in the stands behind.
Dancing, drumming Malian fans.
Shouting, cheering Salonian fans.
Sweating, scrambling players.
90 minutes of football.
One fabulous, chaotic Sunday afternoon.