I walked by the Confederation of African Footballer’s building, situated a few blocks from my house. People were staring at the building, their faces etched with a mixture of shock, disgust and expressions I read as ah-well-they-had-it-coming. Every single window of the football association building was shattered. Shards of glass, stones and bits of wood littered the ground. Two cameramen shuffled forward, one balancing a tripod, the other, a camera. They clambered into the building through a broken window. In front of the building, a minibus stood, roasted into a black skeleton.
This was one day after the Senegal-Gambia match—a qualifier for 2010 African Cup of Nations and the World Cup in which both countries drew at 1-1. Senegal is not going on to the games.
The building was vandalised and a van burnt a few hours after the match ended.
Raw football passion is something I’ve never understood. Vandalism is another that evades me, but as I walked by the building being filmed the local television station, I forced myself. I tried to imagine what would push me over the edge, make me pick up a rock and launch it at a building or some entity.
Coming to think of it, there was actually a lot of stone throwing in Dakar last week. The city and its suburbs have been plagued with frequent power cuts, and on Wednesday, people decided they had had enough. They took to the streets, burnt tyres and were dispersed by tear-gas wielding police. But they had their way. Two buildings of the Senegalese electricity company, Senelec were attacked by rock-throwers.
Let’s come back to imagining what could push me to the edge. Let’s imagine I was a small business owner, with a small hairdressing salon in Dakar. Imagine if every day, power goes out for most of the working day. Add the fact that I don’t have the money to invest in a small generator, which will mean incurring more costs for the price of fuel, anyway and customers wouldn’t want to pay higher prices. Let’s pepper other factors into the equation: I have children at home who will be starting school soon. Food in the refrigerator turns green with mold with the frequent power cuts, and food prices are already at an insane high. Yes. That might push me to the edge. That might make me pick up a stone and launch it a symbolic building.
I still stand by the fact that I don’t understand raw football passion and I’ll go as far as saying what pushed the Senegalese football fans over the edge was not the same kind of rawness of the English football fan. In each broken window, I looked at, I sensed a build up of other factors – the feeling that nothing in Senegal is working. The Lions not beating the Gambia Scorpions was the tip of the iceberg – all that was needed to tip him over the edge, to pick up that stone to shatter glass windows into a million little pieces.