World Cup Theatre

23 06 2010

After viewing almost two weeks of World Cup football, the emotions and alliances of all at Mpala have experienced an unpredictable rollercoaster ride. The opening matches of the world’s largest tournament were slapped with painful reviews pinning the matches as dull and critiquing the start of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as lifeless. Now, huge names like England and Germany are on the line as the top two places in groups C & D are completely dependent on the matches being played today. The atmosphere at Mpala is buzzing with continuous excitement. It doesn’t matter who is playing – each game is fervently talked about before, cheered on throughout, and analyzed after.

A week before the World Cup began, the researchers pooled together the funds to purchase satellite equipment and the sports channel subscription for the entire tournament. Reaching the goal of 20,000 KSh the day before the games began (phew!) the call was made to the satellite provider and soon a sparkling white satellite dish was situated on the roof of the dining hall. A white bedsheet was pinned and taped to the wall, a projector set up and within a few hours we had our own World Cup theatre.

Game 1 was quite an event. Without the Kenya national team making the tournament, the staff and families decided to cheer on their African neighbors. Whether it be Nigeria or South Africa, the audience at Mpala is louder than most rowdy bar crowds. Kenya is an hour ahead of South Africa so the games are played at 2:30, 5, and 9:30 p.m. After the day’s work is done, the 9:30 p.m games are perfectly timed. Every game has been packed with researchers, staff, family members and guests.

The England v. USA game was by far one of my most memorable events at Mpala. Everyone showed up to watch. When all the chairs were taken, people sat in front on the ground. When ground space filled up, standing room only was created in the back. The viewers’ support was split about 50/50 between the two teams so each goal was met with roaring cheers. However, I think the celebration after the US goal was a bit delayed – most were in shock.

Already at breakfast today the focus of conversation was on the US v. Algeria match being played at 5 pm. Algeria, proving to be a much more difficult obstacle than previously thought, has been the cause of concern for the many US fans. Predictions and player evaluations were made, bets set and then everyone dispersed to the offices and field to get as much work done before kick0ff.

It’s pretty awesome being in Africa for their first hosting of a World Cup. There is a definite sense of unity among the countries. I can only imagine how much more crazed it would be if Kenya had made the tournament… I’m pretty sure the country would have shut down.

The Mpala Theatre set-up at the dining hall

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