Thursday, September 13, 2007

soccer riot

Yesterday, for the first time in this country I felt unsafe.

Nothing horrible happened, but the situation definitely had the potential to get out of control.

Driving back from the regional house after our regional health IST meeting, 6 other volunteers and I were driving in a 7-place (station wagon that holds 7 but should really be for about 5). We were an hour from our destination when we came upon a huge crowd of young boisterous men. Our driver slowed down and they surrounded our car. They were yelling and telling us to turn around. Then they started yelling at us and banging on our windows and pulling at the doors. The confusion of where and how to turn around plus the huge cloud of billowing black smoke (we still don’t know what they were burning) made our driver incredibly flustered and nervous. As he was deciding how to back out, people starting throwing things at the car.

Nothing broke and no one was hurt, but it shook us up a bit.

Our driver turned off the road and we took a minor detour through the sand and grass to double-back and find a way around the village. Luckily, a local kid said he knew how to get around the mess. He jumped in the car and directed us for about 1K across sand dunes and grass, dodging bushes, divots, goats, cows, and huts. It was quite the adventure. The seven of us were bouncing along and a little wary of running into another crowd of angry youths, but we were mostly just excited about the story factor.

We found out that the reason for the riot was a cancelled soccer match! Two nearby villages were supposed to play a final game for the regional title but the match was called off.

I just don’t get it.

I guess people just have too much time on their hands? Too much time, and too much pent up frustration/testosterone.

But this phenomenon is not rare. Especially when it comes to soccer. Remember when the Brazilian goalkeeper was killed for failing to block a goal? Ridiculous.

Even when I was in Costa Rica and two rival teams, Saprisa and La Liga were playing a normal match, the fans pelted the losing team with food, bottles, and whatever they could get their hands on.

What is it about the sport that makes people so crazy?

I mean I love soccer as much as the next guy (okay, maybe not quite as much), but to inflict pain on another person, and to riot, and destroy property just because of a cancelled match seems totally over the top to me.

In any case, we took all the right steps and called our PC security officer who notified the gendarmes in the area. Two big cars full of them actually whizzed passed us on their way to break up the crowd. We assume they took care of it. But there is no real way to find out what happened.

At least now I know that the next time we come upon a roadblock of people and smoke it would be wise to stop a little sooner, and find an alternate route around BEFORE we drive straight into the mess huh?

No harm done. Lesson learned.
At least it makes a decent cocktail party story right?

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