Monthly Archives: March 2011

Stars versus Antelopes

We just returned from Nairobi where we spent a long time again navigating the corridors of the immigration department. However, our visit corresponded with the visit of the Palancas Negras (Angola’s national team) to play the Harambee Stars (Kenya’s national football team) in an African Cup Qualifier.

The stars have been less than stellar recently and have slumped from a FIFA ranking high of 68 in December 2008 to languish at 127th. But it was going to be a beautiful day in Nairobi and we don’t get many opportunities to watch Kenyan football as Kisumu’s stadium is sadly very dilapidated and not a host venue for the Kenyan Premier League.

The hard part was trying to work out where you bought tickets. The Nyayo National Stadium doesn’t have a box office and the tickets are sold through “G4s Outlet” (G4S is the multi-national security services group) but there were only vague references to the locations in area of Nairobi. We eventually tracked down the office which was near Nyayo stadium but it was still tucked away along a dirt road in an industrial area near the stadium.

On the day of the game we headed by foot (because of Nairobi’s legendary horrible traffic) from downtown to the stadium. I was telling people in the morning that I believed Kenya would win 2-1; mostly met with snorts and eye rolling. On the way we started running into other fans; first a trickle then a river. We bumped into some youth workers from Rikay-YEEP, including the ‘Chairman’ who decided to befriend us and make sure we had a grand day. We arrived at the stadium at the same time as ‘Tinga’ (Kenayn Prime Minister Railia Odinga) arrived with his entourage, which was besieged by fans as it entered the stadium.

Chairman and co. shepherded us under the main scoreboard behind the Angola stand. This was ‘where the true fans sat’, most of west-Nairobi seemed to be here based on how much greeting went on, and as we waited for kick off, we chatted about life in Kenya. Again my prediction of a 2-1 win for Kenya were laughed at.

The crowd was going crazy by now, considering they had restricted the crowd to 20,000, the noise was still insane. We had multiple ‘mexican waves’ rolling around the stadium before kick-off and you could see that Kenya really wanted to win this match but they were hurried and scuffing passes under the pressure of the crowd. Shortly Angola started taking control of the mid-field and began applying pressure on Kenya’s fragile backline and the Kenyan defence crumbled allowing them to take the lead.

But then during the second half, Kenya made two early substitutions and they could finally hold on to the ball and we now had a cracking match. Both sides were denied by great saves by each keeper before Kenya scored a quality equalizer. This fired up the crowd and by now, people were dancing around the perimeter fencing. My ‘drunk’ neighbour started to smile and stated that Kenya still needed a miracle because I was still predicting the 2-1 victory. And then finally, in the 86th minute, Kenya went ahead with another great goal. Everyone, everything just went nuts. The players were running around crazily, the fans climbing onto the pitch, waves of cheering pouring from the stands, you had no idea what was going on. Luckily the idiots who tried to get to the players were prevented but Kenya’s goal scorer was sent off for over-celebration (he removed his shirt to show a t-shirt with “God Above Everything”) and everyone tried to calm down enough to finish the game.

When that final whistle finally came, the crowd just exploded. My ‘drunk’ friend kept repeating that it was a miracle and trying to hug me constantly. Everyone was dancing and cheering, running around to greet friends with smiles everywhere. A few fans started to invade the pitch but again were mostly driven back and the team did a lap of honour to riotous applause. Our arms ached from high-fiving, clapping and fist bumps from our neighbours.

The whole crowd left peacefully streaming into downtown Nairobi, completely blocking the highway, banging on Matatus, celebrating with truck drivers, waving flags and singing mightily. On the hill before town, we looked back and all you could see were celebrating Stars fans.

Certainly the most fun we’ve had in Nairobi and I haven’t even mentioned the hip-hop show we saw the night before.

5 good/bad things about life in Kenya

This week, here are five random good and bad things that are shaping our lives in Kisumu.

  • Old muslim men with bright ginger beards riding boda-bodas. For some reason this still makes me smile (btw boda-boda are bicycle taxis).
  • The afro-mexican food at Mariposa Restaurant. Its really much better than it has any right to be and the views over the lake are great. In fact the food is much better than some of the horrible latin-american food we had in London (although there is some great mexican food to be found at the Cool Chili Company and Green & Red.
  • Old kung-fu movies on saturday night TV. 36 Chambers of Shaolin, Legend of the Bat…. yes, please.
  • The occasional stunning views over the Nandi Hills, between breaks in the rain clouds.
  • Home-made banana bread. We finally mastered our little oven and bake goods are now flowing. We buy ‘mandasi’ baking powder (as its really just baking powder), so now we always get asked if we can make Mandazis for people because of it. Mandazis are a little like fried doughnuts and are delicious fresh in the morning with a little chai.
  • Kisumu City council’s ‘urban planning’ – by suddenly banning Matatus, Tuk-Tuks, bicycles and Piki-Pikis from the center of the city, they’ve just shifted the traffic problems a few 100 meters out of downtown and created a real nightmare around the central market and Kisumu Boys High. Nice work.
  • The cheesy ‘best of the 80s’ music that blares during friday nights at the Mariposa Restaurant. Food great, cold beer great, Rick Astley/Cameo/Alexander O’Neil not so great.
  • The long-rains making what passes for pavements (or sidewalks) around the town centre into udongo/matope (mud).
  • Rising food prices. As a wazungu you often get charged a little more; but now its hard to tell as everyone’s prices are rising. Inflation (and a falling Kenyan Shilling) is really putting pressure on basic staples here esp for those not as fortunate as us.
  • Bloody mosquitos. The rains dampen ‘em down for a bit and the dry periods then turn into mosquito parties. Its hard to relax when they decide to dive bomb you in the evening.

New donations tracking page

Now I have a working computer again, its time to get organised.

Theres a new page for tracking donations for Mark and to try and co-ordinate all the possible combinations and ideas.


The plan is try and get everything organised and ready to ship by the end of March if possible (or as close to that deadline as we can). That gives us about a month for shipping and a little breathing room before the first major race of the Kenyan Cycling season.

Thanks for all your patience.