How football fans in Tsogu, Tamale, dined with Athletico, Bayern and drowned with Barcelona and United
At the Vicente Calderon stadium in far away Spain, and the Allianz Arena in Germany came yet another scintillating night of European Football with an even more enthralling results which left Athletico Madrid and Bayern Munich fans leaping with joy and their counterparts in Barcelona and Manchester United limping in grief.
Barcelona for the first time in eight years crushed out of the Uefa Champions League at the quarter finals stage and it was Athletico Madrid, their biggest nemesis in this season’s campaign who were the architect. Atletico themselves celebrate their first ever semi-final berth in Europe’s elite club competition since 1974 and are the only team which remains unbeaten in this year’s campaign. While Athletico revel in their fairy tale run in Europe and at home, another European giants, Manchester United ended what must be a torridly sorry campaign at home and a less than impressive campaign in Europe. They were mauled by defending champions Bayern Munich in a game whose final result was less surprising than the performance of united.
And while fans were gripped with mixed emotions at the charged Vincente Calderon and the Arena stadia in Europe, their counterparts watching several nautical miles down south but up north in Ghana were equally [dis]enchanted depending on which team they supported and how the results went.
On the shoulders of the busy Tsogu road in the Northern Region capital, Tamale, sat the AminPras Enterprise, venue for Europe’s must watch football matches. Even though Amin Pras Enterprise deals in Multi Tv, DSTV decoders and TV sets it was more a European football mediated enterprise. It was therefore not surprising that as a stranger in Tamale who desperately needed a place to watch these two magnificent Uefa Champions League games- side-by-side was directed to Amin Pras Enterprise. It was 18:43 GMT when i got to the venue. The ‘stadium’ was jam-packed with spirited and expectant fans, motorbikes were parked. Children sat on stones; others on chairs. The majority of fans stood all looking in one direction. I joined multitude, watching the same direction as the others i met. But there was no TV. I looked at my watch and it was 18:45. The matches had started. I quickly enquired what would make a multitude of football fans sit idle watching the air and not the screen. There was no screen. It was then that i was told the ‘owner’ went out and was now on his way to the shop to get the stadium in an electric mood.
I asked if there was another venue i could go watch the games because i didn’t want to miss any more minutes than i had already. The direction given was long and dodgy. I was better off waiting at Amin Pras. Within some few seconds the owner walked in. I wondered where the TVs were going to be mounted given the sheer numbers ready to watch, to jeer and to cheer so that nobody would be disadvantaged. In my confusion there was an announcement. Athletico had scored. I was even more anxious and eager to watch. The fans pointed to their phones. There were monitoring the score line. Within few minutes two TV sets were dangled on a metal rail high up.
It took several minutes for the decoders to be scanned before the matches would be shown. The anxiety had reached a crescendo. Then the Athletico- Barca match came first. Athletico was in the lead, a confirmation of the earlier announcement. Then came the second game on the other much bigger screen. It was still goalless 20 minutes into play. United were gallantly exiting the competition, if the results remained the same. They had drawn the reverse fixture one apiece.
All eyes were now glued on two different sets. So were mine. My legs were beginning to wobble beneath me. My over stretched neck was beginning to twitch. I have been standing close to 35 minutes already lost in the crowd but enjoying every moment. The arguments came in loud from different sections of the crowd. I didn’t understand the language the arguments came in but i understood football. They were talking football.
With a goal in hand, Athletico had hit the bar twice while Barcelona dominated without purpose. Messi was lost; Neymar was found but always gave away possession too easily. Surprisingly at the other end, the game between United and Bayern was close.
The excitement was building. Then came “Isha”- a call to Islamic prayer. Football to some is a religion. But Islam proved just more than that. It was life. A section of the multitude who were only minutes ago shouting, jeering had to quickly switch into worship mood. They responded to the call to prayer. They left. The game was on. Others who probably were Christians watched the game while the others bowed to Allah in prayer.
Then all of a sudden, the owner switched off the TV sets. He needed not to inform the multitude before doing so. It was prayer time. But for a few minor groans from people standing shoulders away from mine, there was no protest. Not a loud word. Democracy had no place when the full force of religion is at play. In less than five minutes, the prayers were over. The multitude had returned; the sets were back on. The atmosphere switched to its originally electric mood. If ever there was any prayer said for Barcelona and United by their fanatic fans, it never worked. The results remained the same. The referee would soon whistle for the end of the first half. There were loud chants soon to be followed by deafening sounds of motorbikes which had to be moved by its owners. And there were many of them. I was almost drained. I needed a big bottle full of Voltic mineral water to refuel.
The 15 minutes break came rather fast. The multitude had returned on their motorbikes and on foot. Others who stood far from the action in the first half took advantage of the break to reposition in the second half. The referees blew the players into action. The fans in Tsogu were poised in pretty much the same as their counterparts at the Arena and Calderon.
Athletico were still impregnable and composed. They sat back and allowed Barcelona all the time to play but the Catalan side never posed any real threat at the final third. It was Madrid who were more dangerous on the counter. The Barcelona defence marshalled by Macherano and Bartrand had been breached on many occasions. They were lucky to still trail by just a goal. It could have been more if Athletico’s penalty appeal after Macherano’s needless lunge on Koke had been taken. It was as though referee Howard Webb had planned not to award any team any penalty. There had been few appeals on both sides, even though Athletico’s looked far more glaring. As fans mauled Webb for refusing a glaring penalty at Calderon, there was a thunderous shout at Tsogu in Tamale- something magnificent had happened at Allianz Arena. Manchester United had taken a shocking lead. It was a goal of breathtaking genius by Patrick Evra who latched onto a teasing cross on the right and with his cultured left, the French captain volleyed a blistering shot which zoomed into the top left corner, which left Manuel Nueur completely beaten. United appeared to be cruising into the semis, a dream they never they thought they could realise. In 22 seconds their dream became exactly what it was- a dream. Mandzukic had equalised with a header at close range. It was one apiece. Tsogu was silent. Allianz Arena was bursting at its seams. Muller would quickly deepen the woes of United with the deftest of touches. It was Bayern’s second goal. Tsogu had been turned into a funeral parlour. Arena was in party mood.
There was a loud desperate shout as attention was quickly switched to Calderon. Neymar had missed the goal by inches with a glancing header. Frustration began to set in not only on the faces of the Barcelona players and fans but on those of Tsogu as well. They were on the verge of defeat and it looked so obvious because their defence had been left at the mercy of a ruthless Athletico attack even without their ruthless attacker Diego Costa.
Elsewhere, Arjen Robben had danced his way around the United defence before firing Bayern’s third with a help of a Vidic deflection. The die was cast. United were out. Allianz Arena was blazing in cheers. Bayern looked poised to defend their title. The Tsogu fans were left in distraught. They looked more a Barcelona and United fan base. Their teams had crushed out and yet it was not surprising. The writings were on the wall after results in the first leg at Camp Nou and at the Theatre of dreams. The United and Barca fans in Tsogu and elsewhere around the world would now be looking at a better campaign next season .
From Tsogu, in Tamale Nathan Gadugah reporting.