“Adventures” is maybe a bit of a strong word. What I should say perhaps is “some time spent on holiday in Cape Verde watching some football”, but it’s not as catchy a title. This article is split into two small-ish ones, both of which I tapped away on on my phone while I was away.
Watching the Premier League Cape Verde Style
During my time in Cape Verde (group of islands off the west coast of Senegal, fact fans) one thing astounded me (other than the weather, the beaches and the plentiful free drink) – the utter ubiquitousness of the Premier League. On arrival on 2 October I was greeted with live coverage of the North London derby, on the Spanish Canal + from what I assume was the hotel satellite feed. I then managed to see, on various channels, bits of Barca v Sporting Gijon and Juventus v Milan. On 3 October I was greeted with a re-run of Bolton v Chelsea. Not looking too rosy for Bolton at the moment… (though it is interesting listening to what I think is Steve McManaman as co-commentator, presumably speaking flawless Spanish in a Scouse accent). This continued for much of the fortnight, though international week was a bit of a let-down for the discerning Scotland supporter (i.e. me) with Norway v Cyprus being shown live on one channel…
Back to the topic, it really does seem like the world has fallen in love with the Premier League. Granted, it would seem the hotel had access to a pretty darn good satellite dish and that the local station (TCV) probably cant afford the big bucks needed. But there I was, 250 miles off the west coast of Africa and still able to watch a host of Premier League football.
Indeed, although the idea is utterly abhorrent to me as a mostly traditional football fan, I can see why the Premier League, and particularly Richard Scudamore, was briefly so eager for the “39th game”. The Premier League clearly has a vast international audience, including on an archipelago in the Atlantic. The whys and wherefores of this have been argued over many times – suffice to say there is at least (as is further exemplified by various Premier League sides’ Asian pre-season tours) a pretty persuasive commercial argument for doing so in a number of locations. Although the national stadium in Praia might need a bit of an upgrade, as I was soon to discover.
Cape Verde 2-1 Zimbabwe; Liberia 2-2 Mali
The second major football experience of my holiday was watching the Cape Verde national team in action. The original plan had been to go see them in Praia, but on researching the possibilities, and realising that our hotel was on a whole different island from the country’s capital city, the kibosh was very soon unfortunately put on that.
My experiences of the Cape Verde national team were therefore restricted to watching them on the national broadcaster (TCV), among its adverts for something called “ESTRELA POP”. First impressions were good – the stand of the national stadium in Praia looked sturdy and from the look of the numbers getting up in front of the camera when the Verde ventured forward, the 8,000 capacity stadium (that’s a whole 4 times bigger than New Bayview, you know) got pretty darn lively. The pitch looked decent but understandably dry for a country that gets 261mm of rain a year (about half an hour’s worth in Glasgow).
It was at Cape Verde’s last venture forward in the first half that I saw something that kind of shocked me and yet really made me wish I could have gone there all in one. If any readers have ever had the privilege of going to Firs Park (and it was a privilege, believe me), they would be aware that one end is a wall with a retail park overlooking it. Well imagine that, except with no branch of Land of Leather behind it. Then imagine a good twenty or thirty people sitting on it (at least 9 feet off the ground), and getting up and jumping when CV scored…! It was all a scary for a pasty Western football supporter used to plastic seats and warm pies, but frankly when you discount the complete lack of health and safety it did look a rather fun way to watch a game of football.
Half-time was probably my favourite bit of the game, however. Not just because at that point Cape Verde were well in charge against Mugabe’s lot, being 2-0 up, but after the lengthy commercial break I was treated to a massive supporters’ song, to the tune of”Beat It” by Michael Jackson. I didn’t understand a word (plainly, as it was sung entirely in Portuguese), but it did feature a guitar playing shark (the mascot!). I discovered from the video that as Ivory Coast are the Elephants, Cameroon are the Indomitable Lions and the Central African Republic are the Wild Beasts (thanks Wikipedia) , then so Cape Verde are the Tubaroes Azuis or “Blue Sharks”. It certainly made for a far more entertaining spectacle than listen to Hansen/Shearer/other pointless pundit drone on about nothing in particular.
I would almost be tempted to recommend it for Scotland matches, but then would be reluctant in the face of the fact that if this was implemented half-time would probably be taken up by the Tain and District Pipe Band playing Highland Cathedral for fifteen minutes. Something for the BBC to think about though.
Anyway back to west Africa, the Blue Sharks were two up at half-time on their relatively big opponents thanks to early goals from Valdo and Ryan.
Cape Verde needed a win to have a hope of qualifying for their first Africa Cup of Nations and hope that Liberia could do them a favour in Monrovia (Martyn) by beating group leaders Mali. Cape Verde held up their side of the bargain by getting through a reasonably turgid second half and winning 2-1. Unfortunately, Liberia could only draw with Mali, and as such Cape Verde was left to wait, with as little stress as possible, for the World Cup qualifiers to begin. From what I could see online on my return to the UK, they had done their country proud with their run. If only Nani hadn’t decided to play for Portugal.
For your viewing pleasure, here’s the mad yet brilliant half-time Cape Verde tune. And I’d thoroughly recommend Cape Verde for a holiday!