Yamampela! So goes the catch cry advertising Swaziland’s national soccer competiion. Apparently Yamampela means “it’s real”, so I decided to head off to Somhlolo National Stadium for the country’s soccer finals to get a real taste of Swaziland.
I wasn’t the only one who decided to check it out. Apart from the King and a number of his wives, I was joined by thousands upon thousands of local Swazis. In fact, I was one of just three whities that I could see in the stadium, which made me much of a tourist attraction in its own right.
The attraction for me, however, was DJ Cleo – the half-time entertainment that really got the crowd moving. As you may appreciate, Africans are very musical and not afraid to wiggle their big black booties, so you can just imagine a whole stadium of gyrating backsides, kids and adults alike. It was inevitable that I would also end up shaking my insignificant white derrier, and love every minute of it.
While the dancing dominated the day, there were a range of other subtle elements that contributed to the entertaining atmosphere. The day started with a lap of the trophy, accompanied by none other than Miss Swaziland. As for the food, the delicious smell of braai chicken (Swazi BBQ) filled the air, and buckets of peanuts and roasted corn were paraded for sale. The fashion standout was traditional swazi dress – not particularly uncommon – except that it was combined with a leather jacket and sunglasses. There was the obligatory fight and arrest from an undercover cop, as well as a man yelling malicious comments about the King (awkward…..and slightly illegal!). I had to laugh at the preacher who confidently made his way into the stand and started reading from the Bible before asking for donations. After much cacchination from the crowd, I spotted him five minutes later hanging out and watching the soccer with them, snacks in hand.
Then there was the alcohol.
Now sport and alcohol are very good friends, and as an Aussie I wouldn’t dream of refuting this. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for the level of alcohol consumption in this highly Christian and traditional country. With no restrictions on BYO, people were guzzling from their 5L bottles of local, toxic marula home-brew, then taking a swig of whisky, before finishing it off with a gulp or three of beer. All that liquid leads to an awful lot of urination and clearly these Swazis were not shy about the where or the when. Not a pretty sight.
So, how about the soccer itself? Well, Green Mamba entered the competition as underdogs to the Highlanders. They did, however, manage to nab three goals before the Highlanders got one back. In the end, though, I don’t think it really matters. I have come to realise that soccer in Swaziland is not so much about the sport as the atmosphere, which it has in spades.