Monday, June 14, 2010

Time to go gaga!!!

Every time my colleague Ayumba from the Daily Nation jumps to his feet to cheer and shout himself hoarse as Bafana Bafana lay surge on the Mexicans, the elderly white man perched on a high stool at the bar behind us reacts with spontaneous fits of anger.

He keeps fluffing his hands wildly while mouthing some inaudible protests which are duly drowned by the frantic fan's persistent din. At first I mistake the old man’s livid reaction as his unique way of cheering on the South Africans.

It’s only much later that I realise that the poor fellow is actually aghast by my partner’s perceived insolence in denying him a view of the crystal clear HD LCD screen that has captured the attention of all and sundry in the house.

Am tickled, but I don’t bother to alert the apparently oblivious Ayumba who is too engrossed in his cheer-leading exertions to take any notice.

It’s a Friday evening and we are at Kengeles, right in the heart of the blissful suburban Lavington Green to catch the historic kick-off of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, courtesy of MultiChoice Kenya.

The bubbly party mood at this placid joint that is popularly patronized by clientèle from the upper scale of the social class is uncharacteristic of the establishment.

With us on the same table is another colleague from the print, Ateka. This brother is, as usual, calm and collected as he slowly sips his Tusker baridi.

Behind us, at the bar, is a young couple. The man - a lanky Caucasian - is taking a Tusker too while his ‘very’ pregnant companion seems content with a glass of bottled water. They are hardly speaking to each other but seem quite comfy all the same.

A few minutes before half-time, a middle-aged gentleman settles on the empty table across ours. He is soon joined by another man in a grey suit and the two immediately order their drinks.

But wait a minute! Isn’t the latter of the two a clergyman; an ever observant Ateka discreetly nudges me. Sure enough - you can’t be wrong with the unmistakable white collar. And isn’t the man of the cloth downing his Tusker Malt baridi!

A mystified Ayumba quickly posts this lewd observation on Facebook via his cell phone to trigger a flurry of subversive comments from the ever eager online netizens of social network.

The back lobby, where the live action is being projected of four giant LCD screens is the preferred section for the rest of the media 'gang'. The placed is packed to the rafters!

There is a buzz about the place but the surround HD commentary somehow muffles the animated conversation of the vuvuzela-brandishing fans donned in assorted team shirts.

Perhaps this convivial sense of camaraderie explains our ‘Mzungu’ friend’s indignation and frustration at having his privacy so rudely intruded.

Unfortunately, there is no reprieve for him: the height of this madness is when Siphiwe Tshabalala lets fly a rocket that nestles with a bulge on the top corner of the Mexican net in the 55th minute.

Goal number one of 2010 Fifa World Cup is greeted by cacophony of sounds... the noise from the blurring vuvuzelas, honking car horns, and wild cheers is deafening.

Inexplicably, when Rafael Marquez equalizes for the Mexicans with just 23 minutes left on the clock, a few rounds of cheers are heard from some overzealous fans who seem to be just happy to savour the moment.

The game is soon over and the first person I turn to is the guy next table who identifies himself as Gaitho, a Nairobi businessman. The drinking pastor has since left. “Am not much of a football fan. I only came here to meet my pastor friend . I noticed you guys were startled when he walked in, but then....” he stutters and stops.

Your favourite teams? “Italy and Nigeria”, he quips without any further elaboration.
Next, I move to the bar where the indignant Caucasian man - by now as high as a kite from his tipple - is still sitted with a slightly drooped head.

But when I introduce myself he quickly grabs my Press Card and gives it long hard dreary look. “ Am not a ‘Mzungu’, I’ve lived in Kenya for 12 years”, he snaps at me in a drunken drawl when I ask for his reactions to the World Cup kick-off.

The next minute, he's warmed up to me and goes ahead to confess that he is not so enthusiastic about football but has a liking for rugby. “I don’t support any team but I hope South Africa does well” he mumbles with a half smile.

Inspite of my spirited coercion, the guy simply wont reveal any more. “Am simply known as Terry, that all you need to know ”, he says curtly before clasping my palm with a firm grip. End of interview!

On my way out, I bump into the premises owner Garvin Bell (Bell translates to Kengele in Kiswahili) and Stella Ondimu of MultiChoice Kenya. Garvin, who like the rest of his staff, is sporting a red t-shirt and black track slacks, seems highly energized by the carnival mood.

“Am so excited to be part of this communal goodwill event which has brought all these wonderful people together with the common purpose to support their teams and generally having fun”, says Garvin.

And what's with the number 7 on the back of the shirts? “Its the presumed lucky number here at Kengeles ”, he further confides.

Its 8:00pm and music from the lobby is now a few decibels higher. Outside, more cars are pulling over into the already jammed parking lot. The party has just began... time for me find my way home for the second match of Day 1.