Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Malawi – One of the world’s easier border crossings

January 15-16

Hello everyone!

Borders are a trending topic in the news at the moment. Certain countries are threatening to build walls, others are preparing for longer waits at immigration before citizens can enter their country. Not Malawi, though.

To the left is Malawi, to the right is Mozambique

Mozambique surrounds the southern half of the country I currently live in. I’m sure that there are proper border crossings and stipulations that need to be fulfilled before entering Mozambique. Unofficially, however, all you have to do is cross the road…

Mozambique has our southern frontier surrounded

Mozambican beer is also far, far superior to the Carlsberg offered in Malawi. Manica is…better. I’m sure there’s a more eloquent way of describing the fact that Manica is quite nice but people get paid good money to do that job.

Czech beer > Manica > urine > Carlsberg

The village we were staying in is called Lizulu, a bit over 100km south of Lilongwe. As with the other villages we’ve stayed in so far, it is a world away from the sprawl of the capital. Shops are congregated around the main road, with the rest of the land being allocated for housing and farming.

A stall in Lizulu's market, where people from across the region
come to shop every Saturday

The countryside behind Lizulu - we spent a lot of enjoyable
time walking through it

On the Saturday afternoon, we went on a walk through some of this land and passed a small hamlet. Being a group containing a few muzungus, we quickly attracted a crowd…

Dozens of followers on our walk

Whilst in one of Lizulu’s watering holes on Saturday night, I was offered the chance to play for their local football team. Common knowledge suggests that I become more confident than I should after a couple of drinks, so ‘Gareth Bale’ (Welsh, same school, left-footed: similarities peter out after that…) gladly accepted.

Me after three beers...

We were due to play an ‘international’ friendly – i.e. across the road in Mozambique – the following afternoon. At Sunday lunchtime we were informed that the game would instead take place in Malawi on this…

The picturesque setting for our game

A beautiful setting, I’m sure you’d agree. The pitch was a little below the standard of what we call ‘Sunday League’, with its rivets, potholes and tractor tracks proving to be extra obstacles. The very long grass also inhibited any passing game, not that this was part of our team’s plan it seemed.

After being introduced to the rest of the team as ‘expert’ and ‘Gareth Bale’, I lined up in left midfield. My first involvement was to release my inner Welshman by attempting to rugby tackle a Mozambican who had torched past me on the wing.

An inauspicious start...

It got better, with me becoming their chief attacking outlet for the next 10 minutes. After a bit of Bale-esque dribbling and Smith-esque crosses, the ball dropped perfectly for a left-foot volley for me to crash into the top corner (not of the net – no nets here). A defender from the other team nicked the ball away just as I was in the process of shooting, resulting me kicking his heel as hard as possible.

Top tip: if your standing leg is this far from the ball,
you will shank said ball out of play

Not wanting to be the newbie who cried off at the first instance of pain, I tried to carry on, even after being offered ‘first aid’ by the other team’s bench. Alas, after another 5 minutes of hobbling and attempting to sprint, I gave up the ghost and was subbed off. The fact that the opposition scored less than a minute after I exited stage right is probably a coincidence.

Hobbling on - some would say bravely,
others would say stupidly

The foot swelled up nicely and took a few days to be able to walk freely on. Meanwhile I was able to watch our team play hopelessly for the rest of the first half, trudging back to us 3-0 down at half-time, before they gained a bit of respectability by drawing the second half 1-1.

I really enjoyed my time in Lizulu, meeting some wonderful people and being offered an opportunity which few will experience in Malawi. Maybe next time I’ll add Mozambique to the list of places I’d played for a football team. After all, it is only across the road…

The temperature dropped sharply when the clouds rolled in

Love you all


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