BRENT LATHAM - Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I haven't posted in the last few days since it has been almost impossible to access internet here in Nigeria. As much as I'd like to say all the fears of organizational disaster in Nigeria were overblown, it seems they were instead well founded. Sufficed to say I'm really feeling Chinua Achebe right now.
I didn't experience the disarray of the opening matches in Abuja. Though I was in attendance I had no work to do, so I escaped unscathed though my fellow journalists were not pleased at all with the media center. FIFA usually has a nice office for journalists to work with internet connections, whereas here we are lucky if the media center even has power at any given time.
Opening day in Kano was even worse. It seems they waited until the very last minute to arrange everything, and nothing had been tested at all. There was no internet connection in the stadium anywhere yesterday, until just before kickoff of the American match (the second of the day). The local organizing committee officials showed up just before game time, and seemed much more interested in watching the matches than, well, organizing anything in particular.
The lack of crowd control was also an unfortunate side story yesterday, as there was rioting - not extraordinarily violent but still something not commonly seen inside FIFA venues - when a large portion of the ticketed crowd was not let in to the first match, because the guard had misplaced the keys to gate of the low-priced bleacher seats. (If you think I'm making this up check out my report for Voice of America radio, which will come on line later this afternoon.) Fans ended up entering through a ticketing booth window, and over the gate in question.
It would also be nice to say that the problems didn't spill over onto the field, but in a way they did. When the stadium lights went out, not once but twice with the Americans pressing a tired Spanish team for the equalizing goal, it played right into Spain's hands. Those things should not happen at a FIFA World Cup.
There is plenty more to say about last night's frustrating game, but the bottom line it's time to move on and hope that this talented American team can bounce back and show its stuff against a Malawi squad that it should be able to dominate. I'll be heading to practice this afternoon to speak with some of the players, so check YA tomorrow for updates ahead of the second group match.
Reliable internet and power supply provided, also keep an eye on my twitter @brentjavan to keep up to date on how things are coming along in Nigeria.