Archive for January, 2010

Africa Cup of Nations starts to unravel before it even starts

According to news reports within the last hour, the buses carrying the Togo national football team were ambushed and machine-gunned in the Angolan province of Cabinda.  Fortunately, the ambushers were dense enough to waste most of their fire on the front bus, which contained the luggage.  The gunfire lasted for more than 15 minutes.  The driver for the team was killed instantly; 2 players and several staff members were injured.

Africa.  How do you steal the heart of every soul that sets foot on your shores, yet proceed to pierce those same hearts with endless and inexplicable pain?

As the Togo team tries to recover from their near-death experience, it is doubtful they will choose to stay in the tournament.  The bigger questions still lie unanswered.  Who are the culprits?  What were their motives?  Will there be more attacks on other teams?  What does this mean for the Cup of Nations?  What does this mean for Angola, a country similarly trying to recover from 4 decades of unharnessed violence?

The province of Cabinda is geographically disconnected from the rest of the country, an enclave within the two Congos.  Because of its immense wealth in oil, there has been a low-level rebel movement in Cabinda for decades.  Yes, that’s a miniature civil war that has been eclipsed by the larger civil war that ravaged the country.  Now that peace has “broken out” in the rest of the country, the government has turned its military focus to Cabinda.  But as today’s tragedy demonstrates, the solution is probably less than simple.

Africa.  Your scars run deep, your pain ever seething.

God.  May your grace reach deep into the heart of Africa, deeper even than its scars.

An Old Hobby Meets a New

When I need some time to let my brain escape – which we all do at times – I’ve recently delved into a new pasttime.  Well, actually, a new pasttime has joined forces with an old pasttime.  The old is Excel.  Yes, I’m a spreadsheet nerd.  100%.  Katie makes fun of me incessantly for making spreadsheets of everything.  Our DVD collection, library, packing boxes, shopping lists, finances, schedule, family history, running, and the list goes on.  When Katie wanted to get me interested in Christmas shopping, she made the list in Excel for my benefit.  If it can be tracked, I like to track it in Excel.

The new hobby, far more exciting, is international football.  And by that, I’m not referring to the American minority infatuation played on a gridiron.  I’m talking about real football, played with the feet, loved the world over, known in the U.S. as soccer.  I’ll refer to it as football.  (Forgive me a little rant, but I’ve never liked calling non-American things by American names.  If you’ve spent any time around me, you know that zebra has a short E sound, which is the way it is spelled and the way Africans, colonised by the British, say it.  Except for those who cater primarily to Americans, and thus have bowed to the absurd American “zEEEbra.”  Last time I checked, zebras were not from America.  Similarly, Americans can keep calling it soccer, but I and the rest of the world will continue to call it by its real name, football.)

Kudos if you can name this awesome footballer from the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations!  Nathan, you're not allowed to guess.
Kudos if you can name this awesome footballer from the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations! Nathan, you're not allowed to guess.

So anyway, I’ve always enjoyed football, watching and playing.  I played as a kid, but have lost most of it.  And I’ve never followed any sport consistently, so I can’t rattle off the names of famous basketball players like Jared can, or baseball players like Robert can, etc.  Over the last few weeks, though, I’ve begun to immerse myself in the world of football.  I discovered the beauty of ESPN360, which broadcasts weekly games from the Portuguese Liga, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A, and quite a few more.  For free, if you happen to have the right ISP.  And Wikipedia is a wonderful quick source for all sorts of info on leagues, teams, players, competitions, etc.

So the two hobbies meet.  Because, of course, I now have half a dozen spreadsheets or more, constantly cataloging the football worlds that catch my interest.  I have a quick-glance history of the World Cup tournaments and the Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.  I have a detailed bracket of the 2006 World Cup, which we watched in Angola, and the upcoming 2010 World Cup and Cup of Nations.  Brackets for the EUFA Champions League.  Schedules of games, team stats, and rank tables for the Portuguese Liga and the English Premiere League.  And of course, a growing table of players’ stats.  I’ve got a lot to learn to catch up with the rest of the world, but hey, I’m loving it.

I’ll tell you more later, but that’s the gist of it.  Excel and football, a winning team.  And it gets even better as we wait with bated breath for the World Cup in June and July.  But first, something you might not care about but I can’t stop thinking about:

the African Cup of Nations starts in 4 days…

and the countdown begins!