Monday, June 30, 2014

Multiple allegiances in Abidjan during the World Cup.

Love it or hate it – and I have been known to do both on occasion – Abidjan is a city that pulses to its own vibrant beat. Part of what gives it its vibe is the fact that Abidjan is a city of immigrants, who’ve left their home countries in search of a better life. That said, they remain proudly Burkinab√© or Lebanese, and one barely need scratch beneath the surface to see that the city is full of people with mixed allegiances. Come World Cup time, everyone gathers around the national team and cheers them on with high hopes. What looked like every man woman and child was decked out in an Ivorian jersey, and for a couple of weeks, everyone morphed into diehard soccer fans, and all of the old tensions were forgotten. 

The incredible display of national and regional unity, has made watching the World Cup here particularly special. I have watched matches in Lebanese bars, in Ivorian maquis, and in my office building. Once it became clear the “Elephants” would not advance, everyone started cheering for other teams – primarily the remaining African ones.  Slowly, but surely, you could feel unity exit stage left, as multiple allegiances began to reappear.  So much so, that no one batted an eye when I cheered for the US to beat Ghana, and a local taxi driver said he was supporting France because his brother lived there. This place reminds me of how much we are all connected to one another in ways that we often forget. Here, somehow, it all works.  And that’s what makes this place special.    

Update: When I got home last night, I saw my building's security guard staring intently at a TV screen, watching the last minutes of the Germany Algeria game. He looked up at me and said the French equivalent of: --Welp, there goes the last African team...

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