Maxaquena v HCB Songo, Wednesday 19th August 2015, 3pm

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After Tom’s departure for England, Jen and I drove on to Mozambique. The initial plan had been to spend a couple of months driving through Southern Africa, but a job offer that required an earlier start date meant that the trip would be reduced to a three to four-week journey up to Malawi and then back down again through Zambia and Botswana.

The first eight-hour day of driving on the Mozambique roads was sufficient for us to revise the plan to a fortnight at the beach in Mozambique and then a week each in Swaziland and South Africa instead. It wasn’t that the roads were bad, Lesotho was certainly worse, but the traffic meant for slow progress and the Police speed checks would have had us bankrupt in no time.

I only drove on four days in total in Mozambique and was ‘ticketed’ on three of them. Twice when it was unclear what the speed limit was supposed to be and once when my South African number plates suggested a payday. By the third ‘offence’ I’d learned that by pointing out that I didn’t need any paperwork I could have a fifty percent discount on my ‘fine’.

We stayed on the coast, initially at Inhambane and then at Bilene. Both places provided ample opportunities for wandering around the beach watching fishermen and crabs.

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The football took place in Maputo, or rather in a suburb just outside of town. I felt quite lucky to have made the game, particularly as my previous two attempts had failed. On the first trip, a year or so ago, we had got no further than Johannesburg Airport where we were told that new visa rules prevented us setting off.

On the next trip, armed with the correct visas, a combination of an international weekend and some last-minute lower league cancellations meant that we didn’t get to a game.

Third time lucky though. There was a match scheduled at the Estadio do Maxaquene and I knew where that was. However, knowing the venue listed doesn’t necessarily mean that there will actually be a match there and when we turned up an hour or so before kick-off it was apparent that nobody had played there for a while.

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I asked around and was told that the game was actually taking place half an hour’s drive away at the Campo de Afrin. Fair enough. A taxi fare of 800 Meticais (thirteen quid) each way was negotiated and half an hour later we were there.

For a midweek afternoon game it certainly seemed busy enough. I suppose with the ground not having floodlights all the games would have to be over by tea-time, even the mid-week ones. There were lines of people outside selling food, drinks and replica shirts, whilst a steady stream of fans were going inside.

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Tickets were 100 Meticais and as our taxi driver had decided to wait for us we got him one as well. We sat behind the goal, as close as we could to a large palm tree in the hope that we might benefit from some shade. Most people made their way over to the main stand to our left, whilst the open terracing on the opposite side of the pitch was reasonably popular too.

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Maxaquena, in the blue and red stripes, started the game second in the table, whilst Songo, in the turquoise kit were a little lower down. The Mozambique season runs from March to November and so is currently about halfway through.

The right winger for Maxaquena was on the receiving end of some abuse from his own fans that made the old Ayresome Park Chicken Run look like a welcoming and supportive environment. I though some of the fans might come to blows over him, in what seemed to be a dispute over who would get to kick his head in first.

They were, however, all in agreement that the said player would be more at home as a sex worker rather than a footballer. As would his Mam.

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With a few minutes remaining and the light starting to fade Songo won a free-kick on the edge of the Maxaquena box. Someone curled it into the top corner to take the points and really give the home supporters something to cry about.

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Despite having been subbed by that stage, I imagine Bob the Puta still got most of the blame from the fans on the way out.

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