Kenya’s Harambee Stars Vs Ugandan Cranes: The Journey to Kampala and Back

This weekend, a lot of African football was played. Teams were battling it out for a slot in the Africa Cup of Nations (ACN) to be played in January next year, hosted jointly by both Equitorial Guinea and Gabon.

Kenya and Uganda were in the same group, and I remember sneaking out of church (well, sort of) last year so I could catch the first leg of the match at Nyayo Stadium. Click to read my summary of them match last year! I had bet heavily on the game and might have had to change my nationality to Ugandan if we had lost. It ended in a 0-0 draw.

The buses were draped in the match banners! Excitement in the air was high!

Uganda was leading in the group which consisted of Kenya, Uganda, Guinea Bissau and Angola. Ugandans were confident, cocky, arrogant… they thought the match against Kenya was just a formality. If they beat us, as they knew they will, they would automatically qualify for the ACN. Since they were at home, and their team had an impressive run, their headlines in the newspapers were to the tune of “How to Celebrate the Cranes Win”, and clubs advertised how they will organize the winning party.

I had no idea how I was going to travel to Kampala, but luckily, Kalonzo Musyoka, our Vice President, offered to pay for football fans. I decided I was going to get on that bus somehow. Luckily for me, the VP is on twitter and he offered to pay for 200 tweeps to join the rest of the traveling fans. After hounding his account (I can be relentless he he), I finally ended up on the list of Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) who were sponsored for the trip which included free transport, 1000bob for food allowance and a free ticket. KEFOFA (KEnya FOotball Fans Association) organized the whole trip which was eventful as it was exciting!

We arrived at Nyayo Stadium on Friday afternoon where the rest of the fans were gathered. The VP was there to flag us off.. Because of the logistics of organizing, checking our luggage, briefing and finally take off, we left Nairobi at 9pm. We made a lot of noise as we cruised past the city’s highways which had been cleared of traffic for us!

Kenyan fans at Nyayo listen to the VP and other politicians give speeches at the Nyayo National Stadium shortly before flagging us off!

The journey to the border at Malaba was long but never boring. The KOT were a source of amusement as they called for numerous stops to empty and refuel (don’t ask!) their body systems.


A tweep, @kiraggz, with his cheering stuff in very high spirits (sic).

We finally made it to the border at 4am, where the processing of our documents by immigration on both sides would take hours! We had to wait for everyone to be cleared! In addition, we waited for the Kenyan ambassador to deliver our tickets, the Ugandan security forces to frisk us (though all they did was count us!) after which they accompanied our convoy to Kampala. We left the border at around 10am, after some fans had freshened up by taking ‘passport’ showers and brushing their teeth at the border tap/washrooms.

The ticket and allowance in hand 🙂

Onwards then to Kampala.. we were tired and hungry but that did not stop us from blowing our vuvuzelas, whistles and making plenty of noise as we waved our flags at any small townships along the way. We did stop for food at some Forest point where they sell chicken on a stick. Yummy, whether chicken or wild birds!

A View of the River Nile at Jinja as we passed over it on our way to Kampala. Beautiful, as always.

The chicken on a stick being hawked... It tastes good, trust me

We made it to Kampala a little past 1pm in readiness for the match at 5pm. We drove straight to the Namboole International Stadium in Kampala, where we parked and tweeps readied themselves for the match. One @raidarmax decided to hawk popcorn so he could raise some money perhaps to buy some Nile Special… those guys had pitched tent at the stadium!

Raidarmax with a bag of popcorn.. okay more like a sack of popcorn!

It was 3 hours to the game yet the stadium was filling up fast! We decided to freshen up (we all can’t do public freshening ups at the border!) at some hotels/cheap lodgings/guesthouses etc that surrounded the stadium. We then donned our Kenyan shirts (trademark red), carried our flags, vuvuzelas, whistles and other cheering paraphernalia and off to the stadium we went!

The packed stadium!

The place was packed to capacity! We could hardly get sitting space! The Ugandan fans were cheering and overpowering us (they had the advantage of numbers and the public address system) but we put up a show! They sang We go, we go.. and we replied you go, you go! I’ll try to upload the clip.

The Kenyan fans at the stadium!

I will not bore you with the match’s technical details, the pictures should suffice! Uganda was desperate to score especially when they realized Angola was almost winning its match against Guinea, which meant that Angola would qualify. The first half was exciting but no goals were scored, and in the second half, with the help of the referee, they terrorized our defenders and goalkeeper.

Worried Kenyan fans as the second half got underway. We were afraid the inevitable might happen.. but it didn't!

There were so many ‘almost’ goals it’s a wonder no Kenyan fan got a heart attack! Uganda was relentless in its attack towards the dying minutes of the game and we have to give it up for the man of the match, Arnold Origi, the goalkeeper. His performance was nothing short of impressive. In the end it was a 0-0 draw which wasn’t that bad for us but was heart-breaking for Uganda. If only they had let us have Migingo, we might have let them score so they could qualify for the ACN in the spirit of the EA community! But they thought they were too good for our team!

Dining With The Stars

The Kenyan ambassador to Uganda had organized an after party on Saturday night for the players which was graced by the Vice President among other politicians. I was among the few lucky fans in attendance. I remember William Ruto coming to the table I sat at and greeting each of us, before going to sit down at the ‘high table’. I must admit I was star struck for a second there!

Arnold Origi (the goalie, rem) and Mariga with his small bro who plays for Celtic Wanderers sat at the table next to us; food and drinks was freely flowing, speeches were given; Harambee Stars’ performance acknowledged (I think the VP said he’d give the team half a million shillings and a mystery present for the goalie); and all in all we had fun! We then left in the VP’s entourage and I got a seat next to Eugene Wamalwa (at this point I feel like a groupie posting pics of me with *ahem, politicians and football stars but can’t help it for now!).

Keeper Arnold Origi was having Fanta at dinner time... I know the pic isn't so good, but I think it is more authentic this way using a pic from my camera rather than a Googled clear one.

Mariga, @rosyrotten, Player X (forgot name), @savvykenya, and Mariga's small bro.

Eugene Wamalwa and yours truly hitch a ride in the VP's entourage

On Sunday morning we got into the bus and traveled to Nairobi. It was a long ride this time since the excitement had died, but there were some rowdy fans in the bus that kept us entertained the whole way! The discussions though, cannot be posted on this very nice and decent blog as they were X-rated, fodder for Maina’s breakfast show on Classic 105!

The other side of River Nile on our way back to Nairobi

All in all, I had quite the time of my life! The VP should do this more often 🙂 especially if/when he becomes president.


Most pictures taken by Calypso, my Galaxy S II. Others by a Nokia N8 courtesy of @kachwanya. I had to compress them so I could easily upload them and this reduced their quality but I hope you enjoy.

Leaving For Kampala

As I write this, am packing and unpacking and repacking. I’ve sat on the suitcase and finally managed to have it closed. Now I have to figure how the rest of my stuff is going to fit into other two small bags. The situation looks hopeless. To get away from this depressing mood, I’m thinking of motorcycles. My current wallpaper (desktop background) is a picture of the kind of bikes used at the 30th edition of the Dakar Rally. [Google it.]


The bike used in the Dakar rally, super cool, eh?

The bike used in the Dakar rally, super cool, eh?

On my list of things I want to achieve this year: Learn how to ride a motorbike. Check. Learn French, next target. When I get back to Nairobi, I’m applying for a motorbike license. Some are still asking me, why a bike?

I’ve been trying to explain how I’m trying to be unique. Graduation may not be for another three months, but when it finally arrives, most of my fellow graduands will be arriving for the rehearsal ceremony in borrowed/begged/rented/stolen cars to impress. I, on the other hand, will be on a motorcycle, which is way cooler and more impressive not to mention different.

Nonetheless, my motorcycle lessons were interesting. To start with, there was no theory and even if there was, I don’t think I would have understood much of my teacher’s Congolese Kiswahili. So here are the parts of the motorcycle as I understand them:

Umbriage: (I hope I have spelled it correctly, that is how it is pronounced): I suppose this is the clutch. Located on the left handlebar, you have to hold it when shifting gears and release it so you can shoot forward. Which is what I’ve been doing when I’m starting up the bike. You’re supposed to release the clutch slowly so you can leave smoothly but I usually let go so fast, the bike almost leaves me behind. Takes practice though and am almost getting the hang of it.

The Tia Moto Thing: Usually on the right handlebar, it’s the part that gives you power so you can accelerate. The vroom vroom part just before you leave. Accelerators on bikes have a different name though, am sure. Too lazy to google. It’s easily my favorite part of the bike. Vroom vroom!

Honi: the horn. At first I was honking all the time, because most people you find on the road don’t move out of the way. No matter how much you honk. So I’ve learned to just honk a little warning so they don’t make any sudden movements and then I’m the one who moves out of their way!

The brake: I find it easier to stop by stepping on the break instead of down-shifting until you stop, though stepping on the break shuts down the bike so you have to kick-start it into life again.
The lights of the bike I was using to learn were not working so I was just shown theoretically using my imagination. I have to remember to use the left side of the road in Kenya because in Rwanda they drive on the right.

I don’t know many other parts of the motorbike but I suppose that’s what mechanics are for, no? But… that’s what the internet is there for. Or is there a good book on motorbikes that anyone can recommend?

The day I was able to ride on my own, turning corners, starting and stopping, was my best day of learning. There was no teacher behind me, just me and the bike. Sometimes they’d shout instructions when am passing by: shift gears, sit properly (they want me to sit relaxed but I’m usually too tense, leaning forward wanting to be one with the bike.)

I overpaid for the lessons, I was supposed to have 17 hours in total, one hour daily. These guys came late and left early and missed some days, and we hopelessly tried to make up for the lost lessons. Then they told me that when I’m leaving, I should leave them a present. They gave me an example of someone they had taught who bought one of them a brand new mobile phone. Ha!

In the end though, it was totally worth it.

P.S. Tonight, I’m taking the bus to Kampala. Time to say hi to some friends over there before coming back to Nairobi.

Journey to Rwanda: In Kampala

This post is continued from this one

I have enjoyed my time here, had enough adventures and misadventures, but you know there are a few things I may not write about even though they happened.


So anyway, since my accommodation in Kigali was not ready by Saturday night when I wanted to leave Kampala, I had to postpone my time of travel to Monday morning. Meanwhile, I met a few friends and hang out with them.

I played pool at Kampala rugby club…. And defeated this guy –> normzo though he says he let me win. At least am practicing on one of the things I said I’d do this year. They included:

i. become a pro in pool
ii. learn French since am going to be in a French speaking country
iii. learn to drive, and also ride a motorbike (I’ll be going for my graduation riding a motorbike, in leather pants, black jacket, sunglasses, the whole shebang. While everyone comes in a hired/borrowed car to impress, I’ll be standing out with my motorbike.)
iv. learn to play the piano. Since I can’t sing to save my life…. At least I can learn the piano so I can play SDA hymns. I love those songs.

Can’t remember what else was on my to-do list this year but this is enough for now.

So there are these guys in Kampala, who (think they) are pros in pool. They come into the place with swagger, sunglasses and carrying their own cue sticks! And to compliment the cue sticks, gloves. I lost to one of them…..but not badly. I only had like one ball left on the table! And he’s supposed to be a pro. Maybe luck was on my side. Perhaps I should get my own glove.

Something I noticed in Kampala, at the butchery, the meat is just sold in the open. You know the way in Kenya, even in remote villages, meat is stored in some glass casing. Here, it’s just open for display.

The people are definitely friendlier, the taxi (matatu) conductors are less rude. There are numerous boda bodas (motorcycles), waving in and out of traffic, it’s a dangerous business. But you take risks.

Elections in Uganda will be held next month, Feb 18, four days after Valentines Day. So the town is covered in campaign posters. Talk of the town is M7 will win again. He’s set to become president for life, is my prediction.

Talking to my Ugandan friends, I learned a few more things about Rwanda. They drive on the right, can you imagine that? At a roundabout, instead of turning left, you turn right, very confusing. One thing I found shocking: they do not allow polythene bags into the country!

What! No polythene bags? How do they survive?

Like when it starts to rain and your precious weave and water can’t mix, you throw a plastic paper bag on your head. Or when buying milk, half a loaf of bread, eggs, etc. storing frozen food in the fridge, plugging leaking containers….etc.

And then, packing. Whenever I pack, shoes go into polythene bags, little things into little polythene bags, and then the whole ensemble into the suitcase. Which means I have to repack and get rid of the plastic menace.

But… determined to sneak in a polythene bag. Just for kicks, am not going to use it, just want to see if I can get away with it. *taking a deep breath now….don’t panic. You won’t be arrested.*

Another thing I’ve learnt, you do not talk ill of Kagame. In fact, stay clear of any political discussions. That’s it, zip it. Shhhhh.

I might be coming back to Kampala to work here, who knows?

Now I have to go repack in readiness for the journey tomorrow morning.

Next up: from Kampala to Kigali.