My first trip to North Africa was when I accompanied Bakili Bullets (now Nyasa Big Bullets) to Tunisia for a CAF Champions League encounter against Etoile du Sahel in 2004.
I made friends with a couple of people and one of them was a taxi driver called Imran and one day, in course of our chat, he left me dumbfounded when he said: “I have never been to Africa. I hear it’s a nice place. You should invite me someday.”
And when I tried to ‘correct’ him that Tunisia, was in fact, part of Africa, his quickfire response was: “No my friend! We belong to the Arab world!” He was not the only one. When I travelled to Egypt with the Flames on a tour of duty in 2004, a cute lady I met at a pub in Cairo, Laila rebuffed my advances, saying: “I am afraid to sleep with Africans because I hear your ‘stuff’ is very big.”
And I still remember when the then sports minister Symon Vuwa-Kaunda, clad in his belemuda, accompanied us on a stroll down Cairo’s alleys where the locals waved and greeted us with chants—‘Samara! Samara!’ And every now and then, Vuwa would brag about, grinning ear to ear, asking us; ‘boys, do you see how popular we are?’
Back at the hotel, he boasted how he got a bigger share of the Samara thing. But as it happens there was time for us to have the loudest laugh: One Malawian based in Cairo unwrapped it all to us that Samara is a word the Egyptians use to taunt visiting blacks. It was good medicine that lifted our spirits with only a few hours to the game.
Most North Africans do not believe they are Africans and because of that, when teams from that part of the continent take on their counterparts from sub-Saharan Africa, I support the latter.
It therefore felt so good to watch a spirited Cameroon coming from behind to beat the Pharaohs of Egypt on Sunday night to win their fifth Africa Cup of Nations title and as the continent danced to the Indomitable Lions’ tune, I wondered whether the Egyptians still had the cheek for those samara chants.
Well, Cameroon are in the same group with my beloved Flames in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers and their performance on Sunday should give us plenty of food for thought. Uloliwe, uloliwe wayidudula, neng’esiza hah! (Oh, yes, the train is pushing). Glory be to God. n