The best 8 mille I’ve spent in Togo yet was on a soccer ball in Kara a couple of weeks ago. Comparatively speaking, this is somewhat expensive—I can get more food than I can eat on the street for 2 hundred CFA for example. It seemed like a good ball, but I was skeptical. Quality control is a luxury and a privilege.
I should point out that “soccer” doesn’t exist here. Its football.
Anyway, I brought the ball home and, the next evening, I brought it out while my 2 little host brothers and a bunch of their friends/relatives were hanging out in the courtyard. My oldest host brother is N’Telabi. He is about 13-ish. His eyes got about as big as the soccer ball. I handed it to them after explaining that it was mine and that they had to bring it back when they were done playing with it, and I instantly became the most popular white guy in village.
I realized that I fulfilled two goals at once—I got ‘in’ with the kids and I quenched my desire to watch competitive sports.
The reason why I got a soccer ball for the kids was because I was tired of watching them play soccer with cans, balls of rags, or ripped up rubber balls. Really anything here works as a toy. My second host brother, Adjay, likes to chase around an old moto tire. Old bicycle hubs nailed to sticks seem popular, as does about any manner of junk or trash that no longer has any other use.
I got more actual toys for Christmas when I was 8 than kids in Nampoch get in their lifetimes.
Granted, this dearth of toys engenders some useful trends. N’Telabi, for example, has a reputation in the cartier for resurrecting cheap flashlights. I gave him mine when I was tired of beating on it to make it work, and I see it floating around the compound now.
Back to soccer. A couple of days later, I think it was on a Sunday, the kids went out to this soccer pitch by the pump to play a full-on game with the ball. At about 2 pm. In the sun. I came to watch them and I was soaked in sweat just walking out there. The defense on my end hung out with me under the trees when they weren’t doing anything though. Most of the kids played barefoot. Some of them wore plastic bags, others a sock or two or flip flops. N’Telabi had this pair of boots, another guy had a pair of sneakers. I took pictures. Hopefully I can post them.