Things were pretty crazy as I tried leaving Addis Ababa on Sunday. Streets were closed and people were out en masse for the Ethiopia vs Nigeria World Cup qualifying game. Addis is usually pretty crowded, but this was a whole new experience.
After searching to find our bus (and being unable to get through to the company due to jammed phone lines) we finally succeeded in checking in…only to leave 45 minutes late. While hanging out on the bus, we got a full view of the day’s festivities.
If I’m being honest, I loved it. There was so much green, yellow, and red, not to mention the face paint! I’m a sucker for face paint : )
On the way out of town we passed the lines for those trying to get into the game…I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say those lines were kilometers long! And of course on the way home, we listened to the game. Everyone in Ethiopia was watching or listening to the game. Every town we passed looked like a ghost town until we’d come across the TV houses and you’d see an entire town camped out.
Our driver had a bit too much team spirit, he felt the need to honk his excitement at every passing car and person. Unfortunately, Nigeria won 2-1, but if I’m not mistaken, Ethiopia still has another chance to make it to the World Cup (for the first time ever, I might add).
It wasn’t until the following day that I heard the terrible news – two people were killed in an explosion in Addis Ababa in the Bole neighborhood right before the game. I remember speculating with fellow volunteers about whether or not it had anything to do with the game. I was fairly shaken up…I drove through that neighborhood no more than an hour before the bomb went off.
Today, we got more information. The two killed were Somali citizens who were in Ethiopia illegally. The bomb they had been making accidentally went off. Officials found explosives, arms, hand grenades, and football shirts at the scene of the blast. A government spokesman claimed they plotted to carry out a suicide attack disguised as fans on either the stadium or areas where large crowds gathered to watch the game.
It’s hard to imagine we still live in a world where things like this happen on a regular basis. I’m just glad everyone’s safe and that a real tragedy didn’t mar a day that began with such joy and excitement.