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Togo Fans Outnumbered, Still Heard

Posted June. 22, 2006 03:06,   


June 19, the day of the Togo versus Switzerland match, Dortmund flared with reddish waves.

We saw sometimes Germans wear yellow shirts that were representing the Togo football team. There was no national flag of the small African nation at any souvenir shop. I even felt like Switzerland plays all alone the match this time.

When stepping inside the stadium, I heard drums roll loudly ‘rub-a-dub….’ There were a few Togo cheerers. Shortly after the first half, I walked close to a big guy having taken pictures of the cheerers. His name was Prince (25) and he was a chef in a downtown restaurant.

-How long have you been here in Germany?

“Since 1993, with my parents”

-Do you think Togo is going to win?

“You saw that Togo team sweep Switzerland though we lost a score first. We will defeat France in the quarterfinal round.

I asked him if incantation really works. They are known to chant a spell for every game.

“My brothers have cured by magic words,” he said. But when I asked again, “Do you seriously believe it?” he replies with a slight smile, “There is no certainty in this world.”

When he was young, he used to play soccer with his friends on the beach near Lome, the capital city of Togo.

Maradona was a hero of poor Togo boys at his time. He misses his younger days playing soccer under the bright sun of Togo. His family came to Germany in a hope of making big money.

The World Cup game made him overwhelmed with joy. Togo residents in Dortmund celebrated Togo’s victory in continental preliminaries that gave Togo a ticket to the World Cup. Germans were not even aware of the existence of Togo before the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Now they know what it is.

At a moment when Togo team scored against Korean team, when they see him, Germans occasionally thumped up at him. It was an overwhelming moment. Then, Korea’s comeback scores…

In a German newspaper, a sad article was published. Though 500 of Togo cheerers attempted to come to Germany for the world football festival, German authorities required a sizable amount of deposit out of concerns that the cheerers might overstay illegally. They failed to make that money to pay deposit and failed to come. Mr. Prince had a big smile throughout the interview only except the moment he told me about this story.

“German people always talk about law and regulations. I think it is because they are indifferent about us. It would have been the same, even if Ghana or Cote d’Ivoire had been in the case.”

Money was all about what happened to Togo cheerers and to him. Moreover, the Togo national team went on strike for a better allowance. Was he disappointed at it? No. Still, he stands on the players’ side.

“The National soccer association was wrong. I don’t think our players were reckless. They demand their rights to get properly paid with confidence of victory.”

When I was heading back to my office, there burst a cry of joy. In the second half, Switzerland added one more score to its victory. Amid the frenzy, a loud drum beats in the air. When I was turning back, there was Mr. Prince dancing and shaking with a great smile again.

Yoon-Jong Yoo gustav@donga.com