Last night Burkina Faso played Algeria in their last World Cup Qualifying match. If they had won or even drawn, they would have been sure of going to Brasil for their first ever World Cup. They lost.
This afternoon I went into a hardware shop to buy a mousetrap. The shopkeeper was not concentrating. He was looking over my shoulder at someone talking in the street outside.
‘I need a mousetrap,’ I repeated.
‘We’ve got it!’ he yelled.
I thought his excitement over having a mousetrap in stock was a little extreme.
A moment later, the shop was full of young men and women, punching the air and doing complicated ‘Ouagadougou finger-snap’ handshakes on each other.
‘Calm down,’ said the shopkeeper. ‘We need to check this on the internet.’
A moment later he made an announcement almost too good to be true. FIFA had held a post-match inquiry. Algeria’s goal had been disallowed. Therefore Burkina had qualified for Brazil 2014!
Twenty butchers in the abbatoir gave a massive cheer and started hugging each other and dancing. Two of them leaped onto the back of a third, and hared off down the street in a joyous double-piggyback. In the tailor’s workshop opposite, a massive amplifier was switched on and celebratory reggae filled the air. Women at their market-stalls started dancing behind their bananas and watermelons.
‘Ko jemma boni fu, weetan,’ remarked an old Fulani man, sitting cross-legged outside the mosque. Even if the night is bad, morning comes.
Spot on. Burkina Faso had passed a night of crushing disappointment, and that made the sudden good news all the sweeter.
Local radio stations were talking of nothing else, so it was not long before Ouagadougou’s heaving lanes of traffic had heard the news as well. Those in cars started beeping their horns. Those on motorbikes opened up their throttles and flew. Some weaved from side to side, some stood up on their footrests, some rode with their metal bikestands down, creating a fizz of sparks along the tarmac.
Half an hour later the joy subsided, as quickly as it had begun. People sat down in small streetside groups and listened with their heads in their hands as radio stations dispelled the rumours they had themselves begun.
‘Le Faso, c’est un pays qui aime les rumeurs,’ commented a university student wryly.
Burkina Faso is a country which likes rumours.