Some things in language come easier than others, just because of the recognition factor. Fiji, in F*lfulde, is the past tense for “play,” so min fiji means, “we have played.” This is relatively easy for us to recall, because Fiji, the place, is where people go to play (more or less).
So, we have been playing around a bit here. Last semester I joined the Masters Football (i.e. soccer) Team. At first I thought it was “Masters” as in “old guys,” but I was mistaken. There are a couple of us old guys on the team, but it is actually the Masters’ level students here at the seminary.
We had a practise on Monday to shake the dust off from our holiday break. We (that is, those of us who were on time) began at 4 pm with a run around the trapezoid-shaped field. For me this was good, because it allowed me to get used to the field again, remembering to watch out for the little hillocks here and there. It rained a week or so ago, giving us some respite from the dust, so the field was not too bad that way. This little practise field actually has tufts of grass all around it – it makes it harder to run, or pass, or kick, or do anything creative with the ball, but it does help keep the dust down.
We had more guys out than we needed, enough for two teams and to spare, in fact, with guys on the sidelines clambering to play, but our captain/coach was strict – our team was here to practise, and the rest would have to work around that.
The practise turned out to be one long scrimmage, with all the kinks getting out swiftly. Mostly the game is kick and chase, since passing plays are very difficult to execute, and when they do happen everyone is pretty impressed. At the practise game we got toasted, 5-1, but we did not have our regular goal-keeper, so we were not too worried.
Wednesday night was game night, and – wouldn’t you know it – I was late! (Had to wait for another missionary who was coming to get some bread!) So, I sat off the first half and sort of watched my team get out to a one-goal lead. I say “sort of” because, while the regular playing field has some advantages over the practise field, lack of dust is not one of them. The dust there is an inch deep in places, and just walking raises a Pig-Pen-like cloud. When the ball got into a crowd of players, from the sidelines you could see nothing from the waist down.
Finally, I got into the game at half time, but five minutes later received a yellow card from the ref for an illegal substitution. He stalked over, stuck out hi chest, and waved the yellow card in my face – just like you see in the FIFA games on TV. Then he did the same thing to three others from my team – we had all forgot to tell him we were subbing on. I thought four yellows was a tad excessive, but then discovered that each yellow card carried with it a CFA 500 fine (about $1); naturally it all made sense
There was another stoppage in play about ten minutes later when a huge white bull with a mind of his own strolled onto the field, followed by some poor guy on a rope. The bull just wanted to join his fellow cows on the far corner, so we all scattered while he made his dignified way there.
I played okay for the half – avoiding potholes, scuffles, getting mouthfuls of dirt, and so on – but was glad I did not play the whole game, because Monday’s practise just about did me in for the week. I made several good heading plays, being careful not to get concussed, and just tried to keep close to my mark. During practise they were careful with how they treated the old white guy, but on game day all bets are off, but I can still usually give as good as I get. Sadly, we all just kissed our sisters that game, winding up with a 1-1 draw.
Later that night we were hard at it with language learning once more, but still min fiji. This time the game was charades, trying to say in F*lfulde what we figured the other person was doing. Now THAT was funny. Ah well – all in a day’s fiji.