When three friends set out on a journey through West Africa, they knew an unpredictable but potentially wonderful adventure awaited them. And sure enough from Senegal through Mali, BurkinaFaso to Ghana and finally to Togo, they experienced the joy and witnessed the struggles of everyday life there. As radio journalists and documentary film makers, they observed and reported, but some things even an interview can’t capture properly.
The following conversation was recorded in Berlin just a few days into the New Year. It features Steffi and Phillip, both independent media producers who just returned from Togo. I asked them about their journey, including the stops en route to Togo, comparisons between countries, and how the experience matched or did not match their expectations and hopes for the journey. We also talk about a documentary about Togolese culture which they are also working on.
Earlier this year a famine was declared in Somalia. It was not the first time the world had heard about a humanitarian crisis in that struggling country. How did the world respond? How did Somalia get to the state it is in today and who was involved in getting it that way?
As part of a new monthly series, a veteran of the international scene and my good friend Tarak and I sit down here in Amsterdam and talk about the case of a massive under-reported concern with many lives on the line and a lot of money invested or, not invested, as the case may be. We break down the situation and look at it through a critical and caring lens.
Since the beginning of 2011 Juan Rodriguez has been working in Afghanistan with the mission to help this country communicate. This has meant bringing internet connectivity to schools, mobile phones for farmers, and an array of crowdsource projects for health, security, and agriculture. On one beautiful and relaxed Friday afternoon in Jalalabad, Juan and I sat in the garden of the wonderful Taj to record this program and tell this story.
It is surely an unpopular topic when so much national pride seems to be placed on large international soccer tournaments, but while everyone is high-fiving each other or fuming about their team being eliminated, there is a tremendous cost for all this fanfare. Who bares this cost? How much is it? Why is it so expensive?
Few are brave enough to ask these questions, to question such a loved and long-running tradition is surely a risky dinner conversation. In an era where sustainability is so vital to the future of our existence on this planet, fans don’t seem to care if this applies in the context of the sports. But what if they knew the truth about their beautiful game?
In a future post I will get into South Africa and Germany, the current and most recent host of the World Cup. But since I have a personal connection to the Portuguese republic, I’d like to take you back their massive soccer tournament Euro2004. In this case, not to go back to the highlights of what player did what unbelievable thing, but to go back to what was built, invested, loaned, and promised then as compared to how things are now.
City of Leiria pays 5 million per year in interest alone
Aveiro, a city with around 73,600 inhabitants, has a new stadium with a capacity of 30,000.
Mayor of Aveiro once suggested blowing up their stadium, which costs 4 million per year in loans and maintenance.
Algarve’s stadium, capacity 30,000+ costing over 3.1 million annually, does not have a team in the 1st division of Portugal’s national soccer league.
Cities of Leiria, Aveiro, and Faro are all hoping to sell their stadiums.
The city of Braga is now expanding their previously expanded stadium in hopes of qualifying for a Spain-Portugal World Cup Bid. They pay 6 million euros in loans annually
Ok so that wasn’t just by the numbers. Because beyond the numbers, both the lack of use of these massive structures, and the tremendous cost burden for municipalities who openly want to rid themselves of these problems, indicates that when all is said and done the beautiful game has a financially crippling effect.
Yet the big name sponsors and FIFA would like you to ignore the man behind the curtain. Ignore the elephant in the room. Relax and enjoy the game, everything is fine.