Monday, September 5, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – DOWN THE NILE (B)

Then the mob in the stands took a hostile tone and was shouting out statements. None of the members on the Selects team could decipher except for Alf and another on the team. Only because they could speak any Arabic at all. Yet, Alf kept silent and reserved. He went into his own shell, his own cone of silence as was his personality. [Get Smart TV Show, 1965-70] Some people in the crowd began to throw various food items at the players on both teams whether they were on the ice or not. The now unruly mass of humanity did not discriminate with regard to the targets of their wrath. Mekkar thought he was lucky enough to catch a homemade loaf of bread right after he had rotated his spot on the Selects bench.

The arctic boy even exclaimed to some of his teammates, “Hey, bread! I am going to eat it because it looks good and I am kind of hungry.” Mekkar loved heavy, fresh homemade bread which then reminded him of home. Unhappily for Mekkar and the rest of his squad the coaches were tapping them all on the shoulder. It was not for a line change this time, but to gain their attention and to tell each one of them not to consume the food. No matter how delicious the food might appear. The staff explained that it could be contaminated and could have bacteria, plus who knows what else. They were concerned about potential illness because it seems that someone on the team is always sick. On top of that, colds and other illnesses are spread through the whole squad around and around throughout the season.

Behind the Selects bench players were being implored with comments and questions about the possible lack of hygiene habits of the individuals tossing the edibles at them. Mekkar snickered to Alf and Lasse nearby, “So much for good relations, what a crock!” The ice surface then took quite awhile to be cleared of all the items that littered it. Due to that the rest of the game was cancelled and called completed as a result, even though it there was a few minutes left to go. The lopsided score was a foregone conclusion anyway.

Lasse led the team to escape the madness back to the lockerroom because there was no telling how the rowdy multitude might respond next. Plus, the Selects still had to reach the parking lot. A few of the team members now felt that factions of the hostile mob might want to attempt to physically attack them or possibly shoot at them. Once the Selects all reached the bus safely, there was a sense of relief. Nevertheless, they were not out of the woods. There was another announcement for all the passengers to hear. There would be a change in the itinerary again. This time it would include a break with no matches coming up soon and a sightseeing trip too! The staff person didn’t really give more details about the detour so there were some doubts. Still, Mekkar and some of the injured Selects players welcomed the interlude to heal. Mekkar joked with Lasse and uttered, “Well, at least the incompetent organizers of this tour did something right for a change. They needed to make up for the scheduling screw ups during this whole trip around the globe.”

Relayed by the coaching crew as the current word to the players was that this break would last anywhere from a week to twenty one days. Mekkar knew that this could always be changed at any juncture, so he just considered the info fed to them with skepticism. It frankly became like a joke among the team members. Mekkar expressed himself, “I will believe they (the team management) will keep their word, when I see it. Otherwise, they are all full of lies and more lies!”

Mekkar was the lone exception among the individuals that had suffered afflictions on the tour. The rest were sent back home already due to the declaration of those players being unfit to continue in any more matches on this journey. Whew! Mekkar was relieved that the contentious environment at the arena had been swept away when the Selects checked out of the hotel the next day. At least, they got to see a few sites around Cairo. Afterward they gathered together all of the remaining members of the Selects at a specific rendezvous point in the south part of the city center. Fortunately there were no confrontations or conflicts as a result of the match the night before.

A lineup of well maintained in appearance off-road Range Rover vehicles were there to whisk them to destinations unknown. None of the players, including Mekkar, had an inkling as to the direction that was to be travelled or locations they were steered towards. Like most athletes they, most of the time anyways, do as they are told and follow the directives of those in charge. The life of high level athletes is in many ways as structured as the military including the family schedules at home also. Mekkar thought it must a surprise for the reason we are not being informed as to where we are going. He snapped, “In the dark much like the rest of this debacle of a journey.”

Even in unfamiliar surroundings Mekkar aligned himself with those on the team he knew best. So Mekkar, Lasse, Alf, and Johan were all together in the same vehicle. Similar personalities hanging out together. Well, at least the gang of four rebels on the squad still had undiscovered alcohol in their bags to make the trip more enjoyable. They were unable to acquire more booze in the city so it had to last - but still must be consumed. Even though it was fully past the darkest part of winter back home, Mekkar deemed it crazy that some locals in this area would be wearing outer garments or jackets when it was ninety degrees Fahrenheit (32.22° Celsius) outside. He was still an arctic boy at heart. Mekkar inquired of the driver regarding what he saw and was told that temperature was downright chilly here in the Northern Africa desert region. Think of Phoenix, Arizona during the middle of the summer heat and one would get the idea of the norm.

The group of motorized transport machines headed out toward the great river Nile and then turned south. It was an awfully quick trip thought Mekkar as they first arrived at the Gaza area where the mighty pyramids, built long ago, towered nearby. Right at the entrance to their destination, the line of trucks stopped and everyone got out. The Great Sphinx was there as if to greet the visitors to its domain. Mekkar figured that this was part of the intentional design of the area back in ancient times to invoke an automatic response of respect. He guessed that the Sphinx was there as a symbol to protect this place and display the glory of the kingdom. After moving around the various blocks of carved stone, Mekkar stood near the head of the statue looking up at it in awe. He wondered why it had crumbled somewhat especially in the facial region. He also, at the same time, wondered why am I basically standing near the face and underneath this monument? Some of this deteriorating figure might fall directly upon me while I am here in this position. That realization forced him to quickly move away abit.