Burundi

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The country

Burundi is a tiny nation in Central Africa bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania and DR Congo. According to a 2016 survey it holds the unenviable title of ‘unhappiest country in the world’, something which can probably be attributed to the near constant strife between the resident Hutu and Tutsi tribes. Ethnically, the two belligerent groups are of near identical stock and virtually indistinguishable, however the source of the tension stems from class rather than race, with the minority Tutsis historically enjoying the lion’s share of the power leaving the far more numerous Hutus to toil in sweaty, menial jobs with only sharp farm tools, ruddy great big axes and a growing sense of resentment for company. Funnily enough this arrangement didn’t end terribly well, spawning the two Burundian genocides of 1972 and 1993 both of which were such a smashing success that they decided to roll out the brand by taking the killing spree on tour to Rwanda in 1994.

Currently presiding over this ungodly clusterfuck is President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose principal aim to forge some form of national unity has certainly yielded results, if only in the sense that both Hutus and Tutsis now loathe him equally, especially after the power-crazed goon illegally ran for (and won) a third term in office claiming he had been “chosen to rule by god” before vowing to “scatter his enemies in the air like flour.” Ok then. Anyway if the dipshit despot requires some sort of symbol to bring his people together – other than a desire to see his head take a vacation from his shoulders – he could do worse than tap into their mutual affinity for the humble bovine. Burundians of all tribal identities typically treat cows with far greater reverence than they do each other and ownership of one or more of the beasts signifies wealth, happiness and prosperity. In fact the favoured traditional greeting in the native Kirundi language is “Amashyo ” which literally translates as “May you have herds of male cattle” with the appropriate response being “Amashon-gore” meaning “I wish you herds of females”, indicating a worrying ignorance as to the best way forward with a captive breeding programme.

  Fun side note; shortly after I originally posted this a fiend of mine called Jay read it and chipped in with the story of Gustave, a 25ft, 2,000 pound man-eating Nile Crocodile who has allegedly munched his merry way through around 300 Burundians and, despite attempts to capture him with goat-baited traps like the T-Rexs in Jurassic Park, remains at large wolfing down villagers, attacking boats and generally being a dick.

Against this backdrop of civil unrest, crackpot leaders, ravenous reptiles and decidedly ropy livestock practices, Burundian sporting achievements are predictably few and far between. The country does have one unique feather in their cap, namely as the poorest country ever to win an Olympic gold medal thanks to distance runner Venuste Niyongabo, who strode home to win the 5,000 metres at the 1996 games in Atlanta. Quite why he never utilised this prowess for running long distances to get as far away from Burundi as possible is anyone’s guess, but there you go. Meanwhile the national football team haven’t exactly been pulling up any trees having never qualified for the World Cup or Africa Cup of Nations, although they did come very close to the latter in 1994, losing a play-off against Guinea on penalties after the two teams concluded their campaigns with identical records. For a small, war-torn nation this lack of success wouldn’t normally rankle too much, but seeing as how several other countries of questionable pedigree have made surprise debuts at the competition in recent years – including Botswana, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and, most tellingly, neighbours Rwanda –  Burundi’s record as one of just 16 (out of 54 African nations) still waiting to pop their tournament cherry must hurt a bit.

The shirt

Burundi shirts are one of those that you really have to grab whenever the opportunity arises as they tend not to be available for long.                            Case in point; these Errea designs popped up about 5-6 years ago through several online retailers such as classicfootballshirts and uksoccershop and I’ve never seen any genuine examples available outside of this, not altogether surprising as people probably have a limited need for Burundi football shirts in their day to day lives.

The template is fairly basic yet still pleasing to the eye, with the large “Burundi” splayed across the back helping me avoid awkward questions from curious exercisers down my gym, or at least it would if any of them could actually read as they tend to communicate mostly via a curious language of grunts, “Bruvs” and my personal favourite “raaaaahh” whenever lifting weights that are too heavy for them, which is always.    Only slight complaints would be the flag instead of the F.A. logo (why not have both?) and no nod to the team’s marvellous nickname “The Swallows of War”, which sounds like a low budget 1980s cartoon series that didn’t get renewed for a second series.

Incidentally, I really struggled to gather any photographic evidence of this shirt in use. Of course I could have spent hours trawling through google images for some suitable pics, but that would make me (even more) sad so in the end I took the easy way out, visited my friend Joe’s blog (http://www.theglobalobsession.com/) and pilfered his photo.                      I’m sure he doesn’t mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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