No TV, no hot water and no internet, but Ethiopia are on the road to glory
Well here in Dar es Salaam, where the temperature is a balmy 30 degrees, it's the annual Cecafa tournament - a 12 team showpiece for Africa's central and eastern nations to pit their wits against each other.
We are in the proverbial group of death with Uganda, Malawi and our old friends and neighbours, Kenya.
We played our first game against the defending champions Uganda, coached by ex Plymouth and Chester boss, Bobby Williamson. We took the lead and dominated the early proceedings before conceding a soft penalty before half time to make it 1-1 at the break. With the temperatures now 34 degrees at pitchside, half time was all about trying to rehydrate the players.
Emerging for the second half it was notable that the pace of the game slackened and a draw looked the most likely result - at least until our goalkeeper had the moment of abberration that is the stuff of nightmares. One harmless cross into the box, one lapse, and suddenly we're behind and, despite a late rally, we've lost our opening game. Bobby was very complimentary about us and I took heart from us pushing them all the way.
So it was all about keeping the players positive and their spirits high. Luckily the beach wasn't far away so it was volleyball and ice creams all round the next day.
It's a funny situation here in that all the teams sharing a group, also share the same hotel. I'm not sure whether it would work outside Africa, but aside from the odd clash of meal times, there's very little problem in the arrangements as coaches and players intermingle at leisure.
The games are being screened on the TV across the continent, or should I say everywhere apart from in my room! The hot water disappeared a few days ago (not an absolute essential given the temperatures, admittedly), the internet never even showed its face and the television has taken to switching itself apropos of nothing - it's like sharing a room with a modern poltergeist!
These minor issues could do nothing to overshadow a great win against Kenya on Thursday. We'd had great opportunities against Uganda and not taken them, so I tried to really drive home to the players the importance of being more clinical in the last third of the pitch in order to complete the attractive approach play that had won us more than a few admirers in our previous game.
As so often happens, we probably didn't match the overall performance of the first game, but this time, on what was a relatively cool late afternoon, we took our chances, racing into a 2-0 half time lead. Despite a late scare, we held on to register a 2-1 win to keep our hopes of progressing through to the quarter finals alive. With us having defeated the old enemy, the victory was even sweeter, and I believe it has gone down very well back in Ethiopia.
At the time of writing our final group match against Malawi is a day away and the complicated mathematics means that a draw may well be enough to see us through as a best qualifier. A win however would mean we would have an extra days rest which might prove vital in this searing heat.
I did manage to catch news of England's now abortive bid to host the 2018 World Cup. For me it was very predictable given the recent controversy, and there is a certain logic in the choice of Russia, given that country's new economic status. More problematic is the choice of Qatar for 2022, in my book. Football infrastructure? No alcohol? Temperatures of over 40 degrees? All burning questions with as yet few answers. One thing in their favour I can vouch for though having passed through a couple of years ago, at least their televisions work!
Stop Press: Since Iffy penned this blog, Ethiopia drew their final group game against Malawi before defeating Zambia 2-1 in the quarterfinals - they face Ivory Coast in the semi-finals on Friday