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Uganda Soccer Fans in the Know, Despite Blackouts

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Kampala.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2006 WORLD CUP BROADCAST)

JASON BEAUBIEN: The streets of Kampala last night were filled with the sounds of soccer. Boom boxes, small transistor radios and lone TV sets running off generators broadcast the England/Portugal match live. The largest crowd was downtown at the corner of Speak(ph) in Kampala Road. The game was being shown on a giant advertising monitor on the roof of an insurance building. Hundreds of men, all around the intersection, stared up at the screen.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2006 WORLD CUP BROADCAST)

BEAUBIEN: Twenty-eight-year-old Mohammed Bueybuley(ph) is supporting England. Bueybuley, who drives a scooter taxi for a living, says proudly that he's missed only three of the 60-odd World Cup matches played so far.

MOHAMMED BUEYBULEY: (Speaking foreign language)

BEAUBIEN: As the scoreless game between England and Portugal moves into extra time, darkness falls across Kampala. Unlit city blocks are punctuated by the glow of restaurants and bars fortunate enough to have backup power.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

BEAUBIEN: To the west of downtown, about 60 people, ranging from street kids to young office workers in suits, are packed together outside an electronics store. Their eyes are locked on a silent TV screen behind the shop's security bars. Twenty-year-old Robert Kansebe(ph) says he has to watch the games on the street.

ROBERT KANSEBE: Actually, it's for free. That's why I watch from here. And it's like we don't have money to go and pay in other places. So we have to watch for free here.

BEAUBIEN: Kansebe and the rest of the crowd are transfixed as the match goes into penalty kicks. Then Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo steps up for what will be the final shot of the game.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

BEAUBIEN: Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Kampala. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.