South Africa: female fans of “fahfee” games

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In South Africa, betting has long fascinated townships: fahfee, also called emo-china, consists of betting very small sums of money on a number between 1 and 36. Each number corresponds to an object or an object. Idea, and can be chosen by the player according to the interpretation of his dreams. An illegal game, which mainly appeals to older women, and whose organization is run by Chinese society.

From our correspondent in Johannesburg,

The cold did not deter Ginette and Margaret, 73 and 61 years old. As every day, they meet in front of a large stone on the sidewalk, at the end of their street, to play fahfee. They hold small wallets in their hands. “We put the money deposited there, as well as the list, with the selected numbers.”

They can meet on this rock up to six times a day to bet. The choice of a number may depend on chance, but it often corresponds to a dream you had the night before. Margaret wrote several lists in the palm of her hand. “Here I will play the horse. Number 23. But for example, if I dream of a white woman tonight, tomorrow I will play number 17. If I dream of a fire, it will be 31. So I keep these numbers so I can play them tomorrow, ”she explains.

The operators belong to the Chinese community and come to gather efforts at regular times in the township.

According to researcher Stephen Louw, author of a study on the subject, this game of chance, unique in the world, developed in the country in the early 20th century. “There are other similar games: there was one that was played in Harlem in the 1920s. But fahfee only exists in South Africa and was developed by very entrepreneurial Chinese migrants, who were excluded from the white capitalist economy, and who were looking for a way to make money. So they started organizing these games, he says.

Return to the streets of Soweto. “The car is coming. See what this woman is going to do, she is going to hand out the bags, in return the man in the car will tell her the winning number, and she will show us what it is, the big house, number 25!” She said. Bad choice for Margaret, who only loses the money she bet. But Sophie, she will be able to afford some pleasure thanks to a few euros raised thanks to this number 25. “I will be able to buy myself a loaf of bread or what I want! “Yes, that’s my little bonus!” She cheers.

While young people further down the street prefer to play dice, for Tiny, 63, Fahfee is also a way to meet friends. “We meet acquaintances, the neighbors, one coming from that street, the other from that street over there. It actually keeps us busy! ”

Gambling, which is more lucrative for operators than participants, is illegal under South African law.

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