After almost a year of planning, a friend and I departed for a 5 week trip to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Here is an account of our time. I tried to minimise the writing and pack it with pictures as I did in all of my school assignments. But I seemed to have failed again...like most of my school assignments.
06/06/2010 to 13/06/2010 – Cape Town
We started the trip in Cape Town, which is a spectacular city. It was a conscious decision to arrive almost a week before the tournament to ensure that we experienced the Cape's tourist attractions before the masses and our days were commandeered by football. We stayed in the suburb of Camps Bay which is renowned for its beaches, palm trees and trendy night life, situated in the shadow of the 12 apostles and Table Mountain – It didn’t disappoint, I can also recommend watching the Sun go down from here while enjoying a few ‘sundowners’. In this time we visited Robben Island and climbed Table Mountain. The close proximity of the stadium to other areas of interest (FansFest, V&A Waterfront, and Long Street) was something Cape Town did much better than any other city we visited.
As the week progressed, football fever increased, building to the crescendo that was the Opening day. We anticipated that we would watch the match in the Fans-Fest (large space to accommodating 20,000+ people that has a big screen with food, drink, music and other activities). As an indication of the enthusiasm, the FansFest was full 4 hours before kick off! It was an emotional experience to hear the national anthem (which consists of 4 verses, each written in a different native language) sung by each and every South African.
Later that evening we attended the France vs Uruguay match. Although the game itself was a disappointment, the fan walk to the match was that of a ‘carnival’ atmosphere with a procession of stilt walkers, traditional dancers, musicians and vocalists. One special moment with a collection of Opera singers singing a rendition of Nessun Dorma sent shivers down my spine and really set the World Cup atmosphere for me.
13/06/2010 to 16/06/2010 – Bloemfontein
After leaving Cape Town we went to Bloemfontein for the Japan vs Cameroon game. On our first evening we decided to go to the FansFest to watch the Germany vs Australia match. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best idea to get dropped off at night when we had no idea of the surroundings. Unlike what we had previously been treated to, the FansFest was situated on the far outskirts of the city, in the Rockland’s Township. It’s fair to say I was pretty nervous that evening but we got talking to a young local guy who helped us ward off locals asking for cash and such. I can now say that it was a good experience as it gave us a view of the ‘other side’ of South Africa that we were distanced from in Cape Town. We contacted the guy a couple of days later and took him out for a meal and a few drinks to show our gratitude.
Again the Japan vs Cameroon match wasn’t particularly attractive on paper but the atmosphere was lively due to the African support being very strong and a considerable contingent of the fanatical Japanese fans in attendance. The match ended in a Japanese win.
16/06/2010 to 04/07/2010 – Johannesburg, Rustenburg & Kruger
We then headed to Johannesburg where we were to be based for 2.5 weeks. We had another 3 group and 3 knock out games to watch, two of which we were convinced would be England if, as expected, they were to win their group.
We arrived in Joburg on ‘Youth Day’, a poignant date for South Africans as it marks the first day of the Soweto uprisings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soweto_uprising) which is now a recognised public holiday. On our flight to Joburg we got chatting to a guy who invited us to his house to watch that evening’s South African game. His driver collected us from our apartment and drove us to his house in Pretoria. We were treated to home-cooked traditional African meal while watching the game on what was not too much smaller than a Multiplex Cinema Screen, what a fantastic evening! Only spoilt by South Africa losing 0-3. Our second night we were invited to an evening out with Darren Gough and his Talk Sport colleagues in the district of Sandton. A very enjoyable evening was had, with no small part due to there being an open bar!
Anyway, back to the football – We were fortunate to witness Argentina beat South Korea 4-1, Brazil beating the Ivory Coast 3-1, which incidentally was the match I was most looking forward too prior to going. Witnessing Brazil at the World Cup certainly didn’t disappoint as the whole crowd was up for it. At this point the main disappointments of our trip were England’s performances. The later stage of our trip was planned on England winning the group – From the vantage point in Melrose Arch I was able to watch England vs Slovenia and USA vs Algeria. At the point when the final whistle was blown in our game, USA scored meaning we finished runners up in group C. Needless to say, I didn’t raise much of a gallop when watching Germany beat Ghana 1-0 at Soccer City later that night.
I’m not sure why I felt so gutted – was it all the money I had spent obtaining tickets to the knock-out stages that England would now not be participating or the fact another pre-arranged free day out at Rustenburg Golf Club was now in jeopardy……
Later that week we visited the township of Soweto. We saw the one time houses of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu and toured the Hector Peterson memorial. This experience really put football into perspective for me and was an insight into what people have been through and how far South Africa has come in a short period of time. Anyway, all was well that ends well and the Golf club trip went ahead. We watched Ghana (by now my team) beat the USA 2-1 (AET). On the Sunday, after the masterstroke of turning down the opportunity to go back to Bloemfontein to watch England vs Germany, we watched Argentina beat Mexico 3-1 in the round of 16 fixture at Soccer City.
We then spent a few days tracking game in the Kruger National Park, Gods Window and Blyde River Canyon before coming back to see the Ghana v Uruguay quarter final. The game had everything – 2 goals, a sending off, a missed penalty and a penalty shootout. The stadium was deafly silent when Uruguay scored the winning penalty, a reflection of how much the stadium and I believe continent were behind Ghana as the last remaining African team.
04/07/2010 to 09/07/2010 – Cape Town
That took us back to Cape Town where we had tickets to watch the Holland v Uruguay semi final. Gio Van Bronkhorst’s goal was magnificent, almost as good as one of Matt Le Tissier’s!! After a great day of Wine, Brandy, Olive and Cheese tasting in Stellenbosch, we ensured we hit Cape Town hard each night of our final week before it was time to say a fond farewell to South Africa, two days before the final.
South African's are football mad, and are infatuated with the English Premier League. They ask so many questions about individual players, teams, stadiums, rivalries and recount obscure incidents, some of which I had no idea about (5 years ago I might have known a bit more than I do now – I did tell them how strong league 1 was!!). They were fascinated how English fans on the whole support their local teams and stick with them through the good and the bad times. They’re particularly interested when my friend tells them he lives in the same apartment block as their team captain Aaron Mokwena.
It may or may not have shown the empty seats on TV, but it was noticeable that many match tickets were left unsold. There was tangible frustration and disillusionment from the locals we spoke to with regard to the farce that was ‘buying tickets’. In order to buy tickets you either visit the FIFA website and pay with a credit/debit card - under 10% of Africans (South Africans in relation have a much higher percentage) have access to the web and very few have credit/debit cards. The other route is to go to a ticketing centre in person. Ticketing centres are all based in SA and inter-African transport is said to be particularly bad while people are being asked to pay up-front with no guarantee of obtaining a ticket, which at R140 is still out of reach for many locals. This prevented many wishing to witness matches live from doing so.
My lasting memories will be how friendly and welcoming the African’s were and the great people (from home and abroad) that we had pleasure of meeting along the way (oh and the debates over Vuvuzelas and Jubulani ball). From all the people we spoke to, what really came across was the South Africans are extremely proud of their country and where it is now, they desperately want to show it off to us visitors and insist we in-turn wax lyrical about it. We were fortunate to benefit vastly from the African’s Ubuntu philosophy, which as a concept I fully embraced by the end of the trip.
There are not enough superlatives to do the country and people justice! I doubt without the common denominator of the World Cup, extra police presence and the eyes of the world upon them it would be the same. However I speak as I find and this is a true account of my experiences that certainly make we want to return. Hopefully the enduring legacy will be that of an improved international image of South Africa and the further unity of colours and races towards the common cause that was the World Cup (as described by Danny Jordaan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu) can be realised.
Now, how many days until I can go to Brazil 2014?? AYOBA and out!
Kevin Garret is an Englishman who has travelled the world, his adventures include being trapped in Canada, having followed the English cricket team on tour matches and unsuccessfully planning a following of England winning the respective Rugby and Football World Cup in 2007 and 2010.