13.06.2010 - 14.06.2010
From there on in, the World Cup proper started for me. Sam, Remco and Luc arrived pretty much on time on Sunday lunchtime, and games could begin to be watched and beer consumed. Come Monday, and it was time to go to Soccer City. Glen and some friends also had tickets, so the 8 of us piled into 2 cars and headed to the Park & Ride for Netherlands v Denmark. Large queues – of Dutch and locals, plus 6 hugely outnumbered Danes - later (which we later discovered was caused by a wildcat strike amongst the bus drivers) and we were on a bus, on which with surprising ease, we made it to Soccer City stadium on the edge of Soweto.
Soccer City was a strange stadium. Fantastic inside, but from the outside in day light it almost looks unfinished. Sandy coloured cladding mean't it was dull and not shiny as most new stadiums are, and it has lots of holes in it. At night, it comes into it's own as it is all lit up like a traditional cooking pot. But by daylight, it looks a bit odd. The 94,000 capacity all sat in orange seats, which mean't that even where there were no Dutch fans, the stadium looked Oranje. But there were also lots, and lots of Dutch fans. The three guys I was with were no exception: Lucus, all 205cm of him was not exactly inconspicuous to begin with, whilst Remco had a large orange traffic cone style hat on his head, and Sam was in a plastic suit that basically made him look like a large orange condom. Naturally all wore orange jerseys as well. For me, my Swedish links made me more a Danish supporter than a Dutch one, though I was heavily out numbered, and essentially, didn't really care.
The match was a slow burner – you can always tell how bored the crowd is by when the first attempts at a Mexican wave start in the crowd. It was 8minutes here. There were some quite large gaps in the crowd, and the capacity was later announced to be 84,000: impressive, but still 10,000 under capacity, which was quite sad. The dreaded vuvuzela's didn't shut up for the entire match, but they really weren't too bad. Because it's quite a low pitched tone, it's easier to tune out, and the fact that they are all the same tone means you quickly get used to them. Despite their protestations, I actually think that they work against South Africa. They have no soul or passion. They have nothing specific to your team. Which means that more people blowing them has no noticeable affect on the team. Compare it to, for example, the sort of singing you get from many European fans, or the Brazilian drums, which are much more passionate and help get behind *your* team. In the opening game, I think South Africa would have held on had they had South African songs sung after they went a goal up. Instead, just more vuvuzela's (which are nowhere near as noisy or passionate as most latin American teams are used to) worked more for the Mexicans who duly equalised.
The first half was fairly poor. The Danes had a couple of decent chances, the Dutch much more possession but no width or final ball. The second half started with an own goal, and along with substitutions led to the Dutch growing in confidence and width. But they ended up with absolutely no central focus, often leading to lots of pretty passes out wide, but nothing more. The second goal was definitely deserved – and they could have had more – but to my mind, they have much work to be done. The Danes tailed away disappointingly, but should still have qualification in their own hands against Cameroon and Japan.
As the noise slowly dispersed, so did the fans. Getting away from stadium was much more queuing, but only as to be expected, whilst leaving the car park and trawling through the evening rush hours traffic in the increasingly cold and dark evening was surprisingly easy. With that, it was time for a fantastic chicken skewered dinner and a beer whilst watching the Italians play in the cold wind and rain of Cape Town.
Tomorrow it all starts again.
Sat not far in front of us, these are the lovely Bavaria girls, who later gained fame/notoriety by all being arrested for alleged ambush marketing. If they had been ignored, nothing would have happened. As it was, Bavaria gained huge amounts of publicity from the exercise