10.07.2010 - 12.07.2010
It was 04.37. Or maybe 05:44. Or 03:12. Actually, I have no frickin idea what it was. But it was late. Or early. Or something. Regardless, It was the morning after the World Cup final, daylight was rapidly encroaching on the night and it was finally time to go home.
But first, it was back to the hostel for a badly needed couple of hours of sleep.
The World Cup was over, and with it my stay in South Africa. As predicted, the 3rd place game had been a great game of football. The final had been a tense, boring affair with both teams too scared of making a mistake and loosing to actually attempt to play the sort of football that both teams are known for. The Dutch gave up all pretense at playing football, and even though the (English) referee handed out a whopping 14 yellow cards (more the double the previous record for a World Cup final) and sent off Johnny Heitinga for two yellows, it could easily have been more. At least a couple of Dutchmen were lucky not to be sent off earlier on, although in retrospect that might have actually helped the game and calmed the Dutch. Instead we were treated to a turgid, nigledy affair that was in no way a fitting climax to the tournament. At least Iniesta's late goal in extra time saved us from penalties.
After a very pleasant morning spent being touristy with some friends made on the cruise down to South Africa, the final in the fanpark had been superb. In contrast to previous games I had seen in fanparks (including the Semi final here in Cape Town), the crowd seemed to be mostly local as opposed to at least half foreign. I watched the game with Brad (a local who I knew and had been to the QF with), his brother Lindsay, and a group of 15-20 of their friends. The only white person, and the only foreigner, but the hospitality and friendship they all showed was amazing. I fought – and eventually had to accept defeat – to be allowed to buy a round of drinks. I was there over 4hours before kick-off, and the atmosphere was superb: There had been much joking and joy, live music, then the opening ceremony whilst the Cape rain was somehow fought off and a huge cheer when Nelson Mandela entered the Soccer City arena. And the game itself, which even though it turned out to be as dreadful as I had expected, had been salvaged for me at least by the atmosphere and locals in the Cape Town fanpark.
For the average South African, reality suddenly now hits. The party is over: within a day or two, the fanfests will have been dismantled, many tourists will have left and the spotlight on South Africa will slowly fade away. People must return to their normal jobs, schools will reopen, worldcup debts need to be paid off. And all that will remain will be memories, empty stadia which need uses found for them, and stacks of unsold flags and vuvuzelas.
And with that it was back on board, and another 14nights on the MS Westerdam. For the second time in less than a year, I was leaving Duncan Dock in Cape Town on a ship heading for Rotterdam. This time, I intend to actually make it to Rotterdam as well. As opposed to my southbound trip, this time she would be full, and the charter was now a “German Health and Fitness Cruise” which sounds at least marginally scary, although I plan on generally avoiding all that stuff and doing my own thing. Which might yet prove to be a big mistake. But at least I hadn't made all the same mistakes.
This time, I had brought my own coffee.