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Now... Just a short wait for Brazil 2014

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.

Cape Town from the Lion's head on World Cup final day, in a good moment of weather, including the ms Westerdam, centre

Posted by Gelli 09:53 Archived in South Africa Tagged events Comments (0)

Diego gets his comeuppance

Green Cape stadium in Cape Town was actually a bit of a disappointment. From a distance, it looks fantastic. But up close, it looked very temporary. The outer cladding was a metal mesh. Inside it, all was bare unpainted concrete which was already showing signs of crumbling in places, whilst there were porter cabins inside the main structure. The number of both toilets and food and drink outlets were also much fewer than in Durban, for example. Pitchside, however, was much better, despite the fact that we were again sat in temporary seating (as in Durban, the top tier seating is temporary, shaky, and gets removed after the World Cup because Cape Town has no use for a permanent 66,000 seat stadium) with tiny leg room and an almost vertigo inducing climb. But the view, from just above halfway, opposite Jacob Zuma, Angela Merkel et al, was perfect.

Diego Maradona and his motley crew of assistants gets the attention during the national anthems. If you didn't know who they were and saw them walking down the street together, all dressed up like that, they would look so out of place and so unnatural that you would probably guess that they are mafia/gangsters!

When the draw had been made, I had looked at the permutations for this quarter final to see who I could get. The worse case scenario involved England. The very best was Argentina v Germany. Amazingly in this world cup of shocks, Argentina v Germany it was. The fact that Germany had come there having thumped England was even better. On paper, it was the two teams on the best form in the tournament, and almost a disappointment that this was only a QF. The atmosphere in the city beforehand was amazing, and in the ground even better. And after a few damp squibs, I was delighted to actually see some goals and a decent game, even though it didn't go exactly to plan. Especially if you are an Argentina fan.


Thomas Muller scored early, which should have set the game up brilliantly: Argentina had to attack. And they kind of did. Though they never really had any great chances, for the rest of the half and first 5-10minutes of the second half, the Argentinians got more and more into the game, and it seemed like only a matter of time before they scored. Then the Germans got a decent second, and the Argentinians gave in. A quick third followed, and that was it. Though the Germans scored an excellent 4th later on, the Argentinians just plain gave up after the second goal. It was quite strange, and sad to see. For a team that had gone in with such an attacking line-up, they offered nothing. The back 4 and keeper were poor (and generally had been all tournament), and Mascherano put in huge amounts of work trying to cover them. For the rest, it was basically a front 5. There was no midfield. Messi, probably the best player in the world and potentially the best ever was reduced to running into his own half in search of the ball. Tevez ran around allot and at least tried. Di Maria had the best of the chances in the first half but faded and was taken off. Maxi and Higuain may as well have not been playing. The amazing thing for me, with so many of these knock out games, is how conservative managers have been: If you are 2 goals down in a game you need to win, gamble – realistically, there is no difference in loosing 2-0 or 5-0 at that point. You are still out. So use all your substitutions, make attacking ones and gamble. It might just pay off. But Argentina, like Brazil , went out after only making 2 like-for-like changes, and leaving the third un-usued. England and France went out after making very late changes at the stage in the game that it did not matter. In some ways, for some people, it is understandable, but for Diego Maradona, it was bizarre.


Walking back into town along the fanwalk, it was an almost shell shocked atmosphere. Nobody could quite believe what had just happened. But it had been good fun regardless. And with that, my first hand experiences of the 2010 World Cup were probably over. And it was odd – my abiding memory of the games I have been at will come from this game, but was nothing to do with the game itself: At one point during the first half, I happened to glance around me. I would guess that 70% of those people around me, including my friend Brad, were playing with their smartphones. Instant messaging on their Blackberries, or similar, and I just thought it bizarre. If I go to a game of football, I will always stay to the end, will try and plan my comfort/food/beer breaks so I don't miss any action. And I will watch the game. This was a World Cup Quarter Final, between two great teams, and with tickets not coming cheap. And yet many people didn't seem to be fully interested in the game itself. I just found it all very, very odd.


Posted by Gelli 04:40 Archived in South Africa Tagged events Comments (0)

A wandering again

Pretty much straight after the damp squib of the Brazil-Portugal game, and after a week in Durban doing very little, I went and found my car, and with 8 days free before my next ticket in Cape Town, headed off. I had no specific plan, and kind of made it up as I went along, depending on who I happened to meet and what I felt like. Thus, I ended up taking a short swing through Swaziland, partly to see some of the south of the country which I hadn't seen last year (beautiful and mountainous, just how I like it), before heading back to Gauteng.

Rourke's Drift: A place of almost pilgrimage for me, site of one of the most famous battles of the Zulu wars (and immortalised in the film 'zulu') where a small group of soldiers from the 2nd Battalian 24th foot South Wales Border regiment held off several thousand zulu warriors in defence of the Rourke's Drift missionary station in 1879. More VC awards for bravery were awarded for that one battle than any other in history

I went and stayed with some Couchsurfing friends from last year, Meruschka and Guiliano [who, as an Italian, and with the Italians long since out, was not the happiest] who had moved house, gained 3 fantastic puppies – two 'old' and hence large puppies, but the 3rd of which had been rescued 2 days earlier and was barely as big as my hand – and had invited guests for that evenings England – Germany game. Two of whom turned out to be old friends from Malawi and my days in Nhkata Bay. I am used to meeting people I know, or have a connection, every couple of weeks whilst travelling, and had been thinking only a day or two previously that I had been surprised that it hadn't yet happened. I was definitely due. An Irish couple and a German girl finished the party, and two of us were extremely happy at the games conclusion. Yes, it should have been a goal for Lampard, but really, England had been dreadful all tournament, were overrun by the Germans and lucky not to lose by more. I was praying for 5-1 as, at a stroke, that would have removed the English 2 big 'crowing points' over the Germans: the astonishing 5-1 away defeat of the Germany in qualifying in 2001 (even Heskey scored) as well as the controversial goal given by the linesman in 1966 [admittedly, the English had a much more legitimate claim in 2010 than the very marginal call in 1966]. But, to be fair, I was quite happy with 4-1, especially as I had had a deep feeling of foreboding prior to the game.

Dinner time

I spent a day being a tourist, checking out the Cradle of Mankind and Sterkfontein, and then wandering around the Hartbeespoort dam/lake, before going and catching up with another friend from last year, Therese. It was a great couple of days.


The view from the Hartbeesport Dam, and, below, a reminder that South Africa is not always the safest country to travel in. These signs cropped up regularly in a few pockets of the country

From there I headed down to Lesotho, and spent a great couple of days doing very little except exploring the mountains, and again running into another random coincidence, by discovering a couple of people I knew on St. Helena had just moved to Lesotho. As you do. Lesotho is definitely a country I need to return to with more time, and all my walking gear, and spend some days in the mountains. As for now, I had to be content with twisting mountain passes, snow, the constant ringing of cowbells in the distance, fresh-air and glorious vistas. I had no time for anything else, and a long drive to Cape Town ahead.


Many of the roads in Lesotho are twisting mountain passes, often precarious, and with lumps of rocks on the road which have fallen off the mountainside and tumbled down. I can quite understand the naming of this pass in particular!

Mohale lake, a fairly recent addition to the Lesothan highlands, after the Mohale dam was constructed

It wouldn't be the emptiness of South Africa without a picture of a typical rural railway station...I would guess that the nearest building of any description is at least 20km away

Looking down from Dutoits over the Winelands and Paarl. The faint mountain in the distance is Table Mountain, 70km away

My trusty steed, named Göran (by Maaret - Hello Dear) for reasons that remain unknown. Together we covered some 7000km

Posted by Gelli 11:32 Tagged events Comments (0)


Durban definitely had benefits - comedy value: On arrival we got directed to park on the 10th story of what turned out to be an 8 story car park, which pretty much had us collapsed in helpless laughter after having driven onto the roof. More importantly, it mean't that less than a week after almost freezing to death at a game in Joburg, here we were, watching games at the fanzone on the beach, and at the magnificent stadium whilst wearing shorts and trying to avoid getting sunburnt. The Northern/inland venues in winter are cold. The Western coastal locations (Cape Town and Port Elizabeth) are prone to rain and wind. Durban has sun. And with Europe being in the middle of a heatwave which is bound to end before I get back there, some sun was very definitely welcome.

The other great thing about Durban is that the stadium is pretty central, which means that you can walk to it. Along the beach with 50,000 or so crazed Oranje fans. Which is exactly what we did for Netherlands – Japan. Though vastly outnumbered, there were still a fair chunk of Japanese fans around, also fully dressed up and very vocal.


Durban turned orange, although the Japanese certainly made an effort

With the Dutch qualified, the guys all flew back to Europe and their wives, fiancees, children and jobs. I stayed. I don't have the ability to fly, or for that matter, a wife, fiancee, child (that I admit to, anyway) or job. Besides, it was the World Cup and there were more games to go to.

The happy Dutch guys – Luc, Sam and Remco after qualification

Apparently I had not been orange enough during the game, so I had to make up some ground, although (below) I wasn't going to give up my identity completely!

The first of the extra games was Nigeria – South Korea. It was one of those games that looks to be of no real outside interest, but in my experience tend to be the more entertaining games of football. Both teams go in with genuine prospects of winning, and in this case as the 3rd group game, was almost a play-off for a place in the second round. And it was a pretty decent game as well. There were chances at both ends, and a miss by Yakubu which will go down as one of the most incredible in World Cup history. It should not have been possible to miss from less than a metre and with an entirely open goal. Let alone from somebody who earns more in a week than most of the crowd do in a year.



In the end, the South Koreans were deserving victors, and their support was both vocal and colourful. Another African team thus went home.

In contrast, my final game in Durban was the single most anticipated game of the entire round: The only non South African game for which tickets could not be got for love nor money. I could have sold my ticket on the way to the stadium for over 3times it's face value, and that was to people shouting offers to passers-by. If I had wanted to sell and made an effort, i'm sure I could have got more. The build up was amazing, the atmosphere incredible. But despite everybody else's optimism, I was convinced the game would be a damp squib. And so it proved. The problem was that it was essentially a meaningless game. Brazil had already qualified, whilst Portugal's goal difference mean't only a vast miracle would see them fail to advance. And even future fixtures were of no help - If it had gone to plan, Spain would be topping their group and would play the runners up: A huge incentive would have existed, to avoid Spain. As it was, the Spanish loss mean't that they could come anywhere between 1 and 3, and with their final game played later, there was nothing any of the Portuguese speakers could do to deliberately avoid them.

”Action” from the the Brazil – Portugal boredom fest


I would almost go as far to say that it was probably the worst game of the entire tournament, though there have been a few other equally dire encounters. Based on the group stages, at least, South Africa 2010 will not go down as a classic World Cup in terms of the football. It can only get better, surely?

Posted by Gelli 04:26 Archived in South Africa Tagged events Comments (0)


Yes, dear readers, it is time yet again for me to break out some truths and solve some myths. Or something like that.

1. Africa is hot.
Oh no it f*cking isn't! Well, not all of it, all the time, anyway.



In my night in Gaborone it had reached -3. Gauteng, and Johannesburg were almost as bad, but with the added 'extra' that we were outside, in Ellis Park stadium, watching Brazil v North Korea. The stadium power died early on, replaced by generators which worked intermittently and repeatedly belched out thick black clouds of smoke. South African winters are cold, but short: barely 6weeks, normally, which means nowhere has any heating. And stadia like Ellis Park are just not designed to be used in this season. So it was, that we joined the frozen masses in the 3rd tier, towards one end next to the where the stadium is open sided, and thus the howling wind blows right through. And we all prayed that we still had the correct numbers of fingers and toes left at the end of it.


Yup, Ellis Park for Brazil v Korea DPR was an exercise in not freezing to death, as much as anything else

Put it this way, 60,000 fans and the queue to get a beer at halftime – normally mission impossible at a packed sports stadium – was 4 people, for 6 servers. The queues for coffee were maybe 600. It is the only game I have ever been to where beer was the quickest thing to get to.

The game itself was OK – North Korea (sorry: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea) looked fairly enterprising, the Brazilians slow in defence and Kaka was awful. Yes Brazil won, but for 5glorious minutes at the end after the Koreans scored, the stadium suddenly turned to be fully Korean supporting (official DPRK fans: 35) as we willed on an unlikely equaliser. Perhaps most interest came when I wandered up to a Scottish family – kilts, feathers, the works – whilst wearing my large Welsh flag, which seemed to cause much amusement amongst the passing South Africans, and utter confusion amongst the Brazilian contingent.

There are always a few lost souls looking for an oval shaped ball

2. This is an African World Cup

Technically, yes, this is an African world cup. It is, after-all, being played on African soil in South Africa. But that is basically it. South Africa is the least typical African country anyway. And the fact that it is then being played in South Africa in winter pretty much wipes any advantage that the African nations would have, at a stroke. Play the tournament in West Africa, with the vast humidity and unpredictable pitches, or in North Africa with the extreme heat and crazed local support, and yes, they may have had an advantage. South Africa 2010? Nope.

FIFA made a big show of it being African, and of putting out cheaper seats for locals. But locals mean South African residents only. For the rest of the continent, they get to pay normal prices. And that is the kicker. Probably in order to pay for the very cheap South African resident tickets, Ticket prices in South Africa for everybody else are much higher than before. In Germany 2006, the cheapest tickets were 30euros. In South Africa, they are 80usd. Factor in the fact that for most Africans it is both cheaper and easier (and, in some cases, quicker. And closer: The Ivorians previous game in a world cup was in Munich, which is marginally closer to Abidjan than their game in Port Elizabeth) to fly to Europe than South Africa, and it becomes clear that African fans are struggling. Only the very rich (or expat in South Africa) can afford to travel, and numbers visiting African fans are much lower than they were in 2006.

Far from this being a tournament with an African team in the final, I personally guess that maybe only a single African team will qualify from the group, and astounded if more than 1 does. And any qualifier will not go beyond the QF. Yes, feel free to laugh when it is an all African final...

3. Vuvuzela's help the African teams
No. They don't. So far, I would say that they actually sound worse and louder on TV than in the stadiums. But more than that, they are hugely impersonal. They make the same droning noise, and are blown at any occasion. Which means that there is no advantage for either side. What the singularly fail to do is get behind their team. South African commentators seemed surprised that Mexico were not phased by them in the opening game. But they should not have been. Anybody that has ever seen a Mexican game knows that they are noisy, passionate affairs. In the opening game, the vuvuzela's actively worked against South Africa. After they scored, there was vuvuzela blowing, but no singing or other noise to help them get behind their team, and the Mexicans got back in. South American drums and music, Korean chanting or British style singing is much effective: It is passionate, and obvious which team the noise is backing. Vuvuzela's lack that.



4. Americans don't like football
Possibly, to an extent, this is true. And there are obviously many Americans who have no idea at all about football. Sorry, soccer. However, American based fans bought more tickets than any country except the hosts, whilst in the few hostels I've stayed in and fanzones I have visited, there have been lots of Americans. Lots of English as well, and – especially around cities where they are playing – large groups of Dutch, and lots of smaller pockets of others, including lots like myself from non-qualified countries. But more Americans than anything else.

5. Africa is cheap
Whilst, yes, some places in Africa are cheaper than, say, Switzerland, Africa has never really been cheap. The average person knows that lots of African countries are poor, and assumes that travelling in such places is correspondingly cheap. This has long been a source of amusement to me. Yes, some things are cheap, and you can live on virtually nothing. But it is subsistance living: living off the land. For backpackers etc without land, Africa is nowhere near as cheap as South East Asia, for example: The type of accommodation that tourists look for/want/will accept foreigners, plus food and transport all add up.

And then there is the world cup.

South Africa was generally at the higher end of African costs normally. In the world cup, prices are insane. A Budweiser (I hesitate to use the official word 'beer') in the stadiums, the only alcoholic option available, costs 30Rand. That is over 4usd, which is expensive even for foreigners: for locals, the cost is insane and unheard of. A dorm bed which normally goes from 80-120 Rand is typically 200-300. The most expensive I have heard of is 800 Rand, and there might well be higher. That's allot of money for a dorm bed. Basically, the prices for everything has gone up, often dramatically. And even World Cup extras have not been free: In Germany 2006, a match ticket got you free citywide transport for whole of the day, and often long distance transport. At the 2008 Euro's, Sam and I travelled from Zurich to Basle (and back) for the Semi final, for free. And the next day, all the way to Vienna, based on a single match ticket. In South Africa, it costs 50Rand just to leave your car at the park and ride. Again, not a huge cost. But an extra one to normal such events. And they all add up. It is a world cup of exploitation of those fans who made the effort to go. But with Sepp Blatter and FIFA involved, that is unlikely to be news.

Not the tastiest 30Rand I have ever spent...

6. The locals have got fully involved
They have generally been enthusiastic and welcoming, yes. But fully involved? No. Even the locals only cheap tickets are 140Rand, which is substantially more than many people can afford: In places, that is a weekly wage. The local ticket distribution was also quite poor, requiring internet or credit cards to begin with, and ending in the farce which has seen empty seats at every game. Sometimes, lots of empty seats (the fact that genuine foreign supporters are often forbidden to get empty seats, even in Cats 1-3 is a different story, and basically all about FIFA's stubbornness). The fanzones are also expensive for food/drink, and many have been hard to get to. The brilliant situated Durban fanzone (it is on the beach, in the only host city with reliably decent weather) has officially been the highest attended in cumulative attendance. And whilst it was crammed for South Africa – France, of the other games I saw there, none were more than maybe 20% full, at most. Cape Town has generally been full, but has a much smaller capacity, and is easily accessible. And there are lots of foreigners around. The ones in the north have often done very badly: Rustenberg fanzone is in the middle of nowhere, in a city that is not easily accessible anyway. The ones in Johannesberg require driving to/from, but parking is really hard, so people have stayed away. At one game, one of the main Joburg fanzones had, it is reported only 47 entrees, who had all left at halftime. The capacity is almost 20,000. And even those hardy enough to want to attend often gave up on account of the weather: it was just too cold to be standing outside, especially for evening games.

7. England are a good football team

  • insert maniacal laughter here*

It was excruciating for 3games. But the 4th was fantastic. Unless you are an England supporter, naturally.

Some of us just about survived Ellis Park!

Posted by Gelli 04:13 Archived in South Africa Tagged events Comments (0)

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