The three amigos landed in Johannesburg, amidst the familiar fusion of exhaustion and anticipation. Mick had traveled to South Africa with what can only be described as a fringe, Danny had come with a desire to talk to every fan, man, woman, child and animal he encountered, and I had entered with a vague itinerary, sketched out and shaped by the in-flight perusal of the guide book purchased en route to the airport.
From the moment we stepped off the plane the sun shone with relentless consistency, and the enthusiasm on the streets was palpable. Early Togel Singapore evidence suggested that the gracious hosts were even more excited than their visitors, the (in)famous Vuvuzela serving as the definitive mode of expression.
13th June – our first day in South Africa – signalled a painful farewell to my twenties. I was keen to commiserate with football and beer, and the Ghana v Serbia match in nearby Pretoria provided the likeliest opportunity. The only congratulations were due to FIFA, both for sanctioning the sale of ale in World Cup stadia, and for inadvertently shaping the black market by offering the cheapest tickets to South Africans. Wedged into an embarrassingly undersized hire car, we headed north in search of tickets. After a futile trip to the nonsensical centrally located ticket office, we progressed towards the Loftus Versfeld stadium, where we effortlessly secured a trio of adjacent seats at near face value. It was a promising start to the tournament.
The Serbians had been tipped to go far in the competition, but on the evidence of their first game they are unlikely to qualify from Group D. The Ghanaians were not particularly impressive either, although they undoubtedly deserved their goal with which they secured victory. A certain banner proclaiming ‘THOSE SCOUSERS GET EVERYWHERE’ provided the backdrop to the decisive penalty kick. Slow motion repeats were beamed around the world to emphasise the point.
World Cup 2010.
In the stands the Serbs were few in number and unwavering in their collective refusal to smile. By contrast the Ghanaians were the polar opposite, plentiful, colourful, vocal and cheerful. Having spent a memorable fortnight following Ghana around the African Nations tournament they hosted in 2008, it was a pleasure to re-acquaint myself with both the impressive and the senseless elements of West African fandom.
Spanning both categories, the fan with a smoking pot the size of a football resting on his head unsurprisingly drew some confused gazes. After the game we stumbled upon a fan fest, where Mick proudly displayed his Tony and Gay haircut, asking everyone he saw for their opinion – in incomprehensible Scouse. Meanwhile Danny spoke to representatives of a dozen countries from Mexico to Australia. None of them understood Mick and none of them liked his haircut.
World Cup 2010.
The following day we headed back to Jo’burg, intent on seeing Holland play Denmark at the impressive World Cup final venue. We arrived at Soccer City a minute before kick off, but were still confident of picking up another triplet of face value tickets. Supply vastly outstrips demand at this World Cup. Minutes later, we sauntered into the ground that Mick described as ‘the spaceship from District 9’, in time to see Liverpool duo Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt head in the game’s only goals. Unfortunately for the Dane, his landed in his own net, and with that the Dutch took the points.
World Cup 2010.
With the characteristically balanced British media representation of South Africa’s alleged social problems seeping through our consciousness, we were keen to minimise the risk-taking during the rest of the day in Jo’burg. So we headed to a shopping mall to purchase something vaguely edible, and of course, a football.
Four yards later Danny was in deep conversation with two Argentineans, and a South African lady had put a smile on Mick’s face with false claims of liking his hair. When he returned from cloud nine an impromptu game of piggy in the middle started.
Once Mick had realised the limitations of the game as a two-player event, he encouraged the involvement of various intrigued bystanders. Two hours later we finally lost the ball thanks to a misguided header from Mick’s quiff, signalling the end of a memorable experience.
Players from five continents representing various levels of inebriation, ability, hairstyles and political persuasions had completely taken over a corner of the shopping mall. When new players asked where we were from we simply replied ‘the United Nations’. The chances of the game being stopped were limited by the exuberant participation of the mall’s two security guards, whose brief probably included preventing such activities. This was South Africa at its best.