Having applied for tickets only during the final online phase (because I don’t cope with rejection very well) and then spending hours in queues when the ‘over the counter’ ticket sales finally opened up, I, with the help of 3 friends, managed to secure tickets for 21 games in total.
Over a languid lunch at Kashif’s in Fordsburg, we looked at the ticket pool and doled out games.
Suddenly, everything, that had until that point seemed a distant reality, began to solidify. My excitement began to mount.
A marathon World Cup ‘kitting-out’ shopping spree a week before kick-off, led us from Rashid Cassim Sports, to the Oriental Plaza and finally to China Mall where we managed to pick up makarapas, vuvuzelas, soccer t-shirts, scarves, colourful hair pieces, wigs (we were doing this right!), beanies, flags, blankets, thermal vests, long johns and even hot water bottles.
Hey, we’d learnt our lesson courtesy of the Confeds Cup last year where we’d wondered whether we’d return home fingers, toes and noses intact! We weren’t taking chances with our..er…more delicate and very-dear-to-us body parts.
During the first round, I selected 9 games, 6 of which were played in Gauteng during the first week.
Here I got to watch the likes of South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Netherlands, Uruguay, Nigeria, Denmark, DPR Korea & Korea in action at the now legendary, Soccer City, slightly tatty, Ellis Park and Loftus. It was exhilarating!
Enthusiasm still soaring, we packed up the family and embarked on a Great Trek to Durban where some dazzling games awaited.
In sunny Durbz (boy was it good to escape the cold!), we got to experience Moses Mabhida magic, where I attended 3 matches. Netherlands Vs Japan; Nigeria Vs Denmark and Brazil Vs Portugal. Sadly, the latter game, having been billed as THE game of round 1, was a goalless disappointment, awesome pre-game atmosphere, notwithstanding.
The throngs of Portugal & Brazil fans making their way from the beachfront to the stadium reminded me of the 5 days of Hajj. We thrived on the 2010 Carnival Atmosphere that welcomed us during our stay in Durban. The beachfront was rocking to a Miami vibe unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before! We indulged ourselves in the flea market stalls, live concerts, talent shows, rock-climbing, interactive drumming, beach soccer, beach cricket, rickshaws as thousands of touring fans buzzed along the promenade from Suncoast, past the fan park on the beach, even as far as Ushaka.
The first round was record-breaking in that we saw the shock eliminations of the previous two finalists & World Cup holders, Italy & France & of course the hosts, our very own Bafana Bafana! This was the first time the host nation had been eliminated in the first round. Ah well, at least we got to beat the arrogant French and were eliminated with some dignity intact.
We then headed back to Bloemfontein for the first of the round of 16 games. England vs Germany it was, and my boys salivated at the thought of seeing Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney et. al. taking on the mighty Germans. The atmosphere in Bloem was electrifying!
We had goosebumps as the English fans sang and cheered at the top of their voices, evoking, for me, a little of Anfield or Old Trafford.
A Lampard goal disallowed at 2-1 and the atmosphere turned sour. We laughed as the Barmy Army chorused, ‘The referee is a wanker! The referee is a wanker!’ The indomitable Germans silenced them by thumping the English 4-1. Another mighty soccer nation eliminated. The German fans celebrated wildly at the Waterfront for hours after the game. They had won this war.
It was back to Ellis Park the next day, where we saw the mighty Brazilians pitted against fellow South Americans, Chile. We froze our butts off in spite of the blankets and hot water bottles as we watched the Brazilians send Chile packing with a resounding 3-0 victory.
The next day we trudged to Loftus to watch a dull goalless encounter between Paraguay and Japan. Paraguay won 5-3 on penalties. The highlight of this match was the company of two sweet sisters who hitched a lift with us after the game. They were by far more entertaining than either team on the night.
Reality intruded and I was forced to head back home. Work!
Undaunted, I still took in the remaining games, cheering, shouting, making the most of it, in the comfort of my home. My wife must have been really thankful. The trials and triumphs, many surprises along the way, finally brought us to the semi finals.
The Dutch easily overcame the Uruguayans 3-2 at Green Point in Cape Town with Van Bronckhorst, Sneijder & Robben scoring for the Dutch, while another Forlan goal and a last Maxi Pereira strike wasn’t enough for Uruguay. The Dutch were ecstatic. why not? They were in the World Cup Final!
The second semi-final saw the Spanish finally hitting their stride with a Carlos Puyol header that gave them a well deserved victory.
My team… dubbed ‘La Furia Roja’ were off to the final to meet the Netherlands. I tried frantically to get final tickets online, eventually succeeding at 2am that morning! As tired as I was, I did the dance of joy like never before! Hiba hibaaa…Haandeleh! BRRRRRRRP BRRRRRRRP!!! I had a date with The Final. Sunday 11 July 2010.
But wait… I had already secured tickets for the 3rd/4th place playoff 3 months back and I couldn’t disappoint my eldest two sons, Zaahid & Ebrahim, who had attended eight other games with me. So with the help of a co-driver, we set off for Port Elizabeth on The Road Trip to end all Road Trips!
We left at 9am on Saturday on the morning of the kickoff. 800km of road stretching endlessly before us, Eight Red Bulls, tons of padkos, a flask of coffee and some bassy music for company, spirits soaring. Six construction stops, 8 hours later, we had arrived in PE – the ‘Friendly City’.
We met up with friends, had a cup of tea in Malaba, freshened up and left for the game. The park ‘n ride was brilliant, Jozie ought to take some pointers.
I fell in love with the flowery design of Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and the friendliness of the fans. The game turned out to be a cracker, with Germany taking 3rd place over Uruguay in an exciting end to end affair that finished 3-2.
After the game, we freshened up once again, devoured some Nandos chicken, filled up the tank and headed back home. It was 1 am!
After 8 hours of driving, we finally arrived in Virginia, totally exhausted. Between Mazhar, my co-driver and myself, we had only slept for 2 hours over the past 24 hours! I had breakfast, and collapsed into bed. Two hours of deep sleep later, I was ready for that Date with Destiny. Jozie, here we come!
We got to Soccer City 2 hours before the closing ceremony and drank in the atmosphere around the stadium, taking pics, feeling the vibe and just enjoying the pre-final buzz!
There were hundreds of people looking for tickets outside the gates and while many had been lucky with previous games, this time there were none to be had. I felt a pang for some of those fans who were willing to pay upto ten thousand rands to witness this last game of the 2010 World Cup. And I realised just how lucky I’d been to have landed a ticket for myself.
The closing ceremony was breathtaking but the final didn’t live upto expectations. It turned out to be a stop-start affair with the Dutch hellbent on karate rather than soccer. They tried to stop the Spanish from playing their usual silky football by fouling them at every opportunity. The game ended 0-0. Another icy 30 minutes loomed..
The stadium erupted as Iniesta scored with 4 minutes of extra time to spare and my favourites, the Spanish were crowned World Cup Champions 2010! Ole Ole Ole!
As with all life’s great experiences, we learn. And one of the most profound lessons that was driven home for me during this Epic World Cup was basic economics. Supply and Demand. Bafana Bafana as my teacher.
While the demand for Bafana Bafana apparel before the World Cup started was staggering, had people grappling to cope and even enriched industrious businessmen who fetched up to R300.00 for fake replica soccer shirts, when Bafana faltered, stumbled, and fell, dragging a Nation’s dreams down with them, the prices plummeted and those very same replicas could be bought for a paltry R70.00!
I also learnt a lot about human nature and how high demand combined with scarcity births opportunists. And in some cases, even crass greed.In typical South African (read chaarou) style the number of people who woke up a day before kick off was inordinately high. There was this frenzied scrabble for tickets, and with almost all the kosher and decent stuff gone, the Black Market did booming trade. Category 4 tickets that had been purchased for a mere R140-00 fetched anything from R500-00 to R2000-00 each! I watched in horror as tickets for the final changed hands for upto R20 000 apiece!
People hummed and they ho’ed, aghast that they were being fleeced by Aapra Waras, but still, they still paid. World Cup 2010! I was there!
But the World Cup was not only about soccer.
It was not only about what went on on the field or about the pre-game routine of packing food in backpacks all the while hoping we’d get to sneak it in undetected, kitting up for the game, rounding up friends before the game, finding the shortest routes to the stadiums, hitting the highways, battling traffic, finding secure parking as close as possible to the stadiums. The logistics, as it were.
It was a Celebration of the human spirit.
It was about fellowship. The Fellowship of the Ball? Nah, perhaps not.
It was about the sense of belonging while hiking with thousands of other vuvuzela-blowing-singing -soccer-mad supporters for what seemed like kilometres on end, chatting and mingling.
It was about the sense of camaraderie and shared high spirits while we set about finding our seating blocks (after fooling the SAP -wow!- or Stadium Security), being ushered to our seats (which were sometimes high enough to give us nosebleeds) and then being overawed by the magnificence of the stadia, the huge screens; blaring music; the colourful fans and sometimes hilarious banners that surrounded us… the sounds of thousands of vuvuzelas reverberating…watching beer-drinkers juggle their beers to their seats (please don’t let him spill any!) and exulting in the ‘vibe’ while watching the teams warm up before every game.
We’d take pictures of fellow fans, marvel at the architecture of the venue, watch seats fill up, excitement mounting with every minute that brought us closer to kick-off.
Shakira’s Waka Waka drowning out everything, coaxing the entire stadium to sing along. An International Anthem. And when the teams would finally make their grand entrance, an explosion of sound! Cheering, vuvuzelas, sometimes enough to make your ears ring!
A brief pause to pay homage to the countries whose teams are represented, and then, full-vuvu-ahead! Screaming! Clapping! Cheering! It’s kick-off time baby!
Everything fading into oblivion once that ball comes into play. We have eyes for the 22 players on the field only. We’ll get back to babe watching at half time.
We scream our heads off…we applaud good tackles, inch-perfect passes and goal-defying saves…. try to dictate play from the stands by screaming ‘Man on!’ or ‘Play it wide!’…. we boo the ref when he gives decisions against our team…we discuss tactical changes with fellow supporters….we participate in waves by stamping our feet until its our turn to stand, roar! Sit again…. we jump to our feet when our team scores, wave our flags and marvel at the quality of the goal scored. At half time, we take out our smuggled ‘padkos’ and snack away, order a Coke at a staggering 15 bucks or a Magnum ice cream at 20 bucks and chowdown as the naangi McDonalds dancers entertain us by gyrating their hips on the opposite end of the field
The second half begins and its more of the same… cheering, shouting, vuvuzela’ing. And then the final whistle, and its all over. Humanity pours and then trickles out of the stadium, exhausted, but filled with either elation or sadness (depending on the outcome). The trudge back to the car, the entire traffic nightmare in reverse. But the night is still not over.
There’s still the highlights to catch on telly, the Post Match Show and Tell. Showing family members where we were sitting, showing them our pics. Telling them how exciting the game was. The next morning, we’re as hungover as the guy who spilled his daaru on himself the previous night, with sore throats & tight muscles but we have another game to look forward to. So we wake up, get ready & do it all over again