D-Day is here….the biggest day in South Africa’s sporting history

You can feel it. It is everywhere. In the air, in the streets, in the shops, in the bars and on TV. The atmosphere of the 2010 World Cup is here and it is immense. Everyone is hyped up about the football. This is their game, it is their time and South Africa is ready. It is too early to judge whether this World Cup will live up to those in Japan /South Korea and Germany of course, but the early signs are good.

Yesterday was spent catching up on sleep, relaxing in the jacuzzi and enjoying the ‘winter’ sunshine. Then we took the car into one of the local shopping malls, Sandton, which by all accounts is one of the most upmarket shoppin centres in Johannesburg. Driving in the day was easy enough, especially given the sat nav and of course it is all very English in that they drive on the left over here. Traffic however is very much leading edge and first world. There is simply loads of it. We parked atop one of the two adjacent malls and headed to the food hall. You could easily have been in any mall in the US, indeed those of dear old LA sprung to mind. Indeed Sony had taken over the ground floor of one mall and were demonstrating 3D TV and gaming – something that those of you travelling to E3 next week will no doubt see plenty of. We eat some great seafood and decided to pick up a few supplies.

On the way to the supermarket, we passed this amazing ‘weapons’ shopcalled Sharp Shooter Retail. Everything for the hunter cum collector was for sale in this place. If you ever wanted to do a spell of William Tell or indeed Shogun, this is the place for you. I have never seen such a place, crammed full of swords, shields, crossbows, knifes (that Jim Bowie would have been proud of), hatchets, halberds, maces, fazers, guns (auto and semi automatic), uniforms and all sorts of para military apparel. This is after all a frontier country. The sales assistants were equally ‘focused’. One guy who was kitted in full camouflage fatigues was selling a father and son combo some boxing kit including head guard, punch bag and gloves. He was selling in so hard it was almost religious. ‘ The great thing about this sort of exercise, is that it sort of keeps your arms in a state of perpetual readiness, and the exercise is mindless and non taxing. You will find yourself incredibly relaxed at the end of a sparring session with your friends’. Certainly did the trick as the father shelled out several thousand Rand for the goodies. Another sales assistant asked me if he could ‘help’ and when I said I was ‘just looking’ he retorted ‘you are from England, yes? You guys really do cut your noses off to spite your faces. I mean if you outlaw all weapons and yet if a guy wants to do some damage, all he needs is a carving knife from the kitchen drawer’. This sort of direct comment did not really leave me anywhere to go….so I handed him on to Kirsty who chatted away for several minutes on the subject of personal defence.

So we thought we would round the trip off with a visit to Checkers, which is a big supermarket chain. As we were checking out, I saw a huge queue. Curious as I am, I wanted to findt what the fuss was all about. There were 3 queues, somewhat loose to say the least, one selling car parking tickets for the concert in Soweto that night and the other two for World Cup tickets – one for collections and one for open sales. Handily we had our docs so after about an hour we collected tickets for the first three England games – hurrah!! Remarkably, or may be not so remarkable, they were also selling England vs Slovenia tickets and quarter final tickets for both stadiums in which England could play if they reached that far. Predictions of tickets being easy to come by were seemingly well founded. The drive home was interesting, dealing with rush hour in Johannesburg was not as bad as I had expected, although we did have one near miss at the ‘robots’ (traffic lights).

Dom’s mate Pilks arrived and we decided to take Dom, Nat, Andy, Bella and Pilks out for a meal in the rather interestingly named Monte Casino (sic). This is a mix of Vegas, Dinsney, Dubai and ‘the old country’ (for those of you with Italian blood). It was a roofed experienced, once we got past the gun detectors at security. Picture yourself in any Tuscan town or city – Lucca, Pisa, Siena at night. There was a piazza and plenty of sounding restaurants. There was even an old Fiat 500cc parked in the square. It was a just a like a mama used to make a.

All in all a really great evening and a nice way to relax before the football starts in earnest.

So, here we are 12 noon Friday 11th June. The day that South Africa has been waiting for six years . Ecstasy tinged with tragedy however as the terrible news broke of Nelson Mandela’s 13 year old great grand daughter death in a car crash on her way back from the World Cup concert in Soweto. Let’s hope that is the only downer on this amazing African odyssey and that Bafana Bafana win today in memory of this little girl and in honour of the great man, Nelson Mandela. Good luck to all South Africans, this is your day.

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