Sunday 13th June – Aftermath
Woke up nice and early and decided to watch the local TV and see if they replayed ‘that goal’ or more accurately ‘that fumble’. I need not have worried. on SABC Rob Green’s howler was replayed on the 15 minute mark, 4 times an hour. Bad news is currency all over the world. The South African TV was however somewhat more balanced than the local Sky TV feed which comes ‘direct from London’. There is no need for me to cover the detail, you can guess the rest. Ok, it was England’s howler and therefore the English media have the right to unload with both barrels, but a sense of measure would be nice. Before the match I casually predicted a 1-1 draw and a media outrage. I would have settled for a draw before the game in any case. So I got the score right and there was a media bile storm but maybe the outrage was for a different reason. Anyway, like all disasters lessons need to be learned, quickly. Who knows if Mr Capello will stick with the West Ham stopper (oxymoron anyone?) or revert to the apparently injured David James, although the player himself vehemently denies that he is anything other than fully fit. Is that attitude a clue as to why James has not been picked perhaps?
Anyway, let’s leave the politics to the politicians. But to quote one journo of repute, Robert Green is one of the most level headed and normal footballers and certainly the most charity minded. Perhaps he deserves a little bit of consideration. I don’t recall David Seaman getting this much flak when he conceded the ‘wonder goal’ from Ronaldino in Shikzouka eight years back. Anyway, move on Andy.
Another quick thing to highlight is the amount of foreign national fans inside the grounds. Don’t be fooled, whilst there were thousands of English and American fans inside the stadium on Saturday night, blowing the pre match reports from FIFA of the tickets sold in each country, numbers were swelled, especially within the English ranks, by local support, much of it die hard and totally genuine. There are loads of South Africans who follow England, Holland and Portugal ( the biggest Portuguese community outside Portugal lives in South Africa). Expect to see loads of orange shirts at Holland’s games – thousands will be from the Netherlands, but many more will live here.
So back to Sunday morning. Dom, Nat and Pilks were off early doors having had a few hours sleep and fuelled only in Kelloggs Corn Flakes and toast, to see the ‘El Grande Classico’ at Polokwane in the north of the country. Dom has a propensity to work in a binary fashion.Everything is either 1 or 0, on or off. He has bought so many tickets for this World Cup it defies belief, indeed it makes my 16 games at Euro 96 look tame, more so when you take into account the distances travelled. His enthusiasm is legendary, effusive and actually contagious. No wonder he has had such a positive effect on the team at Nike where he works.
The aforementioned ‘El Grande Classico’ was the lunchtime match between Algeria and Slovenia, who are both in England’s group of course. Kirsty, Simon, Chris and I decided to stroll down to the local shopping centre and have a relaxed lunch. We weighed up the options and decided on the aptly named ‘Chefs in Motion’ and enjoyed a wonderful lunch consisting amongst other things of antelope, ostrich, kudu, prawns, line fish and beef. Although you could mix Lonehill up with one of the smarter districts of LA on a bad day, there is no doubt at all that the fayre is vastly superior. The match was pretty uneventful, but there were some signs that both Algeria and Slovenia have some pace that will worry our defence, especially Mr Carragher who looked tired as he ran out as a sub on Saturday. We decided to head over to the mock Italian Rennaissance Monte Casino centre to watch the Ghana vs Serbia game. Along the way we met a couple James and Lauren, walking their dogs Willow a Great Dane pup and Hobbs a golden Labrador. Out of nowhere, they offered to drive the four of us to our destination, thus reliving the squeeze of the night before, Pilks being replaced by the two dogs! A lovely touch from warm and friendly people who like everyone else here are so proud of the World Cup being held in their country. Indeed Lauren said that she never watched football until now, but having seen it she had changed her mind, which she admitted had been closed to football previously. Another convert to the beautiful game.
Duly dropped off at Monte Casino, we found the Fan Fest and settled in to watch the Ghana vs Serbia match on the big screen. This was another Vuvuzela experience. Plenty of noise, dancing and general good vibes. My only downside on the Vuvuzela, which has come in for a lot of criticism back home, is that I have almost lost my voice given that I have had to shout so much in normal conversation.
The game itself was tight and settled by a penalty for the second cynical hand ball in the penalty area of the day. Pleased to see Ghana nick it if I am honest, and the assembled crowd cetainly backed their fellow Africans all the way. So far during all the matches we have been at or watched on the big screens, there has been much alcoholic consumption and absolutely zero confrontation. Just goes to show that alcohol and football fans can mix if the attitude is right, after all rugby has managed it for years.
End of the match and we got word from Dom’s possee that they were on their way back from Polokwane and we were going to meet up for a Sunday evening ruby and catch the Germany vs Australia game. Just what we needed after a huge meal, a vat of wine and a keg of beer each! Still we all decided to play the team game and had a very nice curry, even I personally felt like Monsieur Michelin.
Back to base to see the second half of the match and see the Germans look frighteningly awesome. Poor old Australia never got in the game, and the decision that saw Tim Cahill straight red carded was a disgrace. Pre match talk, mainly by me of ‘fancying Germany in round 2’ was buried hastily. Indeed a good friend from Germany, Ralf, texted in to say he was pleased with the way his team performed. Pleased? I would have been positively salivating if England had put a shift in to that standard, and therein lies the problem. It is down to mentality, technical ability and tactics, things traditionally that England generally lack or at least fail to get right together. To win World Cups you need these attributes. Maybe we should stick to winning friends and having a good time? I think we could enjoy the experience more…