Monday 14th June
Well after lots of raving and a fair bit of ranting in Rustenberg, we made our way back to Joburg with me squashed in the boot. When spirits were high on the way there, seven fully grown adults squeezed into one car was quite funny but on the return journey when we were slightly deflated and thinking about the next days headlines regarding Green’s spillage, then getting tossed around in the boot of the car with all the coats and bags like being in a large tumble drier, wasn’t quite as funny.
I’m actually feeling really sorry for Green as he’s usually a safe pair of hands and that was very uncharacteristic of him, I know he’s not the most popular man at the moment but I do feel that there was another 45 minutes for the rest of the team to score after his dreadful mistake, so I don’t think we can blame him for the draw as he wasn’t solely responsible, the other 10 men had plenty of chances to redress the balance. Also, I’m not making excuses for them but the ball is really behaving strangely at this high altitude and passes are long and shots on goal are going way too high because the ball just seems to travel through the thinner air a lot more easily. Germany played brilliantly the other day and they had the added advantage of playing at sea level in Cape Town, so I think our performance will be much better down there on Friday.
Anyway, yesterday we decided to head over to Soweto and Soccer City to see if we could pick up any tickets on the street for the Holland vs Denmark game. I’ve never been to Soweto before and I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the township, it goes on for ever, it appears to be a sea of dwellings stretching for miles. The government have built new brick built houses however the older shacks are still there and the whole area is really densly populated. Then all of a sudden, there in the middle of Soweto is the Nike Football Academy, which is a centre set up for all the local youths to come and train at, it’s super modern with a fantastic media area, great pitches and coaches and the local kids can come along and use the new Nike boots and kit and take part. They run tournaments and training sessions and it’s one of the brilliant legacies that this World Cup will leave behind.
Onward to Soccer City and the brand spanking new stadium where we easily found someone with tickets to sell outside the ground, we bought them from a local guy for 800 Rand (about £80) and didn’t haggle as it was about half the price of the face value, though the locals do get a substantial discount for all the games and this subsidising means that far more South Africans will attend games that perhaps they wouldn’t have done if they had to pay the same price as the visitors.
So we’re now surrounded by orange and the Dutch really do go to town on their outfits, there’s some corking ones, and for some reason the Dutch blokes seem to favour very snug orange catsuits that leave nothing to the imagination! I had a sudden urge for a chilli dog (very nice it was too!)
When we get to our seats we’re right up in the gods and the stadium is amazing, enormous and extremely impressive. It’s great design outside as well as inside and the atmosphere is fantastic. The capacity is a generous 94,000 though it seems much bigger than that. As we sit down we get chatting to the guys around us and it turns out that the guy sitting next to me helped build the stadium and had been working there throughout the build and he was quite rightly very proud of it (he’s the one in white in the picture), there was also a guy sitting right behind me with a huge vuvuzela however despite the controversy about the noise of them back home, they really do add to the atmosphere when you’re there and you get used to the noise. African football just wouldn’t be the same without vuvuzelas!
Holland won convincingly despite the high altitude making it look like a game of keepy uppy, you can really feel the altitude in Soweto, it’s harder to breathe and it looked like they were playing with a beachball.
So Andy, Simon, Chris and I head back to Johannesburg in Nat’s car while Nat, Dom and Pilks head off for a mammoth car journey across county to try and do seven football matches in seven days…madness!!!
We went for the civilised option of heading out for dinner in Lonehill, fantastic prawns, gorgeous ostrich and superb South African wines.
Packing first thing in the morning and flying to Cape Town, wine tour tomorrow, a trip to Robben Island, lots of sushi and football on Friday = very very excited!