Saturday. Springboks v All Blacks. Soccer City (or whatever they call it now), Soweto. Historic event. The first time the Boks play a Test in the most famous “township” on the planet.
It also happens to be Springbok captain John Smit’s 100th test for his country. Our beloved country. Barney Smit, widely considered the best rugby skipper in the world. And you all saw the pictures of him standing alone in the centre of that phenomenal calabash of a stadium, holding his son and daughter. Ninety thousand fans waving The Flag. The captain was almost blubbing, wasn’t he? Quite acceptable.
If ever a stage was set for the under-performing Bokke to find their redemption, this was it.
But you all know, or should know, what happened next. Sickening. Especially for our Captain Fantastic. Even All Black captain Richie McCaw graciously said that “rugby can be a cruel game”.
But we move on. A year away from the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand. There could be no sweeter redemption than to retain our World Cup in the backyard of the mighty All Blacks.
But let’s have a slightly unusual look at Saturday’s Tri-Nations heartbreaker. I’ve been playing with the 360 deg imagery that the Vodacom Player 23 Fan Cam put out after the match and, despite not having a clue how this technology works, captured three freeze-frames for your delectation.
Hold on to your Bok beanies, babies…
Worm's view of The Calabash on Saturday. Stunning, hey? But let's pan down a tad to see what's happening on the ground...
Ja, look, sorry about that bar thing above the players' heads... but I know diddly about Photoshop and couldn't shift it. Anyway, you'll see the All Blacks doing that haka thing they like to amuse us with before rugby matches... let's zoom in on that, shall we?
What's this?! The All Blacks doing their quaint little pre-match warm-up, sure... but who is that Bok player lurking behind them? What is he doing there?
And could somebody please tell the nation why, when presented with a green-and-golden opportunity like that, our Bok didn’t sneak up behind one of those Kiwi blokes at the back and give him a moerse skop (good kick) up his fat jacksie?
That would have given us a lekker start to the game, hey?
I’m here. In my beautiful country cocoon of Stanford. It’s a glorious sunny Cape winter’s day and I could tell you that many birds are lunging out their unique songs in the garden but that wouldn’t make it very much different from many South African gardens.
What is perhaps different is, that from where I sit, I can see – over the roofs of white Victorian cottages – the craggy tops of mountains, glowing in shades of green and muted mauve. The Kleinrivierberge. It is said that wild leopard still roam in these mountains. Although Geoffrey Phipps, a local youngster who himself roams the mountain range in his mission to remove gin traps and assorted evils, says he has only ever seen their spoor and never actually clapped eyes on the elusive beasts.
So why am I telling you this? Because I feel seriously blessed to live here in Stanford, a very special place which attracts special people. And because, since South Africa’s almost excruciatingly magnificent World Cup ended 10 days ago, I have felt both elated and mentally exhausted. I have had to take a break. An unscheduled remission from the giddy-making carousel of SA-positivity which swept me up and spun me around for four weeks. As it did many of you.
As I have drifted slowly back to earth, I have understood how absorbed, nay swallowed whole, I was by my country’s party of a lifetime. I did eat, drink, breathe and live World Cup 2010. OK. I confess. I had a one-month stand with it. A seemingly unstoppable orgy. And, then, cruelly, as the last pyrotechnical rocket popped above Soccer City, I was dumped.
I know that I am a fool. A fool for love. For the love of my flawed, frustratingly fraught with corruption country, at turns horrible and heartwarming, at once wearying and wondrous. This is no easygoing relationship, hooking up just for the good times.
This is like being madly in love with a woman once condemned to death row. Relishing the gift of every moment spent together, luxuriating in the heady scent of her dusty, musty backwaters, delighting in the amusing nuances of her body language, always agog at her ability to poke herself in the eye with a big stick and then break out in a dervish-whirling, devilishly beautiful dance on the world’s table.
We showed them, didn’t we? We showed them how to be truly human and still pull off a successful World Cup. Hugely successful. Triumphant beyond even my wildest dreams. Pay no mind to those number crunchers who now sit like vultures with calculators over the handsome corpse of our World Cup and point to percentages, mumble about margins, groan over graphs and spit out told-you-so’s over new stadiums which may lie unused for a period of time.
To them I say: it’s not about the numbers, you boring farts… it’s about hearts and minds. It’s about inspiring children. It’s about South Africa growing up in the eyes of the world. It’s about perceptions. It’s about seeding a belief that we can overcome our many challenges if we believe enough in ourselves and our 16-year-old democracy. It’s about beautiful things not immediately tangible, by-products not easily assessable by one-eyed accountants obsessed with their abacuses. It’s about a vibe. So kindly shut up.
Instead, if you are of the “SA-positive” persuasion, it is not hard to continue to find the good. The microbiocide, researched by South Africans, that promises to help our women to stem the dreadful tide of HIV/Aids that has threatened to overwhelm our people.
So, as I recover from our ballsy celebration of all that is bloody marvellous in the state of the South African psyche, I look out of my front door and see no despair, only timeless and immovable mountains that offer me strength and hope.
And, now for reasons that should be apparent to you, I offer you some visual inspiration that came my way on my darkest day…
Oh, wait. I should first tell you that, after I pumped every ounce of my passion for South Africa and football into the World Cup, I was flat. Flatter than a pancake baked by the honorary secretary of the Flat Earth Society and then placed on the treadmill trampled on by the people in that awful The Biggest Losers programme. Pap. Introspective. Oh, OK, I was depressed. It wasn’t a World Cup hangover. It was cold turkey. And I felt burnt out. Then somebody sent this to me…
That’s Nick Vujicic. He loves living life. And he’s happy. And his attitude to life is massively inspiring. To everybody to whom the universe has thrown any sort of challenge. It’s how you get up. And it’s how you finish. Now, my little period of papness post-World Cup is as nothing to what Nick has had to overcome. But it’s always worth being reminded of how fortunate we are.
And I so wish I had seen Nick’s video back in 1996 when I did crash and close down. When I spent a month alone in my flat in London, mostly in bed, not working, not eating, not living. I was burnt out. But I did eventually get up, with two arms and two legs, and started again. It’s how you finish.
The link to this video was sent to me, unknowingly, by a man with whom I shared an adventure earlier this year. He rode a unicycle from Durban to Cape Town to raise awareness of the landmines that do remove arms and legs (and lives) and I drove the support vehicle. We lived in a parallel universe for two months… and, for both of us, there was a huge, gaping void at the end of it. But we finished.
I hope that he doesn’t mind me telling you this but Geoff Brink, the unicyclist, also fell down a few years ago. He went into rehab to flush out the accumulated poisons of drugs and alcohol from his body that threatened to ruin his life. It’s one hell of a story, that only he can do justice to.
But Geoff got up. He not only got up but he climbed on to a unicycle only two months after learning to ride it and pedalled it for 2,000km over a period of two months.. I watched him do that. Every minute. Every kilometre. And I will never know how he did it. It’s about how you finish.
So, we South Africans can stumble over each other to grumble and moan about how much it cost our country to stage the 2010 World Cup, how many houses could have built instead of shiny shrines to soccer. How many people could have been uplifted. All very well.
Some may say, now that our throw-everything-at-it party is over, that our country remains down on one knee. I would point out that, down on one knee we may be, but our hands are held up high in triumph. Because, in one short month, we won over the world. And, as Nick Vujicic keeps telling us, it’s how you finish that counts.
I woke up this morning to the biting cold of a Stanford winter’s day. Alone. And suffering a deep depression.
I needed help. Group therapy sounded good. And I got it. From the vastly swollen ranks of the “SA-positive” people out there who are as hungover as me. On this day after the drunken month before.
So, how to describe how I feel? I can’t. I’m leaving it to you. These are the pick-me-up messages which came my way on facebook and Twitter today… I’ll throw in some pretty pictures just to – how do newspaper journalists say? – “break up the copy”…
Bravo Espana, bravo. the Grand Parade fanfest, filled to capacity with 25000 people was a SA experience i will NEVER forget as long as I live. People crying together, dancing, hugging, never before seen such unity amongst strangers and classes, creeds, colours and ages.
Trust a Ghanaian fan to succeed where Paris Hilton failed. Nobody bothered this bloke when he brought his pot into the stadium.
Dear SAFA – time to put your money where our youth developmental programme should be. How about PSL season to start with a youth league?
We did it South Africa. Thank you world for sharing our beautiful country.
Well done. Somehow, we must all soldier on. And we got our taste of rugby last night with the Dutch team. Sjoe!
The Netherlands' Nigel de Jong, who was later sent off, impresses upon Xabi Alonso of Spain that he didn't miss a single Bruce Lee movie as a kid
SA so in love with the vuvuzela that we name a newly discovered flower after it… iafrica.com
Spain has won the #worldcup of Football, but SA has won the World Cup of nation-building, social cohesion, national unity, pride & branding!
There’s always the Tri-Nations and Currie Cup to tide us over till the Premiership starts…
The football fans are taking lots of Vuvuzelas home #ORTambo #Joburg
Sorry, I'm not sure how this slipped in. The iPhone, I mean.
South Africa: On top of the world. Photo gallery… Times Live
South Africa proved it – the potential is high and the spirit of the people is strong. A metaphor for all of Africa?
South Africa #WorldCup stats ~ Attendance 3,178,856 (49,670 per match) Goals scored 145 ~ Wikipedia
Well done Spain – the best-looking team won the tournament. Well done South Africa – the best hosts won over the world.
The Spanish team seem quite happy to get their hands on the World Cup trophy... after some nutter had earlier run on the field to try to nick it. A Fifa heavy took him out with an almighty forearm smash to save the day. And he wasn't even Dutch.
I’m going to miss buying beers in the street and posing for photo’s with the police in front of Caspirs. Thank you South Africa, as if I needed a reason to love you more.
If the ref had picked up the foul on Robben, I think we’d have a different World Cup winner today! Well done to Spain, though, and to everyone involved in making the World Cup such a great success. I think we can all be extremely proud of the way South Africa rose to the challenge and made those doubting thomases, myself included, eat humble pie! Thanks for a fantastic tournament!!
Just watched all the morning news shows say good bye to the WC. I shed a tear.
The ever-popular Diego Forlan didn't shed a tear when Uruguay didn't make the final. He got so pissed off that he came along anyway, bringing a World Cup trophy his mum made for him back in Montevideo.
M sure s0uth africa are the best h0sts eva yho! even when 0ur teamz wer d0wn nd 0ut ppl still went 2 the stadiumz i salute u SOUTH AFRICA!
Well done, my country! We hosted the biggest sporting event in the world and EVERYBODY thinks it has been the best so far! I can’t wait for the next challenge cos we proved to ourselves that Yes, We Can!
Wow, South Africa, aren’t you proud ? Gosh that was beautiful, I must say, new South African history is written, forget june 16, together we wrote june 11 and it left a smile on all our faces, long live south africa!
Not trusting Eskom, quite a few fans brought their torches along for the closing ceremony at Soccer City last night.
There cannot be a single aficionado (not even in the Netherlands) who will dispute the cosmic justness of Spain’s win. They were better on the day, and they have been better than any team in the world for the last year or two. More than that, they play irrefutable football, football that fathers can watch with their children, football that is cerebral, clean-limbed, dignified, balletic, and immensely loveable—that last because they are not a team of physical giants, but are instead (for the most part) dapper men of modest proportions who wouldn’t draw a second glance if they were alongside one in the subway.”
And this from a Spanish guy… SOUTH AFRICA!!!!!!! A BIG CONGRATULATION TO THE BEST HOST NATION IN HISTORY!!!!! YOU DID AN EXCELLENT JOB AND BRING THE WORLD TOGETHER!!!!! THIS IS YOUR TIME TO SHINE THE WORLD AND YOU DID IT !!!!! AWESOME JOB!!!!!! NOW THE OLYMPICS IS GOING TO 2020!!! AWESOME WC2010!
I think Miguel enjoyed himself. And didn’t we all? Never again will those foreign predictors of doom – and our own naysayers – disrespect us. Yes, we are South AfriCAN.
We hoped he would turn up for one last hurrah. And, as always, Mr Mandela didn't let us down. Madiba, have we told you recently how much we love you?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to bed. I’ve got to try to shift this hangover…
Note to neighbour: Would you mind terribly, old chap, not blowing the old vuvu just for the rest of today? Ta.
So you think I’m off my chuffing rocker? Er, that would be right.
But hear me out. The clever money is on one of Brazil, Argentina, Germany or Spain throwing around the World Cup trophy at Soccer City on July 11. Fair dos.
But my heart is on Ghana, the only African nation left in this tournament, triggering off a tsunami of shock around the globe by pulling off the unthinkable.
This is based on one factor. The human spirit. Which, in Ghana’s case, translates easily into team spirit. Please take your place on your fave chair to witness this thing of complete and utter beauty…
Can you imagine Wayne “Garden Gnome” Rooney and his England mates getting their groove going on any kind of similar level? Can you imagine the miserable gits getting any kind of groove going at all? Sitting around in a perpetual state of melancholy and waiting for the London tabloids to dump on them is more their style. Not ideal.
But this impromptu knees-up by the Ghanaians is too beautiful a thing to behold. I loved the way our Bafana Bafana guys sang while they warmed up in the tunnel before their games and if The Black Stars get their groove on when lined up next to Uruguay tomorrow evening, can there be any other result but a win for The Ghanaian Groovers?
I think not. Go, you groovethings, go!
* A powerful, counter-attacking doff of the old red hat goes to James Pearce for supplying the footage.
Right. In about 96 hours time, 94,700 crazy people will be frenzying around inside the illuminated calabash that is Johannesburg’s Soccer City as South Africa and Mexico light the wick of the fizz-pop fandango that is to be the 2010 World Cup.
And stretching across every country on our globe, billions will crane their necks to get the best view possible of the opening match. They will see many things on Saturday night… and one view may be this visual treat…
Jo'burg's Soccer City: not an altogether shabby football ground, is it?
No, we quite like it. Not as aesthetically gorgeous as Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, perhaps, but it’ll do. Fine. So the globe is going to get to see a lot of Jo’burg, Durbs and Cape Town. And maybe a bit more of Bloemfontein and Rustenburg than they would bargain for. But what of South Africa’s small towns, verdant-valleyed villages and rusty-hued hamlets, secreted away behind mountains and filed away, collecting dust, in corners of deserts?
Well, what of them? Are there flags flying in their rutted main roads? Are there rainbow-razzmatazz mirror socks being worn by their donkey-carts? Well? I think, if you wandered into the Karoo today, you’d get a big surprise. And I have another surprise for you.
If you drove out of Cape Town on the R43 tomorrow, bounced over Sir Lowry’s Pass and snaked past the whale-watchers’ paradise of Hermanus, you would – after two hours or so – come across a sumptuous Overberg village that goes by the name of Stanford. You would have to look out for it because you could easily miss it. As many poor, unsuspecting travellers do. But if you catch sight of the Sir Robert Stanford wine estate and you started to slow down next to the Syringa Kennels, you would notice the entrance to the town.
Continue for 250 metres or so down Queen Victoria Street, the main drag, and you will stumble upon this…
Stanford Village Green: not quite Soccer City... but it's ours Pic: Hatman
Yes, that’s our green (well, it’ll be greener after the winter rains). A lot of things happen on this village green. Cricket, horse races, sunset markets, biggest pumpkin competitions… but mostly ladies walking their dogs after a satisfactory afternoon tea. And, I have discovered, it’s a great place to lie on one’s back and stargaze after a hefty night down the pub.
Unlike those crammed into Soccer City this weekend, we won’t be seeing any stars on the field. But we’re doing the best we can. Folks, roll up… roll up to the Overstrand Rainbow Five-a-side Soccer Extravaganza. Our village green will be transformed into a mini-football fest with local teams puffing about, trying to settle old scores, market stalls, coaching clinics… and probably one or two ladies pretending not to notice while walking the dog after yet another highly satisfactory cream tea.
Yes, that’s how we roll in quaint, beautiful Stanford, one of the finest preserved Victorian villages in the fairest Cape. But roll we do. The media will be there to document the festivities. Not Sky Sports or the London Guardian or ESPN or the New York Times. But the Stanford River Talk, the Hermanus Times, Whale Talk Magazine, Whale Coast 96.5fm, the Fasttrax Marine film company and the Fijn Bush Telegraph will be reporting on our main World Cup event, so that people tending to their farms in even more isolated parts of our little piece of the world will learn of it.
Here is the authentic heartbeat of our great country, tiny specks on the map which will not see the likes of Messi, Rooney and Kaka in the flesh. But we will have fun anyway. And the proceeds of our fun will go to the Hermanus Trust, a local educational and social NGO, and the benefits will be felt long after the last ball is kicked.
Local businesses taking part are, among others, La Finestra Restaurant, Stanford Hills Estate, Pam Golding (Stanford), Stanford River Talk, Gypseys Restaurant and Birkenhead Brewery. the first match kicks off at 9am on Friday, June 11 with the final being played on Saturday, June 12. A floating trophy will be presented to the winning team.
So to those fortunate enough to watch Steven Pienaar split the Mexican defence with an inch-perfect pass for Katlego Mphela on Saturday, we Stanfordians say: “Give them horns, guys!” And, we solemnly promise, if we spot a new Steven Pienaar in the making on our village green this weekend, we’ll start grooming him for the 2018 World Cup. Ayoba!
OK. You Hatpeople brave enough to regularly enter this blogspace know that my mission in life is to enrich yours. That’s what I do. I can’t help it. I was put on this planet to make you feel better.
To help you rise above the drudgery of your daily lives in South Africa, a country painted by London tabloid newspapers as being more barren of pleasure than the Siberian hamlet of Hellonearthagrad, a South African nation on the brink of civil war and facing certain episodes of earthquake, volcanic eruption, drought, floods, terrorist attacks, general pestilence and regular outbreaks of typhoid, scurvy and the particularly nasty Malemaria. All of this during the four weeks of the World Cup.
Oh, and yellow fever… which a medical expert at Groote Schuur Hospital tells me has no cure and involves millions of free radicals moving around the body of South Africa wearing yellow jerseys, blowing vuvuzelas and doing the Diski Dance. In which case I’m already infected and about to die and go to heaven. Boo-hoo.
But, of course, I have digressed. Where was I? Oh, yes, I was about to lift you out of your British tabloid-blighted lives and put an “SA-positive” smile on your dial.
No problemo, babies. Fix yourselves a drink to suit the time of day (it may just be your personal time for Happy Hour?), flop back into your Laziman recliner, light something (I’m not encouraging you to break any laws, OK?) and try not to touch yourself while you watch this beautiful scenario unfold… (I suggest you click on “Full Screen” at top right to soak it all up in full Sensaround)
Wow. How was that for you. You feel like lighting up now, don’t you? Because the earth moved for you didn’t it? That’s cool. I felt like that too.
This 360 degree virtual tour malarkey was produced by John Gore and his very clever camera which is certainly a step up from the Kodak Instamatic I point at cute kids and puppies. Lekker, hey? And that was just Cape Town Stadium which, as my Cape Town readers are fond of pointing out, I didn’t like nearly as much as the stunning Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durbs or Soccer City in Jozi.
Never mind. No city can have the world’s most photographed mountain AND the best stadium. And, as soon as my mate John has got his 360 degree angles working around Moses Mabhida and Soccer City, I’ll take you on a tour of those too.
Because, as I keep saying, I only exist to give you good reason to want to keep on living in the most sublime country in the world. The one that is about to stage the most beautiful World Cup the planet has ever seen. In roughly 192 hours from now. Ye Gods, I’m spilling out of my skin here at that thought!
Not all of you are totally as one with what football and the World Cup is all about. For those who could be accurately described as soccer ignoramuses to get the most out of their World Cup viewing, here is some sort of non-essential 10-point guide to what they call The Beautiful Game…
1. “Soccer” is really football. Well, this is what it is called in Britain, where the game originated, but that confused the Americans because they already had American football (grid-iron, that game they play while wearing spacesuits). So they renamed it “sarker” (ie soccer, which is an abbreviation of “Association Football”, the official British name given to distinguish football from Rugby Football which, as everyone at the Stanford Arms on a Saturday evening knows, is rugby, or “ruckby” in Afrikaans). It’s fine if you are confused… because we all are!
2. There is a saying, attributed to “a certain Chancellor of Cambridge University” and quoted in the Times of London on January 30, 1953, which goes… “Football (soccer) is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen”. This appears to be generally true although it perhaps should now be updated to “Football (soccer) is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen, apart from Bakkies Botha”. Rugby fans could also be forgiven for changing this to “Soccer is a wussy game played by sissies” due to the over-the-top rolling around in “extreme agony” executed by soccer players when they recognise the opportunity to get an opponent cautioned (yellow carded) or even sent off (red carded) after any decent tackle which is unlikely to even result in the tackled player receiving the slightest bruise.
Oh, dear. When soccer players aren't rolling around like big girls blouses trying to get opponents sent off, they celebrate goals like this. Not ideal.
3. OK. Time for some other basic rules. Football used to be played between two teams each consisting of 11 on-field players, a couple of substitutes (who replaced an on-field player if he died) and a manager who would do all the coaching of the players. It is now played by two teams consisting of 11 on-field players, at least five substitutes (who come on to replace a player if he is bleeding in any way or if he has picked up a bruise or if he is feeling tired and feels like a sip of Energade or if his hairstyle has been spoilt or if time needs to be wasted towards the end of the 90 minutes to ensure a draw or a win), a manager, several coaches (goalkeeping, defensive, attacking and general method acting), a psychotherapist, a specialist dietician and a small army of hairdressers. Plus a whole bunch of other hangers-on who I’m not going to bother telling you about.
4. Right. Now the whole point of a game is for one of the 10 out-field players (the goalkeeper, who wears a different colour jersey, generally stays in the goals to try to stop the other team from scoring) to whack the ball using any part of his body apart from his hands into the opposing team’s goal. This is called a goal. And you need to score more of them than the other team to win. If both teams score the same number of goals (eg. 1-1, 2-2 etc) after the “normal period” of 90 minutes, then the match, if is part of a knock-out competition such as the World Cup (apart from the group games), goes to extra-time (two halves of 15 minutes) and if, after that, it is still a draw, a penalty shoot-out ensues. This is a reasonably modern addition to the game to stop a replay having to take place and to indulge the modern fan’s predilection for instant gratification.
5. Fine. Still with me? Good! OK. Player formations. This was very simple back in the day. There was the goalkeeper (who wore No 1 on his back), two full-backs (No’s 2 and 3), a centre-back (No 5), two wing-halves (No’s 4 & 6) and, up front, there was a right-wing (7), inside-right (8), centre-forward (9), inside-left (10) and left-wing (11). Nice and simple, hey? Today, of course, we need it to be more complicated. The goalkeeper has stayed the same and generally wears No 1 on his back but coaches like to, depending on whether the team is playing at home or away and who they are playing against, use a variety of formations: 4-4-2 (four defenders, four midfielders and two strikers), 4-3-3, 5-3-2 or, in the case of Inter Milan’s semi-final second leg against Barcelona in this year’s Champions League (in which they were defending a 3-1 lead away from home) 9-0-1 (nine defenders and one very bored striker). With the amount of money at stake these days, it’s win at all costs, bru. Or get sacked.
6. Talking of money, which we know makes our greedy world go round and certainly makes the very professional round-ball game go round and round, we now get to the really important facts. Top-level players in the English Premier League get paid between 50 and 150 thousand pounds sterling a week. By their clubs. For playing football. Yes. That averages out at about R1.4 million a week. Can you imagine being 25, being of below average intelligence and coining it like that? That’s why many pro footballers get into trouble. After they’ve bought the mansion, the Aston Martin, the Lamborghini and the gold-plated Playstation, they often start spending the rest on naughty things, get caught out by a tabloid newspaper, have to explain their behaviour to their girlfriends and mummies and become even more famous. And then they carry on playing football, become even more famous and get paid more money. Nice work if you can get it, hey?
Victoria Beckham: Well ropey. With a WAG like this, a footballer could be excused for playing away. Or sticking to kissing his team-mates.
7. Because these players earn so much dosh for doing so little and become so famous, they usually only date topless models and then marry fully clothed models and dodgy pop singers. Yes, like Victoria Beckham (formerly Posh Spice). Even if you know nothing about football, you will know about this phenomenon. WAGs (or Wives And Girlfriends). Then famous footballer and famous wife “endorse” all sorts of washing-up products, shampoos and budgie cages and become even more wealthy and famous. And this is because many among us like to watch Gossip TV, read OK! Magazine and believe all the dross put out by agents and ad agencies who live similar lifestyles. I’m not at all jealous. No, really. But I digress… back to football.
8. By the time you read this, there will be less than two weeks to go before the World Cup opening ceremony at our magnificent Soccer City Stadium in Jo’burg. It’s a great shame that it is not called Nelson Mandela Stadium instead of being made to sound like a giant shopping mall selling only footballs. But there’s nothing you and I can do about that. What we can do is choose to embrace the 2010 World Cup being held in our beautiful country or not. It’s up to you. Unless you live here in Stanford, our tranquil oasis, and don’t buy newspapers or switch on the TV for a month. In which case life will continue pretty much as normal. But I urge you to take an interest in the most wonderful thing to ever happen to us. Buy a Bafana Bafana jersey (make sure it’s not a fake), blow a vuvuzela (but not after 10pm at night and certainly nowhere near the Arts Cafe where you’ll only upset the cappucino crowd) and at least attend the local soccer tournament being held on the village green on June 11. It’s going to be a lekker jol.
9. There will be 32 nations represented at this World Cup. They include Brazil, Italy, Germany and Argentina (who take turns to win it) and countries such as Honduras (somewhere in South America), Slovenia (which used to be part of another country and is somewhere in the Balkans) and the USA (which used to be restricted to North America but now seems to be everywhere). The 32 squads are split into eight groups of four. The top two teams in each group after the group games go through to the last 16 and start the knock-out phase until two teams are left to contest the final on July 11. I exhort you to be patriotic and support Bafana Bafana (which translates into “The Boys” in English) but you’d be delusional to expect them to make the final. But we live in hope. And we South Africans are better at living in hope than winning really important international soccer matches. So you never know.
10. OK. Please focus. This is the most important thing about the World Cup. I’m really sorry about all those locals who got really excited and turned their homes into guesthouses for one month of football in the hope of making a quick buck and becoming as rich as Wayne Rooney. It was never going to happen. And it won’t. Football fans the world over are generally working-class and won’t spend much on anything other than alcohol, take-aways and riotous visits to various brothels. They’d rather sleep on a park bench and have more cash to spend on beer the next day. No, the “Big Win” for South Africa will come in a couple of years’ time when those billions of wealthier people all over the planet, after watching South Africa show off it’s natural splendour and human warmth during the World Cup, might decide to take their holidays here. And bring aircraft carrier-loads of dosh to throw at game parks, hotels, wine estates, restaurants and fancy shops. So the real spin-offs will be felt in years to come. So much to look forward to. Be patient. Just as well we South Africans are good at doing that too, hey?
*This article was originally commissioned by Stanford River Talk, the excellent community newspaper for the ridiculously beautiful village of Stanford in the Western Cape, and appears in its June issue
After watching this video featuring “The Ten Best Goal Celebrations of the 2002 World Cup”, I was struck between the eyes by two massive thunderbolts.
Thunderbolt One: Only the celebrations by the Nigerian and Senegalese goalscorers did justice to the goals scored. The pathetic gestures by the European players were, well, very European (read restrained). I think that might be because, in northern Europe anyway, one is required to be very drunk before celebrations are, by law, allowed to be unrestrained. And playing while drunk in World Cup matches doesn’t appear to be universally condoned. Shame.
Thunderbolt Two: African footballers – and, ye gods, their fans – need little excuse, and certainly no alcohol, to erupt in wild and totally unrestrained celebrations. A goal is all that is required to spark off a field-wide party vibe guaranteed to leave their Euro counterparts gobsmacked and the referee battling an intense panic attack.
You may remember Roger Milla of Cameroon selecting the best-looking corner flag with which to have public sex after he scored a cracker at the 1990 World Cup. The world gawped at his on-field tryst with a wooden pole and it inspired African footballers to devise all manner of unique and innovative celebrations.
Roger Milla gets jiggy with a corner flag after scoring a goal at the World Cup 1990
Nice, Now watch how Julius Aghahowa of Nigeria, after witnessing two very sad attempts by an Irishman and a German to execute a decent flick-flack, took it all to another level completely after scoring against Sweden. His celebration, in my book, appeared to include a quadruple somersault, a triple flick-flack and a cartwheel, mercurially topped off with a double pike. Too beautiful. I’m sure the United States Olympic Diving Association tried to create an American grandmother and passport for him after seeing that.
Anyway, after you’ve done the usual “pause-while-the-vid-buffers-to-allow-uninterrupted-viewing” manoeuvre, sit back and be mesmerised by how Aghahowa and Bouba Diop show the Europeans how proper celebrations should come across…
How cool was that, hey? I know. I am hoping that there will be a bagful of goals scored by the African teams in this World Cup, if only so we can soak up the 11-man after-party.
I trust that South Africa coach Carlos Parreira is giving the Bafana Bafana boys lots of time off to practise their Diski Dance. You never know. South Africa might even score a goal in this World Cup (pardon the sarcasm) and then we’ll see how well our guys have been paying attention to those hip-swerving fans in the Vodacom ads.
You lost me for a moment there. I was dreaming of our centre-back baldy Matthew Booth rising majestically to head home a cross against Mexico… and then settling with the rest of the team into a humungous hip-sway in the middle of the illuminated calabash we call Soccer City.
So you’ve got your tickets for South Africa vs Mexico and you’re feeling very chuffed with yourself. Smug even. You’ve been winding up old Fanie at work that you’re going to be at the opening match of the World Cup while he he has to sit through SABC’s waffle on the game.
But hang on. You’ve forgotten something. Something that could potentially ruin your enjoyment of the occasion. You’re taking your Dad, right? And your old man only ever goes to the rugby. So it doesn’t really matter at Loftus or Newlands or the Shark Tank whether he knows the words to Nkosi Sikelel i’Afrika, does it? He can move his mouth, like the rest of the okes, during the African language part and then give it loads when it gets to the Afrikaans and English bits at the end. Yes?
It’s OK. Relax, bru. I’m guilty too. I sukkel big-time with all that “maluphakanyisw’” and “imithandazo” and “gebergtes” stuff as well. But help is at hand. Your Dad’s going to be just fine. The people around you at Soccer City aren’t going to check you out skeef. Your “SA-positive” blog to the rescue. Here follows a totally kiff idiots guide to learning ALL of the words of our seriously confusing national anthem. Even I can understand it. So check it out… (warning: people older than me and over 40 might need a magnifying glass)…
There. Sweet, hey? I bet you’re feeling a lot better about taking your ballie (father or old man for our foreign readers) to the big game. Just print this baby out and you’re well on your way to enjoying some serious credibility among the seasoned soccer fans at the stadium. And, an extra tip for absolutely free, don’t forget to take your vuvuzela. But don’t get slack and blow it DURING the national anthem. That would just be silly. Save it for the Mexican anthem. Psychological advantage and all that. Only joking! Sepp Blatter will probably have you and the old guy thrown out!
* I must proffer a Diski-style jig of the old red hat to fredhatman.co.za Wildlife Correspondent Daryl Balfour for sending this in. Nice of him to stop photographing lions and rhinos charging at him long enough to think of me!