|Everything and Nothing|
The FIFA World Cup of Soccer has gripped this nation by the short and curlies and has been ruthless with the fantastic bludgeoning it has bestowed upon this nation. Yes…that previous statement was to be taken in the most patriotic and passionate way possible. With some of the greatest football (soccer) I have ever seen in my life as well as some of the most mediocre football I have ever seen, this World Cup has been more incredible than I think any of us have ever thought it would be.
Some of us have been fortunate enough to attend one or two of these amazing spectacles and some of us have not. Those that have not have truly missed out on something great here. I was one of those unfortunate few who had not made the effort to brave the ridiculous early morning lines to grab tickets.
Yes…I have yet to purchase a Soccer World Cup ticket – but – and without divulging too deeply into how I managed to organize myself one, I was lucky, no…privileged…no…honored to have been offered a ticket to one of the World Cup Soccer games.
Now before I make you cream yourself…I was not offered just any ordinary ticket…I was handed the opportunity to see Bafana Bafana, South Africa in their (unfortunate early exit) last game of the World Cup of 2010. I know…I know…makes a frozen Margarita on a hot day seem like a spoon full of chili achar in a Colombian jungle. I cannot describe the elation of being handed that ticket and knowing that I would be attending firstly a World cup final game, but would be attending a Bafana Bafana game…unfortunately, their last, but a Bafana game no less.
With the excitement to the brim “we”, the gaggle of girls – oh, did I not mention that, well, I “escorted” a gaggle of 3 lovely blondes to the game, how lucky am I? – started off early to the game expecting traffic and who knows what else! The condition I
was given in coming along for the experience was that I had to drive…! And yes, if you cast your mind back to the game itself, you would have figured out that the game was set in Bloemfontein…! I thought I knew what I was in for but nothing could have prepared me for the cocktail of three blondes, a Honda and the “open road” to Bloem. I place “open road” in inverted commas because it was in actual fact quite the opposite.
The roads to Bloemfontein were not “bumper-to-bumper”, but there was a variable amount of traffic to be concerned about. Pretending to be enthralled with conversations of the “blonde-persuasion”, I focused fully on the road and the trip there was seemingly painless…apart from the slight congestion at the Toll Gates and the attack of the most annoying bee in the world at the Kroon Petrol Station, the trip flew by without a hitch.
Upon arriving at the Free State Stadium…we passed through the streets of Bloem to which I was surprisingly impressed with. They had really gone all out with street decorations, signage as well as group upon group of local “Soccer Supporters” cheering, dancing and partying on the side of the roads leading up to the Stadium
itself. We parked approximately 1,5km from the Stadium as the Metro didn’t allow any cars to come within a city block radius of the stadium itself – Park ’n ride se gat – we were more than happy to walk after the just-over-4-hour drive.
Now more than ever I began to feel it – yes, FIFA, well done…your branding and catchy-by-liner had caught me unawares…from that moment, hearing the drone from the stadium like a nest of angry hornets being constantly agitated by, “Timmy, the annoying next-door neighbour”, we walked – 3 blondes and a brunette…me!
I’m pretty sure that you’ve got no problem understanding points 1 and 3 but it’s point No. 2 that could be throwing you off just ever so slightly. Well, let me explain it short and sweet like – one of the stunning blondes on the trip was 7 – yes, 7 years old, and an absolute heart-breaker – I feel sorry for the men of her generation because they have got another thing coming when it come to dealing with this broad! Moving on – so, it was my responsibility to look after…”the creature”…who, even before getting to the stadium had grow an affection for being attached to me in whatever way she could! I didn’t mind – she’s a doll and it was an honour to look after such a gorgeous little tyrant…wait…did I say tyrant, I meant angel!
The stadium – humming like a g-d knows what – to me it seemed as though the stadium was already full but by the look of the seemingly thousands upon thousands of people still streaming into the stadium grounds we weren’t late. She’s holding on tight, I say to myself as I walk my way through the madding crowd – Vuvuzela’s trumpeting from all angles and the roar of the stadium louder than ever. On the way to out seats I notice the players are on the field and are still warming up – we’ve got time! We eventually find our seats…Category 1 (which is supposedly pretty good) and I could see why…slap back on the 2nd tier right in-line with the middle of the field.
Perched on my lap for 80% of the game sat “the creature”…I didn’t mind, as all I had to do was jump up and down with her whenever Bafana Bafana came close to scoring, which we did – I can’t begin to explain to you the utter elation I felt after South Africa scored. Listen, I’m a huge soccer fan and I have watched enough football on TV to last me, my kids and their kids a lifetime each but watching it in the flesh, the atmosphere really takes you away from the technicalities of the game and all you’re doing is willing – and I mean that in the most stressful way possible – willing your team to score. I’m not sure which goals were offside, I didn’t see any of the fouls…all I was concentrating on was using my Jedi-Mind-Tricks to will that ball in France’s net. And it happened…TWICE…South Africa, ranked 80-something in the World scored two goals against on the highest ranked teams in the world. Granted the French played ridiculously bad, had a player sent off and did managed to get one back on us with the score finishing 2-1 to South Africa…BUT…we WON!
Attempting to relive the experience in my head is almost impossible because trying to subconsciously reinvent all the sights, sounds, smells and feeling that encompassed what it was like being at that game is almost too difficult for one to describe – it unfortunately falls under the, “you just had to be there” moments – and it truly is! With the influx of FIFA propaganda and more advertising slogans and advertisements than we as consumers have ever seen in our lives, there is one slogan or by-line, if you will, that stands out more than the others. The slogan of…”Be able to say…YOU WERE THERE…” and it now holds new meaning for me and the way I feel about South Africa. As patriotic as I am, I felt a brand new sense of loyalty for my country, a revitalized sense of belonging and fellowship that I believe will stay with me for years to come.