South Africa World Cup June – July 2010 Part 1

September 20, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Unfinished Cape Town stadium from our hike up Table Mountain, December 2008

We’re superexcited for this trip, possibly like no others before. Maybe it’s the World Cup, maybe it’s because we’ve been planning for five years, maybe just because I’m going home again, and there are very few places that get me going as much as Cape Town, the city I always regard as my home.

The trip doesn’t start well – on the way to the airport we learn our email has been hacked into, so apparently friends from all around the globe – thanks – are calling to see if we’ve really been mugged at gunpoint in London, and if we actually are desperate for money. the fake email is written in the most shocking English so i’m amazed some people take it seriously, but I suppose one must take that as a positive.  Then, true to form, Benjy is horribly sick on the plane. Throwing up, and sometimes worse than that, the constant threat of throwing up. Liora’s joining us a few days later – she doesn’t really want to drive the whole day twice to see an extra game – so I can’t feign sleep and fob him off onto her. It’s miserable.

In London, we leave the airport – no muggings, and I hold on tight to our bags – and shlep into town to watch the England  Slovenia game in a pub. It’s a great idea, but the tube is blazing hot and Benjy feels worse. So we get out early and he throws up again, this time in Earl’s Court tube station, a nice, big one, and we’re impressed that someone comes over to clean it up immediately.

After the game – somehow when sport is involved, Benjy manages to rouse himself for a while – we head back to Heathrow and our next transatlantic overnight flight. A sleeping tablet gets him through the half the flight but there’s no saving us for the next half. I notice that in the modern era of flight, the flight attendants don’t dare clean up your mess – here they provide a blanket to cover the mess in the aisle and let me suffer the glares of fellow passengers for a few hours.

However, once we arrive in Cape Town , all is forgotten. The city is decorated with flags and signs and the excitement is palpable. Our first game – Holland v Cameroon – is later that night, so I make the boys have a nap so they’ll be properly awake for the experience.

The boys in Greenmarket Square before our first game

Waking them is not easy, but we get a ride to the fanzone which is another word for Dutch pre match party. It looks like Holland are playing themselves; the city is a sea of orange. We buy vuvuzelas at Greenmarket Square and spend time watching on tv at a cafe as Italy crash out with a shock defeat to Slovakia. The Dutch supporters are very pleased about that. Then it’s time to walk to the stadium, approximately a mile away, but longer on the pedestrian fan walk. It’s great fun though with the noise, food, stalls and great atmosphere. It feels like a great big party.

First game near the stadum

Lots of little stores on the fan walk to stadium - this one aptly named

After months of waiting and at least two weeks of unbearable frustration – Benjy has gone to school late every day of the tournament – we at last enter the stadium. It’s incredibly exciting and for me very emotional – just being here with my family, with my dad who just 2 years ago was so sick we thought we’d never be doing this – and funnily, because it’s Cape Town, I keep bumping into people I haven’t seen in years. The stadium itself, which can be seen from quite a distance, is magnificent, gorgeous. We have seen it in various stages of construction over the past two years, so actually going inside to a game is terrific.

Crowd on the way to Holland Cameroon game

Ilani and vuvuzela - very loud

Holland win 2-1, it’s a good game although unfortunately our camera dies. We get hold of Liora to pick up a new one on her way. We’re back home by midnight and collapse into bed after an exhausting few days.

Cape Town stadium as the teams line up

Next morning, Friday 25th June, we’re off on our first World Cup road trip to Port Elizabeth for the Round of 16 game between Uruguay and South Korea. We had hoped this would be South Africa’s game but it was just not to be. It’s great to be driving on the roads I used to know so well. We stop in Riviersonderend (river without an end) – Benjy loves the name – for chocolates, drinks and chicken pies. Nothing like South African food. Even in these small country dorpies (little towns) there are signs of the World Cup everywhere. It’s fabulous. We stop at a roadside Wimpy to see the Brazil Portugal group game – a damp squib if ever there was one – and go on to find our lodgings for the night, Boschrivier. It’s a group of cottages off the main road and as it turns out, impossible to find, especially after sunset when the sky turns black. After many failed attempts, we get there, tired, cold and hungry. My boys and I are too tired to venture out for food so we eat leftover biscuits and biltong for supper while watching Spain beat Honduras. Then we curl up into one not giant enough bed for the night.

We’re up early next morning and off to Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth. We stop outside Plett (Plettenberg bay) at Old Nick’s for a fabulous breakfast. Incredible, freshly baked pastries, a real treat for everyone. Once we reach PE, the organization is outstanding. We park in a designated area (a school rugby field, free) and walk to the stadium. The stadium itself is beautiful, but there’s not much in the area and we’re very early. As we waste too much time deciding what to do, we’re left walking the desolate streets around the stadium, where even getting a bite of lunch is a challenge.

Uruguay v South Korea - a lot of empty seats

The game is itself is most entertaining. Uruguay dominate early and score. Ilani starts falling asleep as the jet lag kicks in. The second half is great as South Korea mount a comeback only to be beaten by Luis Suarez’s wonder goal near the end. By the then, the rain has started teeming down and we’re soaked by the time we get back to the car. The drive back to Plett is miserable in pouring rain and the highway clogged by all the cars going back to Cape Town, presumably for the next game.

The boys and my dad at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium

Sunday we can relax a little as we have no commuting to do. We’re all grateful for the break. We head into Knysna, long one of my favorite towns in SA, to check out the markets and shops. Unfortunately they seem to have a rule that the whole town closes at 1pm on a Sunday. We get there at 12.45. So it’s not quite as exciting as I had intended. We walk around a bit, use the internet, search out a place to watch the next game. In the end, we just go back to our hotel and prepare for the big one, Germany v England. The hotel’s done a grand job, with flags all over and a special viewing room with a giant screen. The kids especially love it as there’s waiter service too. The room is packed, full of England supporters, and then self hating England critics who sort of cheer for England while booing them loudly every time they make a mistake (a lot) and cheering when Germany does something impressive (many more). England are thrashed, and go out, and we’ll see Germany in cape Town on Saturday.

The kids run around the hotel and eat more while I rest a while. Then it’s back to the viewing room for Argentina v Mexico. We like Mexico, but we’re not conflicted by this one. We want Argentina to win as we’ll see the winners play germany on saturday. Argentina do win, in no small part thanks to a horrendous referee/offside non decision, the second refereeing debacle of the day. But no worries, we’re having a grand old time.

Our kids at the hotel