Friday, December 29, 2006

Kaizer Chiefs v Orlando Pirates December 2006

Often described as the one of the biggest clashes in world football the Soweto Derby between Chiefs & Pirates is certainly an impressive spectacle. A crowd of over 70000 , of which probably less than a 100 are white ,with just a few Europeans (such as your correspondent) in evidence.

Following an overnight flight from the UK it takes about a day to return to 'normal'. The weather certainly helps the process as its at least 25 degrees & usually dry & very sunny. Though a languid feeling tends to take hold - reinforced by seeing the locals strolling around the streets (or indeed the motorways)

Driving from Melville (Jo-burg) it takes around 40 minutes , with one or two wrong turns to get near to the NASREC area/FNB stadium (actually just outside of Soweto) As a newcomer it certainly takes a while to find your way around as signage can be uninformative or non-existent & road names hard to find (often on the kerbside)
You know when you are close because the car park hustlers appear & you see the yellow & black/white colours of the two teams displayed on the vehicles. Parking near the stadium (as I did - not my usual approach but as it was my first visit to a game in South Africa it seemed the safer option) meant a long wait to get in amongst the general chaos with little evidence of police presence.
That gave plenty of time to absorb the atmosphere which was friendly enough as both sets of supporters seemed to mix happily with the early arrivals enjoying their pap (porridge) , beers & maybe some ganja (which I noticed was popular amongst the Ajax Cape Town fans who I saw at another game - being connected to their namesakes in Amsterdam this seemed eminently appropriate)

Inside the mainly open stadium there was a carnival atmosphere enhanced by the pre-game entertainment of dancers/singers & the non-stop noise of the fans' vuvuzelas (horns)
The Pirates supporters occupied the side opposite & half the right hand side (as viewed from the main stand) with the remainder of the stadium being dominated by the Chiefs fans.
The german coach (Middendorp) of the Chiefs chose to leave Shaun Bartlett (ex-Charlton) on the bench & started with young Kaizer Motaung up front. The Bucs included a Tonic, Avril, Innocent , Excellent (who wasn't particularly) & a Lucky (in the end they weren't)

Played at medium pace in sunny & warm conditions the game was dominated by the Pirates who lead early on thru a great Benedict Vilakazi shot & seemed sure to seal their first derby win for a while. But as many of the home supporters were drifting away Bartlett , on as a sub., headed in with just a few seconds remaining.
So only at the end did you see the golden horde of Chiefs fans really animated.

Then it was time to negotiate a way out of the car park & the roads back to the motorway - a procedure that took at least 45 minutes (to travel maybe a mile and a half)
The last game at the FNB ,before the stadium is refurbished in preparation for the World Cup, had finished peaceably.

This derby doesn't have the visceral excitement , visual presentation (no flares, smoke, balloons, few flags) or the songs/chants of the big European or South American derbies.
But certainly it does present an exciting image & though latent during this match I'm sure the volatility evident amongst the crowd could easily erupt under certain circumstances.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Impressions of Buenos Aires November 2006

Sometimes it can take a while for the lift to arrive as the locals typically press the up & down buttons regardless of which direction they wish to go. Breakfast is filling since it often means too many medialunas (pastries) with your coffee. Then you pop out for the sports paper (Ole) to confirm the days football fixtures passing the numerous dog walkers & the odd tramp.
Its morning in Buenos Aires.
Spring it is usually very pleasant , not too hot but bright, sunny & dry. The feeling of renewal, that the best part of the year is yet to come, is uplifting compared to the dark dull days back home in autumnal England.
Walk to the nearest metro station, via one of the numerous Internet cafes, queue for a ticket whilst those begging for change look on. Sometimes they have a child in tow who may have a cleft palate or other such problem.
Taking the metro is usually (apart from walking) the most cost effective, preferred & reliable travel method followed by train, bus & taxi.
Trains can depart from a variety of city stations including 3 adjacent to each other at Retiro &
overcrowding is not unusual - such that riding on the train roof is not uncommon. Expect a steady stream of pedlars to accompany any journey & its advisable to avoid sitting next to an open window passing some areas of BA (to avoid the missiles) Underinvestment is all too evident.
Buses do offer an alternative slower option bouncing along the one-way streets via a myriad of routes.
But regardless of which route is taken at journey's end is a football ground - it could be the Diego Armando Maradona stadium (Argentinos Juniors) , Isles de Malvinas stadium (All Boys) or La Bombonera (Boca)
Either way once inside you experience the passion of a city like no other.