Monday, July 12, 2010

South Africa July 2010

2010 World Cup summary.

To paraphrase Boris Becker nobody got killed - it was a football tournament.

The Melville area of Johannesburg was back to ‘normal’ on the Monday after the World Cup final with power cuts and extra roadworks.

But my feeling was that the country had moved forward - at least slightly.
The overall transport infrastructure had been improved and on one level South Africa did show it could host such a showpiece event without serious mishap.

Whatever happens they have an impressive range of quality stadiums.

Looked at in more detail the transport for the matches was generally below the standard normally expected at a World Cup (or any such event), with various stories of park & ride and similar nightmares.
But, as they say, this was Africa.

Its hard to say to what extent the feelgood factor especially related to racial harmony will continue into the future. However it was a step along the way of a marathon road.

For sure without a considerable lessening of unemployment and a vastly improved education system the country will still suffer from the same issues.

The stadiums were well filled with the white Rugby fans enthusiastically joining in - by choosing a team to follow after the exit of Bafana Bafana , painting their faces, adopting fancy dress and incessantly blowing their vuvuzelas.

So it was very much a noisy, carnival atmosphere.

Many arrived late, often because of transport problems and others left early, to avoid transport issues.

All of which, at times, made it hard to concentrate on the football.

So compared to past tournaments I would always be nostalgic for an event like Italia ‘90 without mobile phones, digital cameras or face painting.

Give me Nessun Dorma and the ball juggling at half time any day and ‘real’ football fans attending the matches, without all those transport (and other) restrictions.

But I realise that was a different world.

Now the stadium experience is bound by rules meaning you can drink only one beer, a few fizzy drinks, some strange sandwich options, crisps, chocolate bars and hot dogs for the more daring.
It was only towards the end of my visits did I see a stall selling more upmarket coffee options.

Outside the street sellers tried to make the most of their opportunities as the exterior restrictions were eased.

Ignoring their cramped facilities I enjoyed the atmosphere at the established stadiums of Loftus in Pretoria and Ellis Park in Johannesburg more than most. And once you had worked out where to park both could offer nearby restaurant options for refreshment prior to the games.

Viewed from afar Cape Town and Durban were probably the most eyecatching stadia although Soccer City with its size and expanse of orange seats looked very impressive when inside.

As for the football we started with concerns regarding the ball, various goalkeeping errors and a strong showing by the South American teams.

Then the holders, Italy and runners-up France exited the competition and a poor (and poorly managed) England side were to follow soon after.

It was eventually left to the top Europeans to dominate the closing stages with an impressive German side showing what can be achieved with young talent.
Holland overcame Brazil and ran champions Spain close, albeit with dubious tactics in the final.

Amongst the 26 World Cup matches I attended in, I guess, an average tournament, I’d seen some dramatic games (e.g Ghana v Uruguay, Slovakia v Italy), some boring ones (e.g Japan v Paraguay, England v Algeria) and a well deserved winner in Spain.

I always opted to forgo public transport (with one exception) and park and walk at every opportunity. A tactic that worked well enough although it meant I spent many hours at the stadiums prior to the kickoff.

My only seriously stressful day was during my flight from Cape Town to Durban for the second semi-final. But finally even that worked out OK.

Somewhat remarkably in five weeks I never saw any rain.

And, uniquely in recent times, tickets were often readily available at well below cost price.

So if you could adjust South Africa did deliver without too much trauma and in the end I was sad to leave.

Spain 1 Holland 0 in Soccer City.

World Wide Webb.

Spain deservedly won their first World Cup in a game characterised by the large number of yellow cards (and a red card)

It wasn't easy for Howard Webb to control this one and I thought he did as good a job as was possible in the circumstances.

The Dutch obviously adopted the aggressive tactics to try to disrupt the rhythm of the Spanish passing and it worked in a poor first half of nervy play and misplaced deliveries.

The second period improved and we had the drama of Robben missing a couple of good chances and Inesta’s late winner from a Fabregas pass.

Both goalkeepers played well in contrast to the many errors typical of earlier on in the tournament.
And Spain proved again that the best defence, at least in the knockout rounds, often comes out on top.
It was their fourth 1-0 victory in a row.

But the champions had all round strength not only at the back but with their superb midfield and they could even overcome, in this match, a misfiring David Villa.
Also star striker Fernando Torres had been unfit and unable to reproduce his normal level of performance.

Before the football we saw an Opening Ceremony that started well but petered out after Shakira and others had performed their songs.
However a brief appearance by icon Nelson Mandela did stir the crowd.

Soccer City was cool on a windy night near Soweto making the atmosphere feel untypical for the finish to a World Cup.

The experience of my eighth such final was that it certainly wasn’t the best or the most exciting but I did come away with a feeling of satisfaction and justice that the best team had won.

Botswana 1 Chad 0 in Gaborone.

Zebras on top.

This was a Nations Cup qualifier played at the University stadium as the nearby National stadium was being renovated.

Like many of the roads around Gaborone.

I took a familiar route via Rustenburg, then on past Swartruggens and turning at Zeerust towards the border near Gaborone.

It took well over four hours from Johannesburg including some time at the border crossing for passport formalities and buying a car permit for Botswana.

The Zebras had started their Nations Cup campaign in excellent fashion with a very creditable win in Tunisia and they backed this up with a victory over Chad.

It was a hard fought game played in bright, very dry conditions before around 8,000 spectators who, eventually, packed the Botswana University stadium.
The small ground comprises seven, moderately sized, mostly covered stands with open country beyond.

Botswana had the slightly better quality players than the larger Chad team and they got the win early in the second half from a Mongala (of Orlando Pirates) shot that eluded the Chad goalie.
Then both teams had goals disallowed in a match of limited chances with little of the flow of the World Cup games.

Typically the half time entertainment got the crowd dancing and, inevitably, blowing their vuvuzelas.

I chose the Lobatse route back, got snarled up (and lost) in the Friday afternoon Gaborone traffic, through the Pioneer Gate border crossing to South Africa and made Johannesburg by 10.30pm.

A tiring but enjoyable contrast to the World Cup.

pics are included in

Spain 1 Germany 0 in Durban.

Having spent over 6 hours on a plane from Cape Town, via Port Elizabeth, and arrived at about 6.15pm I was glad to see this second semi-final.

Many failed to make it, being diverted to Johannesburg or PE, due to the inability of the Durban controllers to handle the amount of airport traffic.

The many private jets added to the disruption.

But in the end the road traffic from the airport was light and I was at the stadium just after 7pm.

Durban, with its arch, is one of the most impressive of the newly built stadiums.

In mild conditions the 61,000 crowd saw Spain control possession but develop few chances whilst keeping a secure defence against the counter attacking potential of the Germans.

It took a determined Puyol header to decide the outcome, somewhat ironic after all that passing by the Spanish.

So Spain would play the Netherlands in the final and a new country would be World Champions.

Like the other semi this game lacked something in terms of the atmosphere with few Spanish/German foreign fans and numbers of empty seats.

It would have been nice to spend more time in Durban but I had only about 6 hours sleep before being back at the airport for my return flight to Johannesburg (with only a 20 minute delay this time)

Holland 3 Uruguay 2 in Cape Town.


Holland made it through to their first World Cup final since 1978.

For the Netherlands this was a deserved semi-final victory against a spirited Uruguayan team who had definitely exceeded expectations.

Star player Diego Forlan scored another goal, this time left footed, in reply to a superb opener from Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

The Dutch secured the win with goals from Sneijder and Robben although Uruguay did pull one back near the end.

Somehow the stadium (which was not full) lacked a little atmosphere with limited numbers of 'real' fans of the two teams.

But Green Point itself was vibrant especially amongst those in orange, many of which joined the 'fan walk' before the match.
Many would join the 'fan stagger' after the match.

I'd taken a morning flight from Johannesburg, arranged to stay in Durbanville and parked high above the harbour, off 'high level', as before.

Despite the brooding clouds it did stay dry and cool.

Spain 1 Paraguay 0 at Ellis Park Johannesburg.

From Villa to Post(s)

It took a break from Iniesta and a David Villa shot off both posts for Spain to finally overcome Paraguay in this quarter final.

Before that both teams had missed penalties, first Cardozo for Paraguay then a twice taken effort by Xabi Alonso was saved.

Spain had dominated possession but generally failed to penetrate a tight South American defence before Villa struck the winner.

Having arrived at my regular place I was invited to watch the earlier game at the home of the guy whose parking area I used.
So some coffee and some samosas went down well whilst watching Germany 4 Argentina 0.

After that steak and chips with the locals in a Bertrams 'cafe'.

Ellis Park was tolerably cool and dry.

Uruguay 1 Ghana 1 in Soccer City. Uruguay won 4-2 on penalties.

Baghana drama.

The winner of this game knew they would play Holland in the semi-finals after the Dutch had surprisingly beaten favourites Brazil earlier in the day.

It was an excellent, intriguing match with some stunning late drama.

Ghana ('Baghana Baghana') had the vast majority of the 84,000 crowd supporting them as the two sides battled for supremacy.

Sulley Muntari was to open the scoring just before half time but Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan equalised from a free-kick soon after the break.

The two sides continued to be closely matched well into the second period and then into extra time until we had the memorable goalmouth scramble that resulted in Luis Suarez being sent off for handball on the goal line.

Asamoah Gyan blasted the resultant penalty over, much to the Uruguayan's delight.

So we went to a shootout in which Gyan showed great character to score the first penalty for the Ghanaians.

But two misses, including one from captain John Mensah, meant Uruguay's Sebastian Abreu had the opportunity to seal the victory - which he did with a Panenka-style chip.

Thus Ghana would not be the first African team to reach the World Cup semis and the locals would have to choose another team to support (and buy another shirt)

I'd watched from the lower tier, in the 'corporate area', in typically dry, cool weather.

more pics at

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