A World Cup experience is unique, regardless of its host nation. South Africa is putting its best foot forward and here are some of my thoughts after being lucky enough to attend two of the group matches in Cape Town. The first game I attended was the very first game to be hosted in the Mother City and it was on a bizarre kind of day. One of those unique ‘never-to-be-repeated’ kind of days. “Why?” I hear you asking, well, let me tell you.
The opening game at Green Point stadium was the excruciatingly boring goalless draw between France and Uruguay. I had high hopes for this game, but the French disappointed, but why was the day so unique? Because for the first time during my 27 years our entire country was united behind football, not rugby, not cricket, but football (or soccer as it is known here). I was already a very proud South African, and then we managed a solid draw against Mexico which was incredible, but there was a funny aftertaste lingering once the final whistle had blown.
We headed to the Fan Walk Way and for the Holy Grail, Green Point Stadium or Cape Town Stadium, I think, it’s undecided. Along the Fan Walk you will find stall after stall of great trinkets, keepsakes and of course, our united voice, the vuvuzela. We arrived at the stadium and within 20 minutes from being at the back of the queue, we were walking up the stairs and it suddenly sunk in, it is really here, and we can feel it.
The stadium is beautiful and once we’d picked up some cold beers we stood marvelling at the inside of the grounds before making our way to our seats. Then the players came out to warm up and the drone of our vuvuzelas brought the World Cup home. I let us add our little bit of Africanism to the footballing showpiece.
The Fan Walk home was just as easy, with some smart road closures and tons of uniformed police to keep things in check, both our walks to and from our games couldn’t have been easier or more enjoyable. The town was alive when we got back to the heart of the city and I can only compare it to the festive feeling that winning the rugby World Cup brought us. A sense of euphoria was lit up by the massive lights illuminating our most famous landmark, Table Mountain.
The second game I attended was the Netherlands taking on Africa’s already eliminated team, Cameroon. The game was incredible, the ‘Orange Tide’ flooded Cape Town and being founded by the Dutch, many of our South African roots (Dutch and German for me) are planted in Europe. After we left I was trying to compare it to our previous visit to the stadium and I couldn’t. There was the same fantastic atmosphere and feeling amongst the revellers, but it was different. It wasn’t a dream anymore, the World Cup was there, so was I. And it worked, everything works, even the Cape Town rain stayed away from the games I went to watch.
This African World Cup is phenomenal, and people who aren’t attending it are missing out. There have been no major incidents and EVERYONE is enjoying it. Aside from stadium names to iron out, all of the world’s pre-tournament skeptics can rest easy. We’ve pulled it off. Mzanzi.