Monday, September 6, 2010

World Cup Diary - Part 2

Driving in South Africa is on wide, flat roads where the speed limit is just a guide. The system that they use for overtaking is ingenious and courteous. The car in front will move onto the shoulder of the road, you flash your hazard lights when you overtake as a 'thank you' and they reply 'you're welcome' by flashing their high beams. Sometimes the overtaking gets a little dangerous as people like to cut it a bit close at upwards of 140km/h. We saw a few crashes around.

The radio stations are great, they have a primary school sense of humour. They seem to only play about 3 songs, one of which is Jet. In fact, South Africa has this weird relationship with Australia. In a sporting sense, they seem to hate us. They think we are arrogant, bad winners, too aggressive. It's strange because we really just have rivalries with England, New Zealand, and maybe America. We really don't even think about South Africa. It's kind of endearing that they hate us, and it made me want to give them a pat on the shoulder.

Arriving at the first town we stayed in Rustenburg, we looked at the sites of the town while we waited for our room to be made ready. There we were in the middle of the Bafokeng Shopping Plaza (adjacent to the Bafokeng Stadium). All the shops were closed except for Shoprite. Ray felt a bit out of place. In Sydney, you would maybe see one African walking on the street in a week. Here we were in a whole shopping plaza full of Africans. We were definitely the odd ones out in this town and it seemed like everybody's eyes were on us. By the next day, we felt right at home. I helped an old lady with her groceries that day, and helped some people with directions.

We decided to head to the match really early, aiming to get there two hours ahead of time. Our hotel arranged a shuttle to the stadium for a cost of $10. The shuttle took us about 1 km before the driver stopped and said we were at the park n ride stop, and we would have to walk the rest of the way. Thankfully, we had some loud Americans who did all the arguing for us, so we hopped out the side of the bus, hanging onto our $10 and walked to the stadium.

At the stadium, it was an amazing sight to see the gold of Australia everywhere. We headed for the beer tent, and all I could see and hear was the sounds of Australians abroad, mostly acting like bogans. There is no such thing as RSA here, so people could buy as much alcohol as they wanted. Beers were about $3 a pop. One guy happened to ask for a whole case of beer. No problem at all. The reputation of Wayne Carey and other Australian ambassadors had preceded us, so the bottles of beer were all made of some plastic composite. Plus the beer was Budweiser. No complaints though, it was all pretty good. No need to get drunk as the joy of holidays and football was unbeatable.

We take our seats and the view is fantastic. Someone starts singing 'Come on Aussie, come on, come on'. The drone of the vuvuzuelas is a great buzz, and after a few minutes, you barely notice it. Looking around the stadium, the proportion has gone from 80/20 Australians, to about 50/50. It turns out some of the initial people wearing gold turned out to be the gold of Bafana Bafana.

The anthem comes on and scarves are in the air. Chills down the spine as I look around at being in the middle of this foreign country surrounded by thousands of people all brought together by Australia and football. It's amazing how distance can bring people closer..

The game kicks off and we are playing pretty well. Kewell is starting and his movement and ability to drop into space and challenge for the ball is impressive, and he is starting to link up well with the other players. We are all ecstatic when Bresciano's free kick is kept out by the keeper only for Holman to follow it up and score. I wasn't sure if I should jump with my injured knee, but I found myself leaping like Cahill and hugging everyone within the vicinity.

Unfortunately, minutes later, Kewell is sent off. I try to message Aneka to find out what exactly happened as they do not show it on the replays here. Ray says from his point of view it was a handball by Kewell on the goal line. The law really should be changed. Harry had no choice, he didn't move his arm towards the ball. The combination of a penalty and a red card is too harsh, it should be just a penalty.

The rest of the game saw Ghana have several chances, mostly from long range. In some ways, the best chance fell to Wilkshire but he just couldn't get there. 1-1 was a great result though, and it kept hope alive for the final game, and most importantly, gave us a lot of happiness that our team could actually play.

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