One of the crazy things about the World Cup is the emotional roller coaster that every fan is taken on from the very beginning. It doesn't matter who you are a fan of- the USA, Ghana, Mexico, England- Germany might not counted in this because of the ice that seems to run through their veins- okay that's a joke, but seriously I sometimes wonder. Honestly though, I say this because as I read through my last post I realized that as high as we felt the other day, we felt as low last night. Our guys are done. It's that simple. It's clean- there are no hanging chads, no reviews of the "tape", no costly legal wranglings aimed at a reversal of the outcome. Pack it up- we going home! But 30 other teams and their throngs of fans worldwide will feel, if they haven't already, the disappointment, despair, and an overall longing to still be a part of it. Brazil 2014 is already on my mind, though I wish it weren't, at least for another week or two.
Yesterdays game is the cause of much discontent for not just myself but for everyone still remaining in our group. We started as a "wolf pack" of 7, but lost Ryan (bottom) after the second US game. This isn't to say that Ryan didn't make the most of his short time here. In his 8 days here the guy made it to 5 total WC games. Now THAT is a sprint! Then we lost Clint taking our numbers to 5. Clint being a foriegn soil World Cup sophomore this trip tallied his 14th World Cup game game in 3 overall WC's. But it was this reduction in numbers made us think that we could change the way we went to last nights game. Our previous trip to Rustenberg was the USA's 1st game against England. We had only been here in South Africa for little more than 48 hours, we had two cars and not a clue where we were going so we found a nice bus that promised to give us a comfortable ride to the stadium. That trip left us with a poor taste regarding the overall efficiency of the public transport here in South Africa. So for this game we determined that if we left early enough in the day we could drive ourselves up to the stadium and meet some other US fans at local pub for some pre-game and the application of our face paint. We made it to Rustenburg without a problem, although I was licking the wounds of a major night out the previous evening. Unfortunately for me it was extremely difficult to find a comfortable position in which to feel miserable because we put 5 people(3 of which are in no danger of death by malnutrition) in a car meant to transport 4 pygmies . We looked like a clown car for sure!
When we arrived in Rustenberg we were told by our trusty GPS to take a left and head down to "Lucky's" where we were to meet the others. We pulled up to the intersection and were told by a cop, no parking permit, no left turn Clyde, so on we drove into the heart of Rustenberg. What we saw is hard to describe and Brett didn't feel it was good idea to slow down to take pictures. It looked like what I imagine Watts looked like after the riot. Trash everywhere, locked down deserted shops, and a "taxi stand" that looked to be about the size of a football field, packed with people and lined with stands selling who knows what. In the end we figured our best bet would be to utilize a park and ride that had been seen on the way in, so off we went. The park and rides are set up to take people from their vehicles, in buses, to the stadium. The idea is simple, there is nothing about this system that would leave a person to think that it could be FUBAR. They get us parked, we jump on a bus and make our way to the stadium. We are dropped off on the complete opposite side of the stadium that they will let us enter so we walk. We are told that Lucky's is about a 1/2 hrs walk but there is a shebeen just across the way. A shebeen is a house that has been turned into a bar and frequented mostly by black South Africans after being unable to enter normal pubs during apartheid. We wondered what these would be like so we were excited to get in and check it out. We walked in the font door and were greeted with a cloud of body odor and loud, aggressive drunk dudes. It wasn't a hostile aggressive, more like "Holy Crap! Look what just walked in here! I wanna talk to THOSE guys!" I had a conversation with a guy that lasted a good 3-4 minutes and I didn't understand a single word he said to me! 3-4 minutes of worrying whether I should be nodding yes or no is an extremely long time. So I said a lot of things like "definitely" and "right?" and "ohhh, you know it!". He kept trying to shake my hand and I kept trying to counter with fist pumps and hitting my chest above the heart. I think I turned away after a proper goodbye was made. I had my beer, a $1.00 40oz to freedom, and I was making my way back out into the welcome fresh air, which says something about the smell in that place because the air here SUCKS! I turn to see German being accosted by a young man that was extremely proud of his US Army cargo pants. He has his arm around German and talking very excitedly about something- probably similar the the conversation I had just excused myself from, and it is extremely obvious that my friends comfort zone is on the other side of the universe at this moment. I move in an attempt to get my boy out of this mess when I am spotted by GI Joxi. He greets me with an enthusiastic roar while holding firm to his newest American buddy, when from his mouth I see a large gob of spittle exit and fly in super slow motion across the distance that separates us and land square on my cheek just below my eye. Inside I screamed like a 12 yr old girl in a horror flick. We leave.
A this point I am still not feeling very well from my rock star evening the night before and as a result the beer is slightly bitter. But, we are outside the lions den and back in the dusty front yard. Cory and I are thinking that it might be worth while to go check out what sort of food is on the menu over at the local Tuck Shop. Corey and I walk up, we are greeted by a very friendly young lady and the following, almost unbelievable, conversation follows: Me- Hi!, She- Helloooo my handsome friends, Me- So, whats on the menu tonight? She- Well you are going to have to wait 15 minutes because the meat is cooking. Me- Okay, so what kind of meat is it? Beef? Chicken? Pork? She- Well it's like beef yeah, its red meat. Me- Well I prefer my "like beef" medium rare. She- 15 minutes honey and I will make you a nice plate! I then look at Corey and say "I will definitely be back at this spot in 15 minutes to try me some 'like beef'!" She winks at us as we walk away. True to my word, 15 minutes later I bought a plate of that delicious "red meat". I have no idea what it was and I don't care, it was delicious!
We made our way back toward the stadium and found that once again there was absolutely no order to be found in any way for anything. We have begun to refer to the WC2010 as the "Ghetto Style World Cup". The line for beer is about 45 minutes long, and this is not at all an exaggeration. We have also found that once again there is no US section. We paid for Category 3 tickets because in each of the last 3 WC's the US supporters sections were together in this category. I would have been happy to spend an extra $20 or so per ticket for better seats if I was going to be peppered in with fans from who knows where, and not in support of my team. For instance, there was a young English kid, perhaps 17yrs old, wasted with his dad standing in the isle near our section. He was taunting us and repeatedly telling us that we were going home. Never before have I wanted so badly to throttle someone! It was only made worse when it looked as though this kid might be right. Things were righted in some ways at the half when another of the US contingent saw from around the stadium that our section was the only section in the stadium that refused to sit down and shut up. We were approached by the security staff to please sit down. This request was met with a cheer of "Stand up for the USA, Stand up for the USA, Stand up for the USA..." Security quit trying to make us sit down. So for the 2nd half our numbers doubled and we did what we could to be heard over the now loathed vuvuzela.
Once the game was over we headed back to where the buses were to pick us up and return us to our car. This is just another example of the complete and total lack of anything resembling organization at these events. There is no fan parking within probably 2 miles of the stadium so all 35,000 people in the stands this night were waiting for these buses or trying to find the specific bus that brought them from some other town. Rather than have an organized line-perhaps a system of ropes, nothing fancy just something to fill these buses in some sort of orderly fashion, they have fencing that runs along the edge of the bus pick-up area and the funnels toward a pick-up point. The result is people pushing like cattle toward an exit about 5 ft wide. Thousands of people, trying to get through four 5 ft wide exits, in the middle of a dusty field, miles away from the cars. To make matters even more utterly surreal, some people think that blowing the vuvuzela in the midst of this utter Cluster F%&k is not only a good idea, but something that must be done the entire time. At one point I just fell into a fit of laughter asking "are you serious?!?!", but in a much more colorful way. At last we made it to the car, and we find that it is obvious here as well that there is no method to the madness. There were cars parked facing every possible angle, there are 2 exits that are being approached in exactly the same way as the exit to the buses and to make the night absolutely, perfectly unbelievable one of the parking attendants is patting his belly asking Brett if he can have $20 Rand. Dude?!? Quit begging and start working because this isn't!! Look around! Unreal.