Sunday, June 13, 2010

US vs. England 1-1, and the new luxury vehicle - “Elephante”!

Below is the picture of our group just prior to taking off for the game in Rustenburg.
Upon departure, as you can see, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the upper 60’s to low 70’s. So we left with long sleeves and high hopes, and that would become something we will be sure to remedy the next time we leave the house for any evening jaunts into the African wild. It got cold!
So off to the buses we went with smiles abound and the talk of the evening focused on the potential line-ups our man at the helm Bradley might employ to stifle the English effort at making our debut at the 2010 WC a long and painful one. Will it be Buddle or Findley? Will Gooch get the start? Where might Deuce be most effective? 7 armchair managers on the steps of City Hall waiting for a bus that appears to be running late. Surely they have this all under control I mean we did buy our tickets in a trailer on the grass of a courtyard between the City Hall and a museum, it must be legit!  Our bus is scheduled to depart at 3pm, travel 65 miles and we should be partying with the rest of the contingent by 5 for an 8:30 start. Yes, foreshadowing!
Schedules! We are finding that here in S. Africa, that which is scheduled is really just considered a possibility. If something is scheduled it might just happen, so don’t be late! So at about 3:30 we are patiently waiting for the doors of the bus to close and the journey to begin. We are sitting with about 30 or so others from the US, England, Australia and Denmark- when who should appear at the top of the steps? A very unofficial looking man wearing a red beanie- he says that our bus will not actually be departing until 4:30 but we should not worry as the bus will “fly there, no problems, no problem”! Some of the English aboard the bus begin to cry about a refund, “this is absurd, we should have a full refund”, yet no one steps off the bus as it is known that the drive to Rustenburg is not one for the faint of heart. The US squad missed the opening minutes of the S. Africa/ Mexico game after being caught behind a rather large, slow moving vehicle known, at least in these parts, as an elephant which had found the level terrain of the 2 lane highway to be far superior to the vast areas surrounding the road. We believed the bus to be a much better idea than trying to drive our rentals and force 2 of our crew to be DD’s. So when we finally depart we are in good spirits and we watch as the sun begins to set on the day that we hope will bring us a victory in our first WC match!
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I LOVE my new camera!
So as the sun sets we find that the pace of our chariot has begun to slow, and then come to a complete stop. As we snail toward the horizon we see that cars are beginning to pass us on the shoulder. Our driver starts to become as annoyed as we are by being put behind more and more cars so he moves the bus to the left to block the shoulder. This move is countered by the mass behind us with a pass on the right. Now there are officially 2 lanes of cars on a single lane side of traffic and we are in a bus on the shoulder of the road…Africa! This is the pace of our journey for the next 2 hours. We can see the glow of the stadium off in the distance but we are moving toward it in such a way that every person on the bus is fearful that we may not make this game on time. When we finally arrive at the stadium it is about 45 minutes before kick-off (65 miles in 3hrs 15). But we weren’t late, we didn’t miss anything and we left the bus happy and ready to get inside the stadium that was buzzing with the sounds of the Vuvuzela.
The vuvuzela is something that will not go away during this Cup and it shouldn't necessarily considered a bad thing, though it is a very unpleasant sound. Each of the past 3 Cups we have attended have had their common, overly repeated themes. In 98 it was Ricky Martins song “Cup of Life” heard in every coffee shop, club, bus, and car passing on the road. I felt as if I heard “Goal, goal, goal- ole, ole ole” one more time I would fall into a madness induced coma. In 02 it was the Korean chants of “Be the Reds” and “Korea Team Fighting” that rolled over us in waves from the seas of red shirts that filled the streets and parks, and buses and trains. In Germany 06 we couldn’t walk 10 minutes without hearing the song “Stand up for the Champions”. This time around it is like an invading hoard of locusts created through a long plastic tube. This is not to be outdone though as someone has taken it upon themselves to include what can only be described as a sort of duck call. A much smaller version of the vuvuzela that sounds like a furious baby crying, or perhaps a really pissed off duck. They suck just as bad as the vuvuzela. But, again it is the theme of this Cup and every Cup has its own flavor. I can only look forward to Brazil and hope the theme for that Cup is naked girls dancing in the streets, and restaurants, and buses, and trains, etc. Just kidding, but really, that would be kind of cool- really cool!
So we found our places in the stadium and kick-off was just minutes away when the teams hit the field and and the national anthem began. We sang as the flag fell over our section and we were ready. Unfortunately so was England. They came out strong and scored on us quickly but we were seeing from our boys grit and fight. We felt confident that our team was going to stay in the game and they didn’t disappoint. What was disappointing was the number of English fans in our section. In the past the US contingent has been packed into the Category 3 sections behind one of the goals but this was not the case here. But one benefit to the helter skelter organization here is that it wasn’t hard for the guys with seats away from ours to make their way over to our section. Now there were many highlights to the game but when Dempsey scored the goal in the 40th ish minute we went absolutely mad. I can hardly talk today and I am sure that the 2 or so minutes of screaming like a 12 year old girl after that ball went in is likely the major cause. But oh so worth it. That goal was another shot heard around the world and we saw it live. Brilliant!
A few of the pictures of the stadium and game.
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Today we have plans to walk down to the stadium that is less than a 1/2 mile from our house and see if we can get some tickets to the Serbia vs. Ghana game on the cheap!

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