Sunday, June 20, 2010
I have only been to three live soccer games in my life. Two in one day in the UK - 26December 1998 - I sat frozen to the spot and watched Blackburn play Aston Villa and Bolton play....some other team. Cold, Grey, Damp! The chanting crowd stood huddled in their beanies and jackets - their scarves hanging limply. The clocked ticked slowly!
All I can say is third time lucky! My experience last week was more like a carnival party - a sea of bright colour moving, flapping, laughing, waving and of course honking! I was lucky to be given tickets to the Portugal and Ivory Coast Game and our preparations started days in advance as we searched for flags and soccer shirts, then there was vuvuzela practice - and what is a soccer game without a silly hat. To say we were a colourful as we set off is an understatement!
We decided to do the park and ride from Kings Beach and arrived to a sea of activity. FIFA volunteers cheerily directed us to parking and then to the l-o-n-g queue for the concertina bus. Flags fluttered everywhere red, white and green of Portugal and the orange, white and green stripes of Ivory Coast all mingled side by side. Painted faces in the same colours, hats of all sizes and shapes with soccer balls, feathers, bells a plenty. Vuvuzelas blared - some more tunefully than others and we had one member of our party who just couldn't get it right! We learned that it's impossible to get the right result when you are laughing.
In no time at all we were at the front of the queue to find out - horror of horrors -that we were supposed to have a bus ticket. Not to worry we were just ushered on by the official, "too late now - enjoy the game"! I just happened to find myself in the concertina section and as we went around corners I realised how flexible I was! Such a fun bus with the Portugal fans singing and the Ivory Coast fans vuvu-ing!
Our Port Elizabeth stadium greeted us like a great white pumpkin and everything was run like clockwork. No pushing, no shoving - a steady flow of excited people - 36,050of them. Entering the stands was like entering a noisy party in full swing. We found our place and made instant friends with the Portugal fans to our left and the Ivory Coast fans to our right. Introductions were made and biltong was passed around then a huge cheer as the players were escorted out with their flags and a respectful silence as the anthems were played. A whistle blow and the game was on.
The Portugal side - not a hair our of place! Each man the height of physical fitness and the great Renaldo looking lovely in white. The Ivory Coast team were like giants in comparison - they shimmered in orange! Living up to their nickname 'Les Elephants' - Strong and surprisingly fleet of foot,the crowd cheered every time the mighty Drogba got possession of the ball! Vuvuzelas blared but the noise was no where near as ear splitting as the press has made out - it just added to the throbbing atmosphere. Mexican waves fluttered around the stadium - what Fun!
It was not the best soccer played and resulted in a goalless draw. As we left the stadium there was sense of disappointment - whether it was because of the result or because the party was over for now, I'm not sure. The crowds made their way to the buses in the crown filled streets - chaos reigned but everyone was well behaved.
I couldn't believe that it was all over - where had the time gone? It was an experience that I will never forget - I was so proud of Port Elizabeth and our part in making the 2010 dream a reality.
I now fully understand why we are called 'The Rainbow Nation'.