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Cape Town live: The World Cup is here!

The Fan Fest Is Full!

The Fan Fest Is Full!

11/06/2010: The World Cup is here!

What a beautiful day for the opening of the World Cup. Although it’s winter in South Africa, the climate is mild and today was even hot, with the sun giving its best to welcome the world to South Africa.

Finally the football fever was spreading with vuvuzelas trumpeting since the early morning, dressed up crowds strolling the streets, cars swamped in flags and everybody cheering and joyfully showing their colours.

We had a warm-up at home: Cheerily greeted with a joyful ‘Happy World Cup!’, we prepared for the day with English (but vegan!) breakfast, beers and most importantly: Practicing the vuvuzela. Because out on the streets it’s a call of togetherness, blowing the vuvuzela.

Driving or walking was an experience today: Every cruising car with a flag was greeted as if seeing a good friend. People sporting team colours were applauded for making the effort. Shops decorated World Cup style were shown appreciation.

We took the train to town, which was free with a World Cup ticket and I wouldn’t have expected otherwise. Commuting by train is normally a dangerous thing to do I was told, but today it was packed with World Cup fans. The moment we got out at Central station, our arrival was announced with a vuvuzela blast that shook the freshly refurbished shiny tiles off the floor.

Just across the road (pedestrians had right of way, how silly that some people seriously thought they could travel by car on such an eventful day) was the Grande Parade with the official Fan Fest. It was so close, looked so in reach, yet a friendly steward greeted us with a sign ‘Fan Fest Full’.

We took it light heartedly in form of a funny picture and carried on our way to the party: Mexican Shebeen it should be. A parking lot at the corner of Loop and Strand Street that was transformed into a large scale party pub area. You could even get a meal. Lovely.

Our friends had bunkered a table and we joint into the happy mood with ciders and beers. The boring talks before an important game were on TV, so we indulged in a bit of party and vuvuzela competition.

And then it was 4pm and the game began.

Oh my god, the first 15 minutes were dreadful and how lucky for Bafana Bafana to have a valid goal withdrawn, because World Cup standard this was not. But they grew to it, they lived up to it and scored the first goal. What excitement! What fortunate surprise! And what a run-up to the goal!

But of course the Mexicans would have to get their goal – they really deserved it after all and it had been only a question of time.

So a draw it was – not the greatest, but also not the worst news.

Back in the fresh air, we walked the walk: The Fan Mile.

A preset way of herding the masses to the stadium. Like cattle we walked the fenced off predestined route. But of course it didn’t seem that way, as there were pubs and restaurants along the way (just across the road if it wasn’t for the fence that kept you from going astray), stalls and shops (with overpriced tourist junk) and performers. These were indeed wonderful: stilt walkers in magnificent floating costumes, live bands with an African twist, DJs with speakers loud enough for a street rave, a mini New Years Day parade complete with giant puppetry and Coons (the South African version of a carnival brass band), but also spontaneous skipping, calypso bands and drumming by the side of the road.

It made the walk short and sweet to get to the stadium. Glowing in the distance, this would be the first time that we see it from the inside.

But first we had to queue to get in. The hold up at the metal detector caused a half an hour wait, without anyone knowing for what we were actually queuing, but the good mood could not be spoilt.

Once inside there was music thumping, entertainment and activities by the sponsors. We had to show our ticket once more, but no ID was required.

And then the moment came when we walked up the brand new stairs to see the pitch: It was fantastic! What an awesome sight!

The perfect curve of the roof supported by that floating wave of the outside construction flooded in gleaming light with a perfectly trimmed grass green pitch in the centre. We had an excellent view, as the clever architecture of this stadium allows to every seat.

The atmosphere was great with an attendance of 64,100 people. Unfortunately the game was not very exciting with the French underperforming and yet Uruguay not getting through.

Luckily the audience had other forms of entertainment:

When we noticed a few people standing up, it became apparent we can be part of creating a Mexican wave. The glimmer of hope emerged that it might build up to a proper wave and we wanted it to grow to a full roll. So enthusiastically we got up and supported the wave to see more and more people joining in as it took the next round. Our anxiety of the possibility it might die out turned out ungrounded, as now it was thundering, all was up on their feet in the instant that it reached us. The high pitched jubilation was followed by the thud of people sitting down again. Three times it went around until the excitement on the pitch made us all concentrate on the game again. Unfortunately ungrounded though, as the game ended 0:0. At least the best possible result to give Bafana Bafana a chance to make it to the next round.

That’s the great thing about football: The scales can change rapidly. So where Bafana Bafana was entering the World Cup with the gloom of not standing a chance, it turned into the frenzy of scoring over the Mexicans and the belief that maybe yes, there is a prospect that we might make it to the Second Round / Quarterfinal / Semi Final / or maybe even the Final? For not long though, as the Mexican goal brought us back to reality swiftly. But France drawing with Uruguay was not expected. And with all teams drawing at the same amount of points, everything is possible, still, and the excitement continues.

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