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Cape Town is full!

The Fan Mile in Cape Town is jam-packed full!

03/07/2010: Germany is finally playing in Cape Town!

The over 100,000 Germans in Cape Town must have been delighted to finally have their team play on ‘home’ turf.

It was clear the stadium would be flooded with Germans, the support everybody thought Germany would need.

What came as a bit of a surprise was that all of Cape Town got onto their feet to watch the game soaking up World Cup atmosphere.

Trains were so full, people were not allowed onto the platforms anymore.

Streets were so full, cars and pedestrians alike came to a standstill.

Pups and bars were so full, they simply shut the doors, never mind the obligatory 1 hour queue.

And of course, the Fan Fest and all other similar concepts that have sprung to life at any given corner throughout the course of the World Cup were: full.

That is nice to read, but not necessarily nice to experience:

Full trains

On the train, after being told there was only one more space on the platform, which I happily volunteered to take up, people started to panic: The doors opened and people waited for others to step off first, what I considered was a very civilised way. Someone who thought he’s in power to make decisions, bellowed: Two off, two on, that’s it. Well, that was not it for me, as I had kindly stepped back to let two elderly on and did not agree this would mean I lose my spot. As I could see there was enough space on the train (yes, it was full, but nothing compared to London or Shanghai standards), I simply got on, only to be greeted with hostility to the point that people got hysterical. Clearly, these people were a) unfamiliar with using public transport and b) especially during an event of high magnitude like the Wold Cup.

It was amazing though how, as much as people hopped onto the bandwagon and talked themselves into a frenzy, I was able to talk them down from it again. There was a woman carrying a child who thought it her right to have a go at me. I explained to her that this is the World Cup and that in every country where they host the World Cup, people experience dense crowds like these, but because we all have the same goal, it’s going to be ok. When she snapped at me if I want to hold her child I answered very frankly: yes. Because we are all in this together and we are all happy to help each other. That really stopped her dead in her rage and she continued in a much less aggressive, but simply annoyed way. Funny enough once her rants had trailed off, just a couple of minutes later a very lovely young woman next to her took pity of her and addressed exactly the issues she was experiencing: it is so crowed, can you believe it and oh it must be so heavy holding her child like that.

That taken care of, I turned to address the next issue: Somebody had their bag partly caught in the train doors and started to lose his nerves about it. An opportunity for the elderly ladies to spread their fright, I calmly directed him what to do: Open the doors slightly, pull out your bag and close them shut. When the doors were difficult to manoeuvre back into a safe position, the one old hawk started panicking, only to be told off by her fellow granny to shut up. That was a new turn of events. The hawk tried to protest, but her friend simply told her she’d been the only one getting hysterical and for what, it was actually all ok.

That taken care of, a much more calm but tense atmosphere was spreading throughout the train. So it was time to connect: I started a talk with some African ladies about how well Ghana played and how they felt that got cheated out by Uruguay. Next time, was our all consensus.

By then we were entering the CPD central station and a feeling of pure relief spread throughout our wagon. Someone made the upcoming destination known by blowing the vuvuzela. Others started cheering in anticipation of reaching our destination. By the time the train came to a halt, everybody was clapping and congratulating themselves: We had done it.

So overjoyed I stepped off the train with tears in my eyes: What had started as a panicky unpredictable considered potentially dangerous situation, had ended in a unified outburst of happiness. Wow, thank you World Cup.

Full streets

Obviously that had been only the first obstacle to overcome. The next one was why we were here: To see the masses take on the pilgrimage towards the stadium.

Probably the most authentic way would be to simply walk with them, which is a lovely experience when you’re actually not pressurised to make it to the stadium at a certain time to watch the game.

There were a lot of spectators, who were content with the spot they’d snatched up and simply watched the procession or cheered them up by waving their flags and singing their chants.

Some people seriously decided going in by car would be the way forward and quickly had to realise that really it was not.

This was the time where the people reclaimed the streets: As we came to the bridge leading over Buitengracht Street, it very obviously showed that the bridge was too small to embrace the masses. So most of them kept on walking towards Buitengracht Street, which is the extension of the highway and usually very busy.
Police was there to guide the masses that no longer stuck to the predesigned Fan Mile track. I asked a policeman if they should not simply close off Buitengracht Street seeing that so many people kept on coming and pushing. He said that was not possible, as all the other roads had been blocked off and this was the one left to let the traffic flow. But they managed to bring the traffic to a halt on regular intervals, so people can cross.
Carrying on, we were welcomed by a chain of volunteers who blocked everybody from proceeding by holding their hands together like a net that captured the floating masses of people that had come off course. I thanked them for doing this work on such an incredible day where they rather might want to be part of the crowd, and they simply replied: But we are.

Tears welled up in my eyes once more as I realised not only is Cape Town doing a fantastic job in guiding the crowds safely, they actually are having so much fun doing it that they feel part of it.

Full Fan Fests

As when Germany was hosting the World Cup it was very quickly apparent that one or two or even three Fan Fests in a city was not enough and more Fan Fest areas were created on the fly, I was hoping for the same development in Cape Town.

Unfortunately the only other Fan Fests that came to life were created by big brands seeing an opportunity of profiling themselves and making some extra cash, as for these an entrance fee had to be paid.

But even with these the usual welcome when approaching a Fan Fest was: full!

A nice alternative is the public viewing area in the Amphitheatre at the V&A Waterfront. Here it’s at least up to the people if the place is full or not. Because for whomever the place did get too full, they could just leave. As for the rest, they had to be able to cope with the masses.

As for me, I always start talking to whoever happens to be next to me and as such always form some kind of a group, which makes it possible for me to experience the crowd on a one by one basis. Well, a fraction of the crowd.

Actually seeing the game was tricky – it was just too full. And as I could not spot any fellow Germans around, I couldn’t check the up on the progress of the game.

Full pubs

So I thought to give some of the pubs and bars a shot. But also here the same phenomenon occurred: If you’re interested in actually watching the game, they turned out to be one of the least favourable places when they are this jam-packed full. Firstly, unless you’ve sat for hours on end to reserve a table, you won’t get a seat let alone make it inside on time for the game, as the queues take hours. Secondly, even if you did make it, you will quickly realise that the majority of people are there to enjoy the atmosphere of the World Cup fever, rather than actually watching the game. So the game becomes secondary, which to a German watching Germany play Argentina is an incomprehensible outcome.

Luckily I made it into the Paulaner Brauhaus, where I had to climb the fence to get inside, as the doors were shut. At least there you find fellow supporters who know the German chants and lyrics and the place is throbbing with excitement about the game.

There, when Germany scored – again – I could be as emotional as I wanted, as enough on the spot friends were around to share the joy and join the celebration. Hugging, screaming, dancing, jumping up and down, air punching, even squinting away some tears was just another form of expressing happiness and as thus widely accepted.

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