We had an early, although quick, flight to Jo-burg for the next three nights, and three games. So far, Jo-burg is just like any big city, so it isn’t that different or distinct. Took the rental car straight to a “Park and Ride” location where you jump on a bus to the game. 10 minute bus ride and you arrive at the stadium. The new complex, Soccer City, is awesome- but not sure what they are going to do here once the WC ends. Reminds me of a Rose Bowl type stadium, in an offset area, with a hint of Qualcomm in San Diego.
The stadium was incredible and we had really good seats. The Argentines were clearly the majority, and the locals were also clearly in favor of the South Americans. Something we haven’t caught onto as American fans yet are the draping of flags from the rafters- the Argentines had flags and banners everywhere. It felt like we were in Buenos Aires.
Very good game and lots of goals again- we’ve been lucky so far. 9 goals in two games. We sat next to a Haitian-American, a South African, a North Korean and two Scots….and yes, they were wearing kilts. They were from Falkirk, where a famous battle was fought by William Wallace and represented in Braveheart, but against all my better intentions, I didn’t yell, “Freedom!”
Left the stadium, endured some rush hour traffic and headed over to my buddy’s parent’s house where we are staying for the next three nights. They cooked us a proper South African home-cooked meal which was fantastic and we heard great stories about life in South Africa over the past few decades and lots of cultural stories about integration, segregation, etc.
**Sidenote- driving on the wrong side of the road, in a manual transmission while shifting with your left hand was a challenge.
Big game today- we are off to the USA-Slovenia game, which should be really fun. Looking forward to catching an American game on foreign soil. The Americans represent the largest group traveling in the WC so we should have a good crowd here.
Chris and I drove in from our house in the suburbs to Dave’s hotel to pick him up. He also had a couple friends in town that would be joining us. As we pulled up to the hotel in our car, two Slovenian men came out and asked if they could have a ride to the game. We said sure, and they joined us.
We carpooled to the game and parked in a “park and walk” about a mile from the stadium. The walk was through a little bit of a dodgy neighborhood, but all of the residents were chanting “USA! USA”, which was pretty cool. We walked by a school(a nursery school) that was in session but was advertising sausages for sale as a fundraiser. We asked if they had any beers, she said yes, so for the kids, we went in. The slogan, “beers for kids” was coined. As the sea of Americans walked by, we lured them in with our slogan and soon we had about 100-200 American fans tailgating in a nursery school. Pretty incredible.
After an hour of fundraising, we headed over to the stadium. Chris and I were in the Slovenia section and they were quite fun to sit next to. Fun, jovial and they bought us beers.
After their first two goals, they were apologizing to us- Chris and I kept telling them it wasn’t over yet. After our first goal, they instantly became nervous. After our second, we went crazy- running up the aisles, and celebrating with the other American and South African fans that were rooting for us. After the third, pandemonium broke loose. We were going crazy and it took a couple minutes before we realized the goal was disallowed. They refused to show a replay on the big screen to avoid any controversy. It was the most fun I’ve ever had at a sporting event.
The amount of American fans supporting our team on another continent with such passion was a sight to see- very memorable. As is tradition with soccer games, the players exchange jerseys after the game. Chris, my travel companion, exchanged his US jersey with a Slovenian fan and is now the proud owner of a Slovenian jersey.
After the game, and a police escort to our car, it became very cold and we went to a nearby plaza to watch the England game…but the temps were in the 20’s and the game was boring so we called it a night.
The next day we went over to the local lion park. Sounds normal, like everyone should have a lion park. The park enabled you to pet and hang out with the lion cubs and then drive around 4 lion enclosures to get close to the lions. (Don’t be like the Chinese tourists last year and get out of your car to take pictures. You end up dead.)
Anyway, the lions don’t like vuvuzelas. One of the cars, adorned in an Argentina flag, blew their horn in one of the enclosures to the dismay of the lion pride. Two of the matriarchs stood up to get a better view. The car blew the horn again, louder this time. The lions took offense and walked over to the car, and promptly ripped the flag off the car and trunk. It was in shreds shortly after.