World Cup Final

Venice 2000

My first night evening in Venice,  and we’re enjoying one of the best pizza’s of our lives at a surprisingly swanky restaurant considering the prices. Suddenly the door to the kitchen bursts out, and out storm the staff, weaving their way through the tables of customers out into the street. followed swiftly by all the waiters. Naturally, we follow, to see what all the fuss is about. It soon becomes clear. The bar across the alley has a TV. The TV is showing the MATCH.

The Dutch, host of Euro 2000, are squared up against the Italians in the semi finals. Squandering numerous chances through the game, the Dutch are held nil – nil. Down to penalties.

History will tell you the Italians won. I got my first glimpse of the famous Italian passion and emotion, with grown men crying in the streets, hugging and kissing all and sundry as they celebrated their good fortune and the win. It felt like Venice boiled over that hot summer evening, and the passion of the Italian men and woman was sight to behold, and led to a very special first night in Venice.

Milan 2002

I’m catching the overnight train from Milan to Brussels, and find myself sharing the cheap seats with two Spanish  university students. Just weeks before, the Spanish had sent us tumbling out of the World Cup in Japan/South Korea, 3 – 2 if my memory serves correctly. I remember sneaking off work in the UK so that I could watch the game and suffer the anguish that South African sports fans know so well as we came so close, yet ultimately came up short. Yet for the two Spaniards, that game had been nothing special, just another minor obstacle on their way to bigger and better things later in the tournament. Hardly impartial, but I felt rather belittled the way they rather unceremoniously tossed my country to the soccer scrap heap.

On these two experiences alone, I make my decision. For inadvertently giving a youngster like me a most fantastic introduction to Venice, and all things passionate one summer night in 2000, I hope the Dutch emerge victorious on Sunday at Soccer City, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Bravo SA, you’ve done yourself and all your citizens proud over the last month. Lets finish this thing off with a bang.

Published in: on 08/07/2010 at 11:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Soccer fever

Soccer is a big deal in South Korea. Being incredibly patriotic already, soccer is a natural outlet for all patriotic Koreans (which is basically all Koreans).

Ever since Korea co hosted the 2002 WC with Japan and they made the semi finals, soccer and soccer players have cult celebrity status in the country. The country virtually shuts down during matches, and everywhere you look, all you can see are thousands of supporters clad in red, complete with stick on tattoos, horns and bang sticks. Typically, this being Korea, the supporters are organised, and the games are frequently interspersed with organised war cries, with the most popular being “Daehan Minguk! clapclap clapclap clap”

South Korean soccer fans cheer for the South Korean World Cup soccer team as they watch a live TV broadcast of the 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match against Greece in Port Elizabeth, at Seoul City Hall Plaza June 12, 2010- REUTERS/Lee Chung-Woo

Saturday last week, fresh off the exhilarating opening night of the WC,where SA drew with Mexico and came just a few cm away from what would have been a famous victory, saw SK’s opening match against Greece. We choose to watch with thousands of other supporters at Seoul’s City Hall Plaza fan park. With literally thousands of people, absolute pandemonium broke out for each of Korea’s two goals, and the persistent rain did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of all involved.

 Last week Thursday saw Korea suffer a hammering at the hands of the Argentinians. We watched closer to home, in the local Wa stadium on a big screen. Filled close to capacity, the supporters did not let the mere fact that they were losing get them down, and they supported the “Red Devils” to the final whistle and beyond.

South Korea vs Argentina - Wa stadium

Today is the crunch match against the Nigerians, and it promises to be another festive evening, regardless of the result. Before that, I will be hoping that SA can save some face against the troubled French, and regardless of the result, will be shouting for them this evening.

Celebrating Korea's lone goal against the Argentinians

Published in: on 22/06/2010 at 2:44 pm  Comments (2)  
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Does travelling require actual travelling?

Random question perhaps?

I ask because of my thoughts while watching the opening ceremony and match of the 2010 World Cup, proudly held in SA!! We watched at a little hole in the wall restaurant, beer and soju in hand, with the TV balancing precariously on empty soju crates, and neon as far as the eye could see. Yet, thanks to the wonder of tech, I felt like I did a RTW trip in a few hours.

First off, the obvious example. There, in front of me, live and in colour, pictures of my home town, my president, millions of my flags, my anthem and general SA vibe. Local bands who I’ve watched repeatedly now gracing the international stage!. Which is always excellent!! Nothing like a little patriotism.

Watchin African soccer, in Asia.

Then, thanks to the equivalent of $7 on a few pieces of plastic and some impressive engineering, I travelled around the world. Friends and family from back home checking if we were being patriotic and watching the soccer. A few friends bragging about being at Soccer City. An old friend from varsity stuck in the office in Canary Wharf, lamenting the fact he could not get out of the office to watch. An old colleague in the UK who had bunked work and was in my old local, sipping on the first pint of the day with the footie on the telly. An old flame at PWC in NY who was watching in the office. A friend in Ecuador who had risen early so to not miss the festivities. Expat Saffa’s in Perth who still get teary when they hear the national anthem.

So, the question is, have cellphone (or modem), will travel. Or am I simplifying a little too much.

P.S. Have a look at these pics to get a feel of what I mean.

Published in: on 15/06/2010 at 10:26 pm  Comments (4)  
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World Cup Fever

I will admit it, I’m jealous. Very jealous not to be in SA right now. The vibe, the feeling, the crowds, the excitement is palpable.It feels like we’ve already won something, they way our country has come together and uniting behind our team. In fact, it’s had the very effect we were hoping for, uniting the people behind the country as a whole. 

I was (and still) am sceptical about spending so much money on a sports event when we have so many other important things to  be done in out country. And let’s face it, South Africa will not recoup the investment it has laid out for the soccer. Yet, apart from the stadiums, much of the investment on public transport and general infrastructure will almost certainly impact positively on SA and it’s people for years to come. 

Yet, there is the intangible factor. Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it best, when asked about if the cost of the WC can be justified. 

“Man can not live on bread alone. He needs something to dream for, to inspire as well.” 

Mandela with the Cup

The general feeling inside the country is plain to see. Yet, the positive exposure and airtime SA as a country is getting outside of its borders is fantastic, and would be virtually unobtainable otherwise. I watched two CNN anchors blowing vuvuzela’s and explaining South Africa’s climate and geography (and they did a fair job as well) for five minutes this morning. It’s on every channel, outside every store, where ever you look.

Even in South Korea, a country renowned for being quite insulated and inward looking, people have been coming up to me and pointing at the flag on my backpack and shouting “Nam agog?” (South African), aaah, World Cup, and then chattering excitedly in Korean. That did not happen three months ago. 

Go Bafana Bafana, I hope you have a good one tonight. Go South Africa,I hope and pray that this will a truly awesome World Cup,and we can build on this passion and fever in the future of our wonderful country. 

Viva Mzanzi 

It's time

Published in: on 11/06/2010 at 3:17 pm  Comments (2)  
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