#119. Watch soccer, even if the home team wasn’t sure what to do with the ball once they got it. Last night’s opening ceremony and game at Ellis Park has been endlessly dissected in hundreds of column inches so for my part – I was in the stands nicely placed behind the goalposts that sadly didn’t get much action from Bafana Bafana or Iraq, the sound of thousands of vuvuzelas like a swarm of very angry wasps buzzing in my ears.
We kicked off the day by driving into Troyeville for lunch avoiding the park and ride. Chicken livers and portugese salad at the Troyeville Hotel’s Flamingo restaurant. Then a few block’s walk to Ellis Park where the atmosphere was charged, the stands awash with colour. Thousands of South African flags and a small contingent of Iraqi flags, all being waved with pride.
Sure there were some glitches, the sound system wasn’t really working for most of the ceremony; the national anthem got shortened leaving everyone singing the wrong words; at some point the beer ran out much to the annoyance of the crew sitting next to us; there were lulls between the ceremony and the game where all 48 000 of us watched a few people try scrub the paint off the tarpaulin that covered the field, and I still can’t figure out what that hut was doing there. Then there was the organisers’ strange plan of not selling tickets in the first few rows — which meant the stands looked deceptively empty on TV (not a good advert) and the mostly empty corporate suites.
But painting their own t-shirts and then forming a South African flag was inspired, and spelling out the words Ke Nako (Celebrate Africa’s humanity) and being part of something truly South African was inspiring. And amid the colour and noise there was genuine excitement. The crowd even went so far as to signal to coach Santana that it was time for a substitution – although he may have mistook it for an attempt at the macarena what with the mexican wave and the singing of Ole, Ole, Ole … On the other hand that may be when the excitement turned to frustration and dissapointment.
But still, I am undaunted, and full of pride and ready for Thursday night where Egypt takes on Italy and it won’t matter who finds the back of the net or who doesn’t. Hand me that blasted vuvuzela.