Archive for June, 2010

World Cup – Two weeks in

Two weeks into the world cup and it now seems that South Africa was born to host the event. They might not have been born to play in it but organize it – no problem. The world celebrated with us when Bafana scored the opening goal of the tournament, a superb effort by Siphiwe Tshabalala. Bafana eventually settled for a much celebrated 1-1 draw with the Mexicans and progress to the next round was still a distinct possibility, but it was not too be. A 3-0 loss to Uruguay all but sealed their fate and a 2-1 win against a beleaguered French team, who played most of the game with 10 men, was satisfying but not enough. So Bafana packed their bags, at least they don’t have far to travel, and became the first host nation of a world cup not to proceed to the knock out stages.

Its not that we don’t have talent, we have that in abundance, but South African soccer has always made it difficult for me to support our national soccer team never mind watch them. It starts with the administration and works it way down to the players who often appeared to be a bunch of overpaid divas with little heart and not much bottle for a battle. Things were different this time, it’s a new start of sorts and this time most of us in this country and many around the world were routing for Bafana. If playing for your country in the world cup finals on home turf with millions actively behind you is not motivation enough, well then nothing is. And to be fair they gave it their all, but they are not there; they need a decent coach, hopefully local, some time and more of them need to play in Europe in the big leagues before they can play consistently at the top level and compete with the big boys. It’s possible.

So the world now knows SA can and is hosting an outstanding world cup. If you are not here for the occasion here’s a couple of other issues making news and noise at the ZA SWC.

Jabulani
The newly designed ball, generally a pretty innocuous, albeit important, part of most football tournaments has become a hot potato. The players hate it and Fifa swears by it. Who would you listen to the boots or the suits? The ball is too light, dipping and swerving is expected but so few long range goals and delicious curling free kicks into the top corner seem to support the players, who have only practiced with the ball for a few weeks, barring the Germans I think who may have played the whole of last season with it. Either way, another fail for Fifa.

The Vuvuzela
Now if the ball is a hot potato, the Vuvuzela is … the steak and chips. The noisy horn, as one footballer described it, has been around for about 10 years and is a fixture at South African soccer matches. Lots of people hate it and while I agree that a stadium full of singing fans can create a special atmosphere, and the oohs and aahs of the crowd do allow for a more nuanced experience, no one can say that local games lack atmosphere. So as some call for it to be banned, they are starting to sell by the hundreds of thousands and orders from around the world are flooding in. Hey this little plastic horn could turn out to be South Africa’s biggest export yet.

World Cup 2010: One week to go: Where’s the party Cape Town?

The biggest party of the year is about to start, actually what am I talking about, the biggest party of the decade and certainly the biggest party Africa has ever seen is about to start and here in Cape Town you wouldn’t know it. Sure there are a few flags fluttering around, the odd banner, a shiny multi billion rand stadium, but you wouldn’t think Cape Town is about to be joint host to hundreds of thousands of foreign football fans, thousands of media personnel and an additional billion or so watching on TV. We know its about to happen because they tell us so but Cape Town suddenly seems a reluctant partner in the Fifa Festival of money football. Yip, the city spends billions on the renovation and can’t be bothered to decorate the palace for the party.

After seven years preparation we have a fantastic new stadium, new highways and byways, walkways, bridges, thousands of new trees and plants and a plethora of large new hotels, barely out of their wrapping. Yes, Cape Town has undergone a serious makeover, and she is looking good. Lots of last minute work still going on but most of it done and The Mother City should be ready to party. But is she? It feels like the whole country’s getting drunk and we’re sitting in the corner drinking tea. Alliance Group CEO, Rael Levitt divides his time between the Fishing Village and Egoli and is in a good position to compare the two, read his take at Have the games come to Joburg and not Cape Town?

Now I live near the stadium and regularly drive my trusty Vuka past to check out what’s happening. In town I scout around looking for some sign that one of the world’s biggest sporting events is coming to town. I popped up Long Street, cut down Loop and zipped across to St Georges Mall where finally I found some life and colour but it’s not enough.

World Cup 2010: Cape Town

World Cup 2010: St Georges Mall, Cape Town

The rest of the city is pretty barren, some cars have flags and mirror gloves but still they’re in the minority and it’s the big stuff I’m looking for. I buzzed the Grand Parade and the fan park is taking shape with an odd Coca Cola dome thingy in the middle. This place should be fun and I’ll definitely watch a game or two there. From there I drove through the Waterfront and even the king of shopping malls is asleep on the job. Sure some shops have got into the spirit but the overall picture is fairly dismal. I hear they have a mini London Eye up at the Waterfront but I haven’t spotted it yet.

I don’t want to spread doom and gloom, Cape Town will wake up and come to the party. We are slow starters and always a step or two behind our younger but wealthier son up north. I do think that the extravagant amount of amount the country has spent was unnecessary and ostentatious. Yes we can and will host an outstanding world cup and had every right to bid for it, but we could have done it in a far more humble and respectful manner. The large new space age stadiums dotted around the country that cost the earth to build could have been forsaken and the money better spent fixing up existing stadia at a fraction of the cost. Then again humble and respectful are not two words ever used to describe Fifa.

Be this as it may, its happening, its happening here, soon and it’s exciting. Sure we spent too much money and not as many fans are coming as earlier predicted but for one month we will be the center of the world’s sporting attention. Let’s enjoy it for now and we’ll worry about the hangover the next morning.