I’ve been reminiscing over our trip to South Africa back in the summer of 2010, well it would be their winter 🙂 This is supposed to be a soccer ball but I think it looks more like a disco ball, in either case it was setup by the city of Tshwane/Pretoria to promote tourism in the city. This was outside the stadium prior to the final group stage match for the US and Algeria, what we expected to be a boring match had one memorable ending. I posted about it back in the day when this blog was in its infancy. We also happened to see former US President Clinton in the stands.
June 25, 2010 was our final match of the world cup, 8 out of 8! We did it, we made it to every single game and it was almost over. We were happy to see Spain play Chile because it was two strong teams that couldn’t afford to lose specially Spain who were facing a must win match, but at the same time the mood was slightly somber, we knew it was the end. Me & my brother were flying out the next night! Our little escape from reality into football heaven was just about to end.
Chileans were by far the most festive fans that we’ve seen at this world cup. Through our stay in South Africa we heard the infamous Chi-Chi-Chi-Chile chants (made world famous by the mine rescue operation in Chile a few months later). However that day we got to see them in numbers chant and dance to their songs. They were super friendly, welcomed everyone, danced, sang, posed for pictures, just created an amazing atmosphere for our last world cup experience.
As far as the game goes Spain scored two goals in the first half, they were up 2-0 by the 38th minute after Iniesta had scored. David Villa scored the first from 40m out when the goalkeeper came out to clear the ball from Fernando Torres outside the 18 yard box but only for it to land to Villa. Chile was also reduced to ten men after one of their players received two yellow cards. Even though that Chile scored a quick conciliation goal in the 47th minute, Spain’s Tiki-Taka was its best. In a way they put us to sleep with their masterful possession of the ball, they just kept on passing the ball and creating a chance when they felt like it or at least it appeared that way. Chile never posed much of a threat to tie the match and it ended with a 2-1 scoreline. With Switzerland failing to beat Honduras, Spain ended up topping the group with Chile in 2nd place which earned them a date with Brazil in the round of 16…
We didn’t leave the stands until every player left, it was really over! From now on, its back to watching the games on TV….
Our 7th match of the world cup was Slovakia vs Italy, another group that was wide open but unlike yesterday’s (a year ago) matches it was a bit more complicated. Paraguay was in the driver seat only needing a tie to secure qualification, all other teams was pretty much win and you are through. The Italians being a typical favorite in every world cup just needed a win against Slovakia and not many were expecting a surprise today, as neutrals we just wanted to see a lot excitement.
Today’s match was one of the strangest in terms of fan base, there were a lot of fans supporting Italy that day; I would go as far as 80/20. However the 80 percent were probably 80/20 fugazy! Fugazy is an Italian-American slang word for fake, the reason I say that is when the Slovak players came on to the field to warm up they all started to cheer them thinking they were the Italians since they had blue training suits on!!! I grabbed my camera to zoom in and see what was going on and I was right, it was the Slovaks! The funniest was when the announcer was late and said welcome to the field: Slovakia and the cheers changed to jeers when they realized it wasn’t Italy.
Shortly after Italy came on, also with their blue training suits on 🙂
Don’t remember too much of the details of the game, for the most part it was a match played in midfield with the odd periods of excitement. Slovakia was up 1-0 at half-time and then when the news kept on coming in that Paraguay & New Zealand were tied at 0-0 the pressure increased. As the Italians stepped up their attack Slovakia ended up hitting them with another goal and they were up 2-0! A shocker was in the making, but without a lot of drama. The last 10 minutes were absolutely insane, Italy made it 2-1 in the 81st minute and then Slovakia scored to make in 3-1 in the 89th only for Italy to score a conciliation goal in stoppage time. The game ended 3-2 and Italy were out! Paraguay topped the group with Slovakia in 2nd place, and Italy exited the tournament bottom of the group. The Azzuri is going through a transitional phase and I’m sure they’ll be back with new blood in future world cups…
Since the draw was announced back in December of 2009 we were not looking forward to today’s game between the US & Algeria, matter fact we even thought of trading our tickets for another game if possible. But as they say, when you least expect you get the best surprises. From a neutral’s point of view today’s match was probably the most exciting match of the tournament, but we all have our biases towards the teams we support 🙂 We made the one hour drive to Pretoria and we got there quite early so we walked around the stadium and grabbed a bite, after the constant celebrations we were quite malnutritioned and we were starting to feel it that day!
We got to the stadium and we got seated, we had the first row of the upper deck so we had rail guard in front of us. Our tickets were in the heart of the US fans, everyone around us was supporting them. The beauty of this match was that all 4 teams in the group were still in it, and Slovenia out of all teams were in the driver seat, a tie would have seen them through, a win for the US or England would also see them through. However an Algerian win required some help, which was Slovenia beating England! Remote chance but they were still in it.
The game was wide open, a treat for any neutral. Both teams attacked in numbers and left themselves open for the counter attack. If my memory serves correctly the US had the most of the chances in the first half but Algeria had the most dangerous one of the first half when the hit the crossbar. The US fans got the news they wanted to hear, England was up 1-0 by the 23rd minute so all the US had to do was win and they win the group, yes win the group that everyone thought Capello’s England would just dominate! The English were doing their part but the nerves were starting to get to the US fans as they are not getting the goal that they need.
The 2nd half was no different than the first, chance after chance but the US started to take more control of the match. They knew they had a chance, they had to go for it but for some reason they couldn’t buy a goal even if they could. Dempsey hit the post and missed his own rebound when he had an empty net, chance after chance was wasted and regular time had run out. Some of the US fans were on the verge of tears infront of us, had this result stood it would’ve been England and Slovenia that qualify. And in the first minute of extra time, Landon Donovan pounced on a rebound and placed the ball in the back of the net. I kid you not the stands shook, the crowd went ballistic, we were in the middle of the mayhem. People, beers, flags, hats, stuff was flying everywhere… it was insane! We truly enjoyed it and to be honest, they quite deserved it. They were the better team in that match.
Oh the final whistle hadn’t blown yet! There was still one last chance and it was a corner for Algeria, not really sure what happened but one of the players kept on arguing with the referee and he got his second yellow card so he got his marching orders. Shortly after that corner the referee blew the final whistle and a few “bad apples” starting to throw objects at the field. They were coming from the Algerian side, but one thing worth noting was that the Algerians were organized. They had their “leaders” in the stands that I guess led the songs and that sort of stuff, those guys immediately stood up and asked for them to stop throwing objects and they succeeded. It was nice to see how they wanted to show they were good sportsmen, they cheered their team and the US team when they walked by them. Left us with a positive impression with how well behaved they were even after the loss. There are always the few bad one that ruin it for the rest of us.
Going back to the US now, they won the group that no one expected them to. The team had gone around the stadium to salute the fans but spent most of its time in front of us, as I mentioned earlier we were in the middle of the US fan base. After seeing the passion of the US fans for their team, how they travelled in numbers to South Africa, whether you like it or not: US Soccer is here to stay….
June 21, 2010 was our first of 2 Spain matches during the world cup. Luckily for us they were shocked in the first game against Switzerland and suddenly they are facing two must win matches in order to qualify to the round of 16. Luckily for us, they had to try for both matches 🙂
This was our first match at the infamous Ellis Park, made famous by the movie Invictus. This is where the 1995 World cup of rugby was held, the first international event to be held by South Africa since the Apartheid embargo was lifted. The stadium was quite old, and had a unique odor to it; its all for the history 🙂
Spain came out with guns blazing, no other way to describe it. It was an all out barrage on net, total control of the football, the majority of the first half was pretty much the Hondurans chasing the ball. Spain went up ahead with a David Villa goal, his first of the campaign and never looked back. The second half was no different to first, Spain was all over Honduras and Villa managed to add another one to his tally to make 2-0. Honduras had the odd chance here and there but nothing that would’ve been considered as a serious scoring opportunity. Villa blew his chance at a hat trick when they were awarded a penalty later on but he missed it wide! Chance after chance for Spain was wasted until the final whistle blew. One of the tournament favorite put a convincing performance and sent out their first message of intent.
A year ago today also one of our crew (we were four) was really down and out with some form of a flu; earlier in the day he was taken to the doctor by our hotel staff and he was prescribed some medication to help him get better. I’m sure had it been his wedding day it would’ve been postponed 🙂 He was in really bad shape and in the morning he said that he might not go with us to the game since we get to see Spain again in the tournament and it might’ve been better for him to rest for the next 3 games after this one! When the time came to get ready he was a champ, somehow he managed to get enough energy to go to the game and enjoy it with us! Luckily for him it was all uphill for him from that point on, even though we left South Africa with him still recovering that was the worst day and it was behind us by then….
A Day to remember!
A year ago today was one the happiest days of my life, since watching the 1986 world cup I’ve wanted to watch Brazil play in the world cup and that was finally going to be the day. Brazil was playing Ivory Coast, one of the African favorites in the tournaments, and a huge crowd was expected. Due to the game being a “big attraction”, security was really tight at soccer city this time! We couldn’t be dropped off at our usual spot just around the corner from the stadium but we had to arrange for a Park and Ride, which was the busses organized by FIFA to pick up fans from specified locations around the city. We got dropped off and everything was going pretty smoothly, the majority of the people were supporting Brazil but one of the interesting sights was this huge group of roughly 200 Ivorians all dressed in official Cotes d’Ivoire jackets (pictured below), the sight of them all walking around is a lot more intimidating than them scattered in the stadium 🙂
We got to the stadium and security was much tighter than usual, everyone was getting checked going everywhere, prior to this game you could pretty much go sit anywhere and as long as no one shows up to claim that seat than it was yours! My friends still managed to sneak in for one half so the close up shots are his. Going back to the game, by far the most crowded game we’ve been too and the loudest in terms of fans, my guess would be that it was 60/40 split in Brazil’s favor.
The game didn’t let the fans down, at least the Brazilians! They started out quickly on the attack and for the most part contained Ivory Coast. In the 25th minute with some neat quick passes between Kaka & Luis Fabiano with the later scoring from an acute angle to send the pro Brazilian crowd into a festive mood. Ivory Coast didn’t really get into the game until the last 7 or 8 minutes of the first half when they had their first shot on net. Brazil went into the dressing room protecting that one goal lead. The second half started the same way the first did but this time Brazil capitalized on a second goal five minutes into the half, Luis Fabiano had scored a spectacular individual goal were he lobs and controls the ball over several players before smashing the ball into the back of the Ivorian net. At this point, FIFA had banned replaying any controversial goals on the screens inside the stadium and for all we knew it was a legit goal because those were the replays we saw. Later on we found out that there were other angles that clearly show that he handled the ball before scoring the goal and that should not have counted.
Ivory Coast tried to get back into the game but unfortunately for them Brazil wasn’t about to let up anytime soon. In the 60th minute, Kaka crossed the ball into the path of a running Elano who only manages to deflect the ball into the back of the net for the third time for the Seleção. The game got aggressive and Ivory Coast was able to get one back with a Drogba header in the 79th minute. It was yellow card mayhem for the rest of the match, Kaka managed to get booked twice within 3 minutes and receive his marching orders by the 88th minute, the 2nd card in particular was controversial as it appeared that there was a lot of embellishment by Keita (a Barca player, no surprise?!?!) Anyway the red card didn’t hurt that much because Brazil had already clinched a birth in the next round and only needed a tie to win the group over Portugal.
The ride back home was quite interesting! It took us quite sometime to get on a bus and get back to our park and ride station. We waited and waited and waited and waited for our taxi to show up after him confirming time after time that he is only 10 minutes away but to no avail, he never showed up. We were forced to pick a taxi from the street who wasn’t familiar with our area very much, he ended up taking us through downtown Johannesburg around midnight and let me tell you that its quite a scene. Its a complete ghost town, very seldom can you spot someone and if you do, you don’t generally get the “safe” feeling. We managed to get home safely and it was quite an experience. A day that I will always remember…..
Heir to the crown
June 17, 2010 was marked on our calendars for a while by now, it was the day that we were going to watch Argentina play South Korea. Out of the 4 of us, no one was a real Argentina fan but it was the day we were going to see Messi live in action. I’m a die hard Brazil & Real Madrid fan, no compromising on either. Messi being an Argentine that plays for Barcelona makes him public enemy number one in my books, but putting all my biased aside, the man is a footballing genius, it is a treat to watch him do his thing. What made this day extra special is that not only do we get to watch arguably the best player of his generation but we also get to see the legend: Maradona. Maradona was the national team’s coach for the world cup so it was very interesting to see the most loved man in Argentina with whom many claim to be his heir to the crown.
OK back to the game, so coming into the match you know there are 2 people that everyone is here to see: Messi & Maradona. Its a reoccurring theme that you can not avoid to notice. The picture below was Maradona’s first steps onto the field, he came on with his track suit to inspect the pitch and check up on his team. I don’t know if its just me, but it almost looked as if he was reliving his glory days of the past, his held was held high he kept on looking at the stands as if to say: “Back in my days, I used to own all of this, they use to stand and applaud me”. Its probably just me but it was quite something to see the man that dominated the 1986 World cup in person, truth be told is that no one player has dominated a single tournament the way Maradona did in 1986. That same player that we watched as children some 24 years ago was now walking the field in front of me. Life is funny that way.
Oh yeah back to the match…. Messi was a genius, he put on a show that we enjoyed very much. No player moves with the ball like him, nobody cuts and zips through other players like him, you always think to yourself, that short guy is really good. That short guy is #10, Señor Messi!! Argentina had control of the match right from the get go and they were up 2-0 by the 33rd minute, an own goal in the 17th minute with a goal fro Higuain. The game looked sealed for the Argentinian team and they let their guard down, the intensity stepped slightly down and in extra time Korea managed to get a scrappy goal and make it 2-1 at Half time. We have a game.
At half time, it appears that Maradona gave a really inspirational speech. The team came out blazing and completely ran wild over the South Koreans, Argentina scored 2 more goals by Higuain to finish off with a hat rick! BTW, Higuain plays for Real Madrid so seeing him bag 3 was quite a pleasant treat for me, enjoyed it very much.
Final Score was 4-1 but the match could’ve easily ended up as 5-1 or 6-1. Messi & Aguerro missed some really clear cut chances. The Albesciete (Argentinian football team) faithful left the stadium in a very cheerful mood, after that performance they were becoming one of the clear favorites of the tournament. They were ultimately eliminated at the quarterfinals by a masterful performance by the Germans.
A night at Melrose
Today’s entry is another one from our 2010 world cup trip to South Africa. On this day (a year ago exactly) we were heading to Melrose Arch in downtown Johannesburg to watch the last 2 matches of that day: Spain vs Switzerland and South Africa vs Uruguay. While making our way to the square I saw this guy with a headset conducting an interview and I was thinking to myself I know him from somewhere and then it dawned on me, its Guillem Balague, my favorite Spanish football reporter who has his own football/soccer blog. He’s a regular on the skysports show, Revista La Liga, which I watch religiously. It was definitely nice of him to take the time out to take this pics with me specially considering that he was in the middle of a broadcast. We were having a hard time getting the camera to work and that was me saying whats going on? Lets take the picture! Anyway Thanks Guillem, that was really nice of you.
With regards to the games, Switzerland shocked Spain 1-0 that day and Uruguay destroyed South Africa 3-0 so all in all it wasn’t a festive night at Melrose Arch but the overall atmosphere managed to say somehow festive. Had South Africa won I think the place would have gone bananas!
Here are some more pics from that night, not the greatest but the idea is to capture the mood:
After our first night in Rustenburg, we stayed in Johannesburg the whole time we were attending the games. This is a picture of Johannesburg’s skyline from Soccer City and below is a sign on the way to the stadium.
Sea of Oranje!
June 14, 2010 was our 2nd match day, one thing for sure it was a sea of Oranje (Dutch national team) jerseys. Its quite something to see the Dutch play, they completely dominate the stadium with their bright orange shirts. We had seats in the upper deck and it was shaded, which generally is a good thing but when its winter in Africa, you really want to sit under the sun. The last 20 minutes of the game were not enjoyable at all, I kept on wishing that the game would end. In a way it was an indicator of the how the game was, it was either this one or the USA vs England that was our most boring match! Luckily they were the first two, so it was all uphill from here on. Oh the game was between Holland and Denmark, Holland won 2-0, Agger scored an own goal in the 46th minute while trying to head the ball out with his head. Kuyt followed in the 85th minute with a tap in after the ball had hit the post. It was an ugly win but littler did we know that they would turn up in the later rounds until they lost the final to Spain.
This was also our first Soccer City experience, it is quite a Stadium, world class in every way. Really loved everything about it specially earlier in the tournament. At this point security has not been that organized and you could easily pass a lot of “off-limits” streets. Our driver, Derek, managed to get us pretty much up to the gate which was quite a treat, later on it became a hassle!
Live from Rustenburg
June 12, 2010 – the day was finally here, our first world cup match. Me & my brother returned back to Johannesburg after our Safari and we had to meet up with our 2 friends at the airport before heading out to Rustenburg for the match. Our friends were MIA for the first 30 minutes and we were beginning to panic as time was not on our side, we had less than 5 hrs until kick-off and Rustenburg was about a 2hr drive!
We managed to get a hold of them and we agreed for them to pick us from the airport and head directly to Rustenburg. It was a mini-celebration at the arrival gates, we made it, the 4 of us were finally there and we hold on to 8 tickets… its just about enjoying the games from now on, everything was set by then. This is were we also met our driver for most of the trip, Derek. Derek, was a really great host and I hope to talk more about him in future posts. On this particular drive Derek introduced us to “making a plan” concept 🙂 Another word for bribe! Due to the time constraints he was really flying to Rustenburg, well maybe not flying but speeding, we got pulled over and he took care of it. He told us in South Africa when you get pulled over by a cop always tell him to “make a plan” and thats really saying what is your price! Not the optimal method of negotiation but it is what it is and I’m not going to judge.
The image above was the probably one of the first site of the stadium that we saw. This was our only match in Rustenburg and the stadium is situated in the middle of a residential area where you’d never guess there is a world cup venue around the corner. At first impression it was a huge Pro-English crowd, we saw US fans & flags but to me they were clearly outnumbered by the English fans. The English stayed true to themselves, drunk and rowdy as ever but lets be honest, they were fun and didn’t cause an incident that we saw! It was a great festive atmosphere for our first world cup experience.
Like I said it appeared to be a predominantly pro-English crowd but as kick-off got closer you saw more and more Uncle Sams walking in 🙂 By kick-off I would say it was almost 50/50 but the noise war was won by the Brits hands down. The game kicked off and before we knew it England was already up thanks to a Steven Gerrard goal by the 4th minute, the stadium was going absolutely bonkers, the thought of a rout definitely crossed my mind, the Americans looked shaken after such a quick goal. And the pressure piled up. By the 15th minute, the match was becoming quite a bore, England believed that they had won it and didn’t need to try while the US was just trying to get into the rhythm of things. The Americans got more organized but nothing to consider as a serious threat until the 40th minute, and one of the world cup’s most famous bloopers. Dempsey took an innocent free kick shot that seemed to cause no harm, only for Robert Green to fumble it inside his own net. At that very moment I was looking through the binoculars and I seriously thought I was imagining things, I put down the binoculars and said in confusion: “Did that go in?”
At this very moment the shift in the stadium was evident. The highly intoxicated British fans were in speechless, there jaws wide open, not a word after 40 minutes of constant banter! They felt the momentum shift and any person with their right mind would’ve seen it. Unfortunately this was one of our dullest matches to attend, the 2nd half was nothing more than a bunch of failed attempts by both sides. One thing was worth noting in the 2nd half, the Americans were not here to just attend the tournament, they were here to compete.
For a first world cup experience this still gets the thumbs up, we had a blast and there were 7 more games to go. It was like being in heaven…….
The 2010 World cup will probably go down as one of the coldest world cups ever! When the sun went down, we had to be ready for some serious cold weather, slightly above freezing, after all it was winter in the southern hemisphere. This particular image was taken from my favorite game that we attended: Brazil vs Ivory Coast. Brazil naturally attracts a huge crowd but facing an African nation in Africa only added to the build up to the match. Being soccer, of course there was some controversy in the game that Brazil won 3-1. More to come on the anniversary of match day…
The ex-president of the United States, Bill Clinton, president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter and president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma
This image was taken during the USA vs Algeria game in Tshwane/Pretoria on June 23, 2010. Somebody in the crowd yelled Bill clinton was here so I figured I’d put my 70-200mm lens to use 🙂 I zoomed in and found him so I took the picture. When I was processing the image, I realized that Sepp Blatter was right beside the ex-president Clinton and a few seats to the left of them is Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa at the time of the world cup was held there.
This was definitely a game to remember, more to come about that day…
The pride of a nation
June 6, 2010 – we were somewhere between Doha, Qatar and Johannesburg, South Africa. By now though, you couldn’t avoid the world cup fever, once we got to Qatar you could see that the the world cup theme was everywhere. We also happened to find out during that layover that they were bidding for the 2022 world cup which they won!!! I don’t know how but I’ll keep my thoughts to myself on that one.
Todays images are about the pride of a nation… South Africans were very proud to be hosting the world cup, they were very proud to welcome the world, they wanted us all to feel welcome which we really did. The message was clear: the world cup was on African soil and they were so proud. One of the neatest things that we saw was the side mirror flag covers, they are quite a nice way to show your support. This particular one was taken of our Safari van, yes even out in Kruger Park they were feeling the world cup fever.
Here are a few more shots of the rainbow nation’s flag… thats what they call South Africa down there 🙂 The images were taken during 2 different games: England vs USA & Netherlands vs Denmark. I will talk about the games on the actual anniversary days, at least that is my plan for now….
So this month, I will try to share at least one image per day from my trip to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Even though the trip was primarily to watch the world cup, me & my younger brother managed to arrange for a safari a week prior to the games kicking off. So not everything this month will be soccer, but most of it will be.
June 2, 2010 is when my trip began. I initially had to travel to Toronto, spend 2 nights and then head out to South Africa with my brother. On that very day, I know I was excited about going but at the same time very nervous about what awaits us in South Africa. Sadly the media has been on a vicious campaign to plant fear in all fans travelling to the games, I mean you could buy stab proof vests, thats how ridiculous it got!
The particular image above was taken on June 17, 2010. It was Argentina vs South Korea and Argentina had just won the game 4-1. There is just something about being at the games and amongst the fans that no words can describe, and just as personal remark: South American fans were the most fun, they dance and sing all game long and just make it into such a festive atmosphere.
From the same game, this guy stood out from very far, very hard not to notice him 🙂 He actually was sitting behind us during the Spain vs Honduras game (what are the chances??) and we ended up talking to him. If my memory serves me correctly he’s from Finland and runs some kind of business/website that sells jerseys.