The Argentina/South Korea match was a 1:30 pm kickoff, the earliest time that World Cup games start. Traffic around the venue, Soccer City Stadium, is dreadful. We had to leave for the game at 10:00 am.
We’re lucky enough to be staying at a hotel that arranges match day transportation. We have a shuttle bus that takes us to each game and picks us up at the conclusion. It is very convenient. Johannesburg is a bit like Detroit in that it doesn’t have a terribly effective public transportation system. Imagine you were staying in Birmingham, without a car, and needed to get to a game at Comerica Park. It’s something like that, but with a few more taxis.
Our shuttle driver dropped us off as close to Soccer City as he could get. Which wasn’t close at all. You couldn’t see the stadium from where we started our walk. Or for the first 10 minutes of our 30 minute walk, to be quite honest. We followed the sea of people and, eventually, we came upon Soccer City and it is gorgeous. You’ve seen the pictures – it’s the stadium with an exterior of patchwork in varying hues of deep reds and browns. It’s a very impressive structure.
Minus the invigorating hike that every attendee must take prior to a match. If there was a similar situation in Ann Arbor, we would be dropped off at Briarwood Mall and have to walk to Michigan Stadium from there. On a dusty path. Seriously.
The energy just outside of Soccer City was electric. Fans were dancing, posing for pictures, shopping at the merchandise tent. It was so fun to see all of the passionate supporters for each team, dressed up, draped in flags, faces painted. It really made the whole thing real. We’re really at the World Cup!
Having worked up a hunger on our hike to the stadium, we stopped for a snack before going to our seats. I had “mash and gravy,” a bowl of mashed potatoes with gravy on top. Lauren had a cheese dog, a hot dog that had little, melty pieces of cheese throughout.
We had a decent set of seats, in the upper bowl of Soccer City, but right at the half. We were on the same side of the stadium as the benches, so we got to watch Diego Maradona pace back and forth for the entire match. We also got to watch the blocks of passionate, loud supporters of each team. During the South Korean national anthem, South Korea’s fans unfurled two enormous South Korean flags that nearly covered an entire section of spectators. It was an amazing thing to see.
In a World Cup where there haven’t been many goals scored, we were lucky enough to see five in Argentina’s 4-1 win. And, surprisingly, I find the vuvuzelas to be less distracting in person than they are on television. At the stadium, you can hear the separate toots of each horn, while on television they seem to bleed together into an obnoxious and constant buzz.
After the game, we took our long walk back to our shuttle. The ride back to the hotel was a quiet one. I think everyone was a little worn out, partially due to the game, partially due to the trek to and from the shuttle.
We hung out at the hotel for a bit before eventually heading into Rosebank, where we found a bar/restaurant where we could watch the 8:30 pm match and eat dinner and chat with a pair of very old, very drunk South Africans who were just so happy that such a large number of foreigners were in South Africa that they felt compelled to tell us.
After the match was finished, we called for a cab to take us back to our hotel. Also similar to Detroit, you cannot get a taxi without calling for it. It isn’t like a city like New York, when all you need to do is step to a curb to hail a taxi. Kind of a pain, but we haven’t been stranded anywhere . Yet.
It was around midnight when we got back to the hotel and we went to bed not long after that. We had another exciting day planned for Friday: dressing up in our patriotic finest for USA/Slovenia!