It was looking grim for our Yanks for a while there, but they pulled out a draw against Slovenia. A win was preferable, but a come-from-behind draw was awfully exciting, too.
Our day revolved around the 4:00 pm USA-Slovenia match. It featured a stint at the official USA fan bar (where we had far too much fun and just enough liquor), posing for pictures with random locals who wanted their photo with the blonde American girls with the temporary tattoos on their cheeks, a touch of shopping, a trip to Nelson Mandela Square and sharing a shuttle with a group of four loud, hilarious, kind, fabulous New Yorkers.
At the Radium Beer Hall, where all of the American fans were meeting, we had a surreal experience. While attempting to get close enough to the bar to order our drinks, Lauren started chatting with the guy standing next to her. When he asked where she was from, she answered “Michigan. Just outside of Detroit.” He asked for the specific city. Lauren hesitated. “I doubt that you’ll know…” He grew up in Michigan, he said. Lauren told him that we were from Walled Lake.
“I went to Walled Lake Western. I graduated in 2001.”
We met a kid from Walled Lake. In SOUTH AFRICA.
It’s a small, small world.
At the beer hall, we also had the pleasure of posing with a young (14, maybe?) American fan at the request of the kid’s dad. The kid, all braces and awkward, was drinking beer and clearly having the time of his life. “I want to get his picture with some pretty girls,” the dad said. We obliged, later laughing at how fired up the kid was. Beer, girls and the USA/Slovenia game? I’d wager that he was having the best day of his young life.
We made it to Ellis Park about an hour early. After buying a bit of food (hot dogs and crisps), we headed to our seats.
And this is where we come to the best part about the day. Unbeknownst to us, we had seats in the 8th row.
Surprise! We had no idea. Lauren brought her zoom lens and took some amazing shots. (If you haven’t noticed, a link to our photos is in the right-side column. We’re uploading just a few of our favorite shots, in a low resolution, due to the slow internet, but it’s better than nothing!)
Americans were well represented in the stands. Everywhere we turned, there was another fan painted in red, white and blue. (We also saw someone wearing a Red Wings jersey. Loved it!) The crowd erupted each time the American team scored – especially when Maurice Edu netted what should have been the game winner. I still don’t know why the referee called that goal off. Disastrous.
We now have a moral conundrum. We have tickets to see the #1 finisher in the USA/England/Slovenia/Algeria group. Do we cheer for England to win the group, so that we can see them play in the Round of 16, which would mean that the Americans don’t advance? Do we cheer for USA to pull out a second place finish, even though we’ll have to watch Slovenia play in the Round of 16? How can we possibly decide?!
After we returned from the game, we headed into Sandton. Sandton is a wealthy suburb outside of Johannesburg and is, in many ways, the center of the World Cup action. Our taxi driver took us to Nelson Mandela Square, where there is a big mall and lots of restaurants and tons of people walking around. (One of the strangest things about the Johannesburg area is that there is almost nobody out and about at nighttime, especially walking around.) ESPN has a studio in Nelson Mandela Square. Sony has a big tent set up for people to watch matches on their new 3D televisions. It’s the place to be.
We were hungry for dinner, but spent a good bit of time looking for a restaurant that was showing the England/Algeria game. It was way more difficult than you’d imagine! Most restaurants only had one or two televisions, tucked away in a corner. There wasn’t a sports bar in sight! A reminder that we definitely aren’t in America.
We settled on an Italian restaurant, where we were quite a ways back from the television that was showing the England/Algeria game, but at least we could see it. Not that there was all that much to see, with the match finishing in a 0-0 stalemate and all.
After the game was over, we walked through the mall (which might also double as a maze for confused tourists. Such a complex floor plan, especially for two people who can’t remember where to find the GAP at 12 Oaks!) for a while before calling for a taxi to take us back to the hotel. It was time to rest up for another big day: a visit to the Lion Park!
In other news: Lauren taught me how to divide by 5/8ths, which is huge in my development towards becoming a fully functional adult.