Category Archives: World Cup 2010

This Time For Africa: Music of the World Cup

We’ve been back home for more than a month (!) and:
a. there are still a few things from my suitcase that I haven’t quite managed to put away (shhhh! People think that I’m neat. Don’t tell.)
b. nothing brings me back to the World Cup as quickly as the music of the tournament.

There were a few official songs of the World Cup that were played on repeat for the duration of the tournament. We’d hear them at breakfast, on the radio when we were being shuttled around, at restaurants and, of course, at matches. And in our dreams.

There was R. Kelly’s Sign of a Victory, the official anthem of the 2010 World Cup. Apparently the rest of the world hasn’t caught on to R. Kelly’s, um, uncouth reputation. Whatever. After listening to it 1,937 times in South Africa, I associate it with a lot of good memories. This tune could inspire me to walk across hot coals.

Wavin’ Flag by K’naan technically wasn’t an official World Cup song. Coca Cola – one of the official World Cup sponsors and, thus, ubiquitious during the tournament – used it in its commercials. Seven weeks later and the “oh, oh oh oh oh” at the beginning of the song still plays over and over in my head. I’m starting to forget that there was a time when I didn’t wake up humming it.

I saved the best for last. Shakira’s Waka Waka (This Song For Africa). This is my jam. This is Lauren’s jam. This is anyone who was at the World Cup’s jam.

Alyson dancing: Waka Waka :: Pavlov’s dogs drooling: bells.

And need I remind you that this is the song that Lauren and the waitstaff were dancing to at Moyo? Seriously, you guys. Best song EVER.

I don’t know who the marketing genius was who came up with the idea to have official World Cup (or Olympic or whatever) songs, but it is a pretty damn clever concept. I won’t always have that keychain that I bought on a whim at the African Craft Market, but I’ll always be able to shake my ass to these tunes while conjuring up memories of a great trip.

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Argentina vs. Mexico

When we were through with the Soweto and Johannesburg tour, the tour company dropped us off at the hotel.  We went straight for lunch at Lorenzo’s.  Lorenzo’s is the restaurant where we ate breakfast every morning.  It was just across the courtyard from our hotel, in another one of the buildings on the college’s campus.

After lunch, it was most definitely time for a nap.

Then it was time to pull on our Argentina gear and get ready to go to Soccer City for our very last World Cup game.  We watched the Germany/England game while we were getting ready, completely shocked at how Germany was dominating the match.  Yes, England was robbed on a goal.  But that game was all Germany.  They would’ve won anyway.

While I never would have guessed that the atmosphere at Soccer City could have been any better than it was during the first three matches was saw there, the Round of 16 seemed to bring the atmosphere to greater heights.  There was urgency, anxiety and expectation in the air that the games in the group stages didn’t have.  Not to that extent, anyway. 

Fans seemed just a touch more intense.  Vendors sold with greater pressure.  Even the security guards seemed tenser.  It only makes sense.  It was a knockout game, after all.

Both teams were well represented in the stands.  Mexico fans came dressed to impress, wearing gorgeous sombreros and other traditional garments that I can’t even imagine dragging halfway around the world.  That’s true passion, folks: loving your country so much that you’ll haul an intricately feathered headdress past airport security, across an ocean and through the endless dirt parking lots of Soccer City.

Inside the stadium well before the start of the match, we took some time to walk the concourse.  We bopped around to Shakira’s World Cup song (like we had every time we’d heard it in the previous two weeks).  I bought a coffee.  We feasted on meat pies (chicken for me, beef for Lauren), a nice change from the cheese dogs that we’d had at nearly every other match. 

While both teams had a strong base of supporters, Mexico was outnumbered.  Argentina had more fans at Soccer City.  Over and over, they threw rolls of streamers onto the field.  Over and over, we watched the security guards (and the referees, and a player or two) gather up the mess and properly dispose of it.

The match, much like the atmosphere in the stadium, was more intense than the group round matches had been.  It was quite clear that the World Cup dreams of one of the teams were going to end that night.  And, it wasn’t long into the match that it was abundantly clear that that team would not be Argentina. 

It isn’t that it wasn’t a good match.  It isn’t that Mexico didn’t play well.  Argentina was simply the superior team.  And they played like it.

When the final whistle sounded, the score was 3-1 in favor of Argentina. 

It was sad that we wouldn’t be in the stands for any more World Cup matches.  But, if our South African World Cup adventure absolutely had to end (and, unfortunately, it did) Argentina/Mexico was a great game to end with.

Round of 16: USA vs. Ghana

We conserved our energy on Saturday morning because we had a big day planned: USA vs. Ghana in the Round of 16 (meaning we would be expelling extreme amounts of passion and fandom for our boys in red, white and blue) in Rustenburg (meaning Bus Ride of Torture: The Sequel).

 The game in Rustenburg didn’t start until 8:30 pm.  We were taking the FIFA fan bus again, sadly, and it didn’t leave until 3:00 pm.  So, we spent our morning lounging around the hotel – Lauren did her homework just like a good little student – and we headed into Sandton around 1:00 pm. 

In Sandton, we had a quick lunch at a café on Nelson Mandela Square.  We had been to Nelson Mandela Square several times by this point in our trip, but we had never seen it so crowded with soccer fans and locals.  I’m sure it had something to do with the gorgeous, sunny, mild day.  And the good shopping.  And the many restaurnts.  And maybe the ESPN studio that is located there. 

We each ordered a drink with our lunch.  In preparation for the bus ride ahead, of course.

Even the alcohol couldn’t make it better.

The ride was still long and cramped and boring.  It still took well over two hours.  (And by “well over two hours,” I mean it took three.)

The entire operation was slightly more organized this time around, thankfully.  And we arrived at the stadium in Rustenburg with plenty of time before kickoff.  As a matter of fact, we had so much time that we had the ability to stand in line for 45 minutes in a failed attempt to buy a couple of hot dogs.

I don’t know what the deal was with Rustenburg, but it was a bit of a mess.  It was astounding, really, that the venue had hosted games for three weeks and couldn’t efficiently make/sell/distribute concessions.  There were probably 10 lines that stretched 15 people deep.  In the 45 minutes that we stood in line, we saw three people successfully leave our line with food.  Two of them were employees.

Not cool.

Hansche girls do not like to be hungry.  Hansche girls do not like to eat Cliff Bars for dinner.

And then the Americans had to go and lose that game!  In additional time! 

It was not an awesome day.

But there were still awesome parts of it.

It was awesome that the USA was playing in that game.  From the time of the draw, Lauren and I always assumed that England would win Group C.  We briefly entertained the idea that the American team could play in the game, remarking how cool and how unlikely that would be. 

It was awesome to have another opportunity to wear all of the patriotic gear that we’d hauled all the way to South Africa.  It was really fun to get all decked out in the stars and the stripes.  Seeing all of the other Americans doing the same was always a blast, too.

It was awesome to have a perfect view of Landon Donovan’s successful penalty kick.  We had the perfect seats for that moment: right at the penalty spot at the goal where he took that shot.  Lauren got some great pictures of that moment.  It’s too bad that the American team couldn’t score a proper goal.

It was awesome to watch Tim Howard play goalie.  Because Tim Howard is awesome.

It was not awesome that the Americans lost.  It made the bus ride home just a little bit more painful.  As did the bitter British man who sat behind us and, just as we were sitting down, proceeded to loudly rant on about how stupid all Americans are.  Slightly insulting.  Definitely unnecessary.  Ignorance is so ugly.

We didn’t get back to Nelson Mandela Square until 3:30 am.  We took a taxi back to our hotel.  Lauren ate pasta that had been sitting, unrefrigerated, in our room for 27 hours.  (And never got sick.  Is her stomach not amazing?)  And I set our alarm clock for 7:15 am.

Yes.  You read that correctly. 7:15 am.

Italy vs. Slovakia

Thursday marked the final match we would see in the group stage: Italy versus Slovenia at Ellis Park.  It was a 4:00 pm kickoff, and our shuttle driver had another group to pick up from the airport, so we got to the stadium quite early.  We walked around the stadium, took a few pictures, checked out the apparel, bought an ice cream, watched a bit of the corny “entertainment” put on by a few of the World Cup sponsors and were still to our seats an hour before the game started. 

The game was an exciting one but, apart from the final few minutes of the match, the Italians were disappointing.  It was quite a shock to see the reigning World Cup champions fail to progress out of the group stage!  Italy was very well represented in the stands.  The Italian fans had very long faces on the walk out of Ellis Park, that’s for sure.

The walk out of the stadiums is always interesting.  We never fail to see a handful of foreign reporters – television and radio – looking for a good interview from an elated (or distressed) fan of one of the participating countries.  The world press is definitely present at this World Cup.  The press box usually takes up a section or two of the stadium.  Dozens of photographers, all wearing orange vests, are seated at the sidelines at every match. 

After the game, we met our shuttle driver.  He was kind enough to drop us off at Nelson Mandela Square so that we could squeeze in dinner and a little bit of shopping before we headed back to the hotel for the night. 

We had dinner at a restaurant that overlooked Nelson Mandela Square.  I was feeling adventurous, so I took the suggestion of the “must have!” printed next to the Oxtail Casserole on the menu and ordered that for my dinner.  It tasted okay, but the consistency of the meat left something to be desired.  There was a little bit too much connective tissue for my taste, unfortunately.  It is the only meal I’ve had on this trip that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.  And, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t all that bad.  Plus, we finished the meal off with chocolate mousse.  Chocolate mousse heals all.

After finishing up dinner, we caught a cab back to our hotel.  With the length of time that we’ve been in Johannesburg, we have a pretty good idea of the standard rate that it costs to get to or from our hotel to a few different points in the surrounding suburbs.  It’s astounding how often we’re quoted a rate that is 50 Rand higher than the already inflated World Cup rate that the taxi drivers are charging.  We’ve gotten quite good, and quite comfortable with, telling the cab drivers that there’s no way we’re paying such an astounding rate.  And they always come down in price.

Back at the hotel, we got to bed earlier than we had been in bed during the entire duration of our trip.  The alarm clock was set for 6:00 the following morning.  No moaning about the early wakeup call allowed: we were getting up to go on a safari!

Germany vs. Ghana

After a Wednesday morning that started like all of our others: breakfast, showers, outfit coordination and email checks, we arranged for the hotel’s shuttle driver, Thierry, to take us to the Apartheid Museum.

Let me pause for a second to tell you about how awesome Thierry is: very awesome.  He takes us to games and picked us up at the airport.  Always cheerful.  Always laughing at Lauren’s jokes.  He’s definitely made our lives here much easier.  And we’ve certainly paid him for that privilege.

So, anyway, Thierry dropped us off at the Apartheid Museum for a few hours. 

Even after visiting the museum, I still find it inconceivable that apartheid fell only 16 years ago.  16 years! 

The museum itself was well done.  It was a little crowded, I thought, but we still took a great deal away from it.  There is so much information – I’m sure that I only soaked up a tiny percentage of what was presented – on both the rise and the fall of the apartheid museum.   I definitely left with a greater understanding of South Africa and its history.  I wouldn’t hesitate to go back if I’m ever in Johannesburg again.   

Thierry picked us up outside of the museum (on African time, of course).  He told us that he was looking for our blonde hair.  That’s all we are here.  Blonde bombshells freak shows. Now I know how Jessica Simpson feels.

We got back to the hotel with less than an hour until we were supposed to leave for the Ghana/Germany match.  It was a quick turnaround.  We changed into our Germany jerseys.  Packed up our tickets and our cameras.  Ran to the restaurant for a quick snack (chicken strips for Lauren and a quesadilla for me), caught just a bit of the two Group C final games (USA/Algeria and England/Slovakia) and got on the shuttle.

Wednesday was day of the final group stage games for Group C and Group D.  When we left for the game, USA was tied with Algeria, 0-0, and it looked like the American team would be going home.  Thierry had the game on the radio in shuttle and we listened nervously as time ticked down.  What a shame.

We were on the highway when the game entered injury time.  We were stuck in traffic, inching along.  The shuttle was just driving past a fan park – where the games were projected onto big screens – when the Americans scored. 

Perfect timing.

For us and for Landon Donovan.

Lauren and I were both a little shocked.  All this time, we had assumed that we would be watching England in the Round of 16.  And now we had a reason to use the temporary tattoos we hadn’t used at the USA/Slovakia game.  Hurray! 

With plenty to be excited about, we entered Soccer City to watch Germany/Ghana.

As has become pattern, the African fans were loud and proud.  There were a lot of German fans in attendance, too.  Unlike the Mexico fans, no Germans tried to tell us that we didn’t look German.  Go figure.  A few tried to speak to us in German, as a matter of fact.  We smiled and nodded and definitely could’ve used Betsy or Meredith’s translation services.

The Germany/Ghana game was a fun one to watch.  Germany’s goalie, Manuel Neuer, plays like a complete madman.  While the score was only 1-0, both teams had a good number of quality scoring chances.  We had category 3 tickets for the game, our lowest price/category tickets, and I swear that they were equal or better to some of the category 2 tickets we had.  Go figure. 

There is no explaining FIFA.

Mexico vs. Uruguay

We had an early start on Tuesday.  Attending our first match in Rustenburg required a morning of travel.  Rustenburg is approximately two hours away from Johannesburg and, before we left, I purchased tickets on FIFA’s city-to-city fan busses.  Because she’s really awesome (or maybe because she feels guilty about the whole hotel-burning-down ordeal) Jackie volunteered to take us to the bus station.  Our bus was scheduled to leave just after 10:00 am; she dropped us off around 9:30 am.

If I’m being honest, I’m still not exactly sure how we managed to get on a bus and get to Rustenburg.  It was that disorganized.  Give your ticket to that woman over there.  See that man standing by the wall?  Get a wristband from him.  Stand around.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.

It was well past 11:00 when the bus finally showed up.

We joke about Africa time, but it is definitely a reality of life here.  Things aren’t to the minute and people don’t live and die by the clock. 

But the bus eventually showed up and we squeezed in with a bunch of passionate Mexican fans, along with the odd Uruguay fan scattered here and there.

The night before, we’d been warned about the trip to Rustenburg.  Expect slow and expect long, we were told.  And, by all means, when your bus stops at the gas station before you get to the stadium?  Get out!  Get out.  Get food.  Get drinks.  Because it is your last chance.

At a gas station.

The problem with Rustenburg is that there are only two ways to get to town and both of them are simple two lane highways.  It made for a very long trip.  What takes two hours in optimal driving conditions took almost four.  We arrived at 3:35 pm for the 4:00 pm match. 

Mexico largely dominated the match but lost, 1-0.  Mexico’s fans seemed to be the majority in the crowd and they were a little intense.  After halftime, we were walking up to our seats and one Mexico fan looks at us and exclaims “you’re not Mexican!” 

No kidding, bro. 

After the game, we went straight back to the bus.  It was a little after 6:00 pm, which was somewhat alarming because our bus driver definitely told us, upon arrival, that the bus was leaving at 7:30 pm.  But Rustenburg’s stadium is in the absolute middle of nowhere.  There isn’t any single place to go for a drink or shop for souvenirs or otherwise kill time.  (Unless you wanted to invite yourself over to a family’s tiny tin home, I suppose.  And that would be rude.)

So we sat on the bus.  Waited.  Waited.  Waited.  Waited.  AGAIN.  Finally, the bus was full and all of the sad Mexicans (and the occasional elated Uruguayan) were accounted for.  Except two.

We would leave, the bus driver said, if the two missing passengers hadn’t returned by 8:30 pm.     

They showed up.  All of the Mexicans sang a song to the latecomers as they climbed onto the bus, teasing them for being late.  I just wanted to cry tears of joy. 

We slept, fitfully and uncomfortably, for most of the ride back.  The driver didn’t have the air conditioning on, so the bus was stuffy in addition to being cramped and so, so slow.  The infamous single road leading out of Rustenburg was backed up most of the way.  It was not a pleasant trip. 

But it got us where we needed to go.  And it got us back.  We arrived in Sandton just after 10:30 pm and we rushed over to Nelson Mandela Square to find a restaurant that was still serving dinner.  Not surprisingly, our outlook on the day was a bit rosier after we had had a meal.

We survived the trip to Rustenburg!

And we’re going back on Saturday.

Brazil vs. Ivory Coast

On Sunday, we let our Lobert side shine.  No, we didn’t each chips and dip.  We went shopping!

The mall that is a just a few minutes from our hotel hosts an African craft market on Sundays.  It was a very traditional setting, with lots of different vendors setting up their goods in a booth, encouraging you to “come here, look.  Good prices!”  Of course, haggling is encouraged. 

There was so much to look at!  Everything from beaded jewelry to wooden bowls to vuvuzelas and t-shirts.  We picked up quite a few pretty things before stopping for lunch.  After lunch, we wandered around the mall for a while.  Eventually, we came upon another craft market.  This one was even bigger than the last!  We were rapidly running out of time, but we took a quick stroll through.  Lauren is craving a scarf made of African fabric that costs less than 700 Rand.  We’re still looking.

The hotel shuttle to the Brazil vs. Ivory Coast game was scheduled to leave at 4:30 pm.  We got back from shopping, packed up our warm clothes and headed out to the shuttle.  We neglected to take African time into account: everything runs 15 to 30 minutes later than we’re told because, well…because it isn’t being run by a bunch of neurotic Americans, I think.

We left closer to 5:00 pm.  We’ve been arriving at games with plenty of time to spare, anyway.  Our shuttle drivers get us there quite early, as the traffic to Soccer City is rather bad (although it seems to be getting better) and it gives us time to take in the sights and get something to eat and find our seats and oblige the strange men who ask for their pictures with the two blonde girls before the start of the match.      

Brazil fans are a lively bunch.  Very vocal, very proud.  Ivory Coast had quite the crowd backing them, too.  It didn’t take us long to learn that Africans cheer for their own country first and for the other African nations second.  Combine the Brazilian fans and the Ivory Coast fans together and you get a very loud Soccer City.  It was easily the loudest match that we’ve been to.  The vuvuzelas were out in full force at that match; whenever Ivory Coast had a free kick, the building would pulse with the hum of the vuvuzelas. 

Despite having what was classified as a category 2 ticket, our seats were up high in the second row.  It didn’t really matter much, actually.  I doubt that there is a bad seat in Soccer City.  Soccer can definitely be appreciated from higher up than is the case for some sports; it is actually much easier to see plays developing from higher up in the stands.  It’s just harder, if not impossible, to read the names on the back of the jerseys. 

It wasn’t anywhere near as cold at Soccer City for this match, an 8:30 pm start, than it was during the Argentina vs. South Korea match, which started at 1:30 pm.  We brought extra layers and our hats and mittens but really didn’t need any of it.  Isn’t that how it always works when you’re prepared?!

In the pleasant temperatures, we munched on crisps and cheese dogs again.  We laughed at the very, very intense Brazilian woman losing her head and screaming about some call (or lack of call) by the referee every few minutes.  We met a pair of Norwegians. We watched Kaka get ejected from the game.  We saw a very, very strong performance from an amazing Brazilian team.  The Ivory Coast is a decent squad, but Brazil was just so much better.   

It was a busy, busy day.  When the shuttle returned us to our hotel, we called our daddy to wish him a Happy Father’s Day and fell asleep shortly thereafter.  Fortunately, Monday’s itinerary was wide open but for dinner reservations at 8:30.  Time to sleep in!  Time to relax!  Time for Lauren to do homework!  Or maybe just time to go shopping again.