Cape Town June 17th
– we land in South Africa to the news that the local team Bafana Bafana representing the host nation have lost 3-0 to Uruguay while we were flying. Uruguay are destined to be the party poopers at this World Cup, and everyone’s least favourite team. A kind of gloom is on the land as a result – it’s winter but more like an English summer’s day on Table Mountain. The q for the cable car is so long we don’t bother. Robben Island is booked up all weekend. The English have arrived – all 20,000 of us, the best-supported team at this World Cup, though whether the boys deserve it is open to question. We watch Argentina take South Korea apart in a restaurant in Camps Bay as surfers catch a wave a few feet away. Very white this part of SA. Later that day France capitulate against Mexico giving Bafana Bafana a sliver of hope.
– my birthday. We drive to Cape Point, the southernmost tip of Africa, pausing for baboons crossing the road, and searching in vain for penguins. Germany lose to Serbia and we drive back through Chapman’s Peak a stunning rocky cliff road that rivals the best of Amalfi or California. Then the ritual preparation for The England. Draped in flaggery and clutching our tickets we take a local minibus to the stadium just a couple miles up from our B&B in Seapoint.
The vuvuzela massive makes it’s presence felt, the stadium is a masterpiece and quite a thrilling structure, the weather is warm, and then, oh dear, the game. How such successful practitioners of the art of football produce quite such a turgid display of misplaced passes shin bounces, pathetic headers and off-target excuses for shots is beyond my analysis, but the regular torture of watching England play football is comfortably exceeded by this woeful and inept display. Two chaps behind us cannot believe their eyes and they voice all of our thoughts over the 90 minutes. “Sort yerselves out for christsakes”. “What’s going on?”. “I can’t believe what I’m watching – fuckin sort it out!”. The English footballers were clearly unable to sort it out. Add to the disappointment a rather large contingent of the England around Jenny and I singing “You can stick your vuvuzela up your arse” and the evening was complete. Quite the worst evening I have ever had on my birthday. We did go along to Norman Cook’s party after the game, picking up some S African musicians onto our guest list, and it did cheer us up somewhat thank god. But clearly England were not going to challenge for the World Cup. We felt bemused, stunned, angry, confused. Not good.
Long Street cafe has the games, the internet and a decent menu, and a mixed clientele leading us to believe that perhaps people are starting to get it together over here. Holland eventually beat Japan but Ghana and Cameroon struggle to make an impact and Africa is not being represented well at this tournament. We drink in Camps Bay later and meet some of the characters – Billy The Bee has gathered a large crowd of English many of whom have done World Cups before – including of course myself and Jenn. This is her fourth World Cup and my fifth – and various tournament veterans swap stories from Japan/Korea 02, France98, Germany06 and USA94. After convincing the locals that Valentine is a member of the Ivory Coast squad we drive off in search of the next bar but it never appears and after 90 minutes, rather like England, we give up.
To the FIFA Fan Park in Independence Square where Mandela made his first speech after being released from 28 years in prison – the square and District 6 in general reeks of history but the fanpark is terribly disappointing – over-policed, very corporate and empty save for a few hundred locals and their face-painted kids, a smattering of soon-to-be-gutted Italians and four chaps from New Zealand in tights. We watch the second half in an Italian restaurant in Seapoint where our waiter (who looks Sri Lankan but sounds Cape) tells us that Cape Town types haven’t started sharing their wealth with the nation yet. The sun sets. Back to Long Street and a search for the perfect African vibe finally settling on Bob’s Bar where the almost entirely black clientele mingle with european footie fans from England Portugal and elsewhere to watch the big one : Brazil v Ivory Coast. This is the African World Cup Final. The pool table is covered, the lights go down, Jen sits next to a very busty Nigerian lady named Candy who is waiting for her Swedish boyfriend to come and marry her, at which point she will ‘clean her pumpum’. Sandy and her two friends are working girls and supporting Brazil, to the point where whenever Brazil score (3 times) Sandy attempts to do the same by waving her two giant Brazilian-flag-painted breasts at the middle-aged England fans in the bar, shouting “I’m a winner!” But when Drogba scores for the Ivory Coast the roar is huge and african and electric. It is amazing how the africans all support the other teams from the continent – unheard of elsewhere on planet football. But the first black World Cup needs an African Success. I’ll never forget the intensity which came over the chaps playing pool when one by one they found a chair and lined up along the green baize, intent on the game, the World Cup meant everything to them. I imagined the scene being played out in bars and homes and clubs around the whole continent, around the whole world.
Lunchtime kick-off at Green Point stadium and we’re back there in the rain with tickets for Portugal v North Korea, who are a bit of a collector’s item,unseen in a World Cup since their ’66 heroics. We see their “fans” – apparently Chinese actors pretending to be Korean – and are seated with the thousands of Portugese.
They sing and shout and eventually cheer as Portugal demolish North Korea 7-0. Ronaldo finally scores rather like a trained seal after two barren years for the national team. It’s a big scoreline but North Korea collapsed in the 2nd half. Later we eat wild boar and ostrich watching Chile and then take pictures from Signal Hill before going back to Lavender Lodge for the Spanish game watching in bed as we need to get up at five the following morning for a long drive down the garden route to Port Elizabeth.