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Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup Diary. #1

My big brother, 'Eclectic' has the priviledge of being an attendee at the World Cup. As a way of entertaining you and giving you an insight to things BBC and CNN don't show we came to an agreement which stipulates that he writes an account of his experiences. It shall be titled 'World Cup Diaries'. Enjoy.

June 10, 2010
I should have woken up today, fully excited, singing and yelling to the whole world, making them jealous as to my next fortnight. The truth is, I didn’t wake up at all! I actually never slept! But not out of inability to contain myself. Nah, the workaholic in me was full on, trying to get a lot of things done to ensure that work would disturb me very little whilst away in SA. Did I succeed? Hmmm....despite all that work, I cannot even tell, so at the end of this series, we’ll all know!

The truth is all was prepared (almost) a long time ago. My brother Dami, had bid on FIFA’s website during the first round of ticket sales and got team specific tickets for Nigeria’s group matches.....mind you, this was back in Summer 2009.....before we had even scraped through qualification. FIFA had collected their money long since, and would only have refunded a portion had the Eagles not made it! At one stage, we somewhat hoped they wouldn’t just so we could recoup some money back. Also, at the time, I really did not want to see them going to the World Cup the way they were performing. My flights were booked using airmiles (about the only benefit of working the craziness I do!). Accommodation secured....after scouring the whole SA market to ensure we don’t get screwed over by Saffas trying to become millionaires overnight. I don’t blame them though....I’d jack up prices as well if I had property to rent during a World Cup or Olympic year!

The day itself was rather eventful and flew by. I had to dash home, after working a few hours, run some errands and ensure my guests also made their flight. Packing was a rushed affair, so invariably a few things were left behind, but not my carefully guarded big green bag complete with jersey (including the shorts....don’t know why), scarf, flag etc. Said bag, I only saw on my bed after wheeling my suitcase out of the room! Phew! That was close! One can be too careful sometimes it can haunt you. Grabbed the damn bag and I was off down under.....somewhat!

So South Africa 2010 awaited me......Yes o! It was me it was waiting for! My first trip to Southern Africa, my first trip to a World Cup.....or any major tournament. So what should I expect? Before jetting out, I’d hardly thought of it. We’d postulated, commentated and argued fervently over team selections for the various nations competing.....the deluded England, the confused France, Argentina at the mercy of the unpredictable Maradona, and of course our beloved Nigeria, complete with brand new coach who had not even met most of the players.

Forever the optimist (why else – I am spending considerable money travelling thousands of miles to follow them), I maintained that we had a good chance and wouldn’t embarrass ourselves. Still maintain that Argentina will be a surprise result. I am more worried about South Korea though. Never know which Greeks will show, and to what extent the troubles back home galvanises or distracts them.

As to what to expect from SA as a country, I started to get a feel from talking to people in SA, booking cars, accommodation etc. and other people planning their trip down as well. My brother, leaving Cape Town for Johannesburg, for that massive FIFA World Cup celebration concert in Soweto – which I’ll probably never see because of my running around and travelling today – spelled it out. Joburg is sizzling......far more so that Cape Town. The atmosphere is electric. It had begun! Everybody was in party mode. Forget the preparations, which a lot of people a lot of people (particularly Saffas outside their country) doubted, the security concerns, costs, politics etc. It was time to show the whole world that can do it, and do it right! “WE” here, means Africans, but let us be fair and give the South Africans the credit due to them. It is their hard work that has brought this to pass. I really hope everything works out well and the doubters can be put to shame.

So I started to really look forward to. My work blackberry’s battery died on me, so I literally had no other choice but to just enjoy myself!

Touchdown in Charles De Gaulle airport, Paris at about 10pm. Very quiet at that time, until I approached what was meant to be our gate for the connecting flight to Joburg. Soooo many people! A cacophony of languages, colour riot and smells! Curiously very few French people. Mostly Spanish speaking. Presumably Mexicans and Argentines as they had matches in Joburg on the opening day (the former against the hosts) and the following day (the latter against the Super Eagles). There must have been about 600 people there! I noticed we were being boarded at two gates. I wondered if there were two planes going down to Joburg. Yes they were! Actually, no.......another first for me......we were invited to board one of Air France’s new super jumbo A380s. Oh my god! What a sight! The thing is massive!!! Actually wider than it is long. It looked so heavy, I wondered if it would actually be able to take off.
I boarded on the upper deck, and handed the attendant my boarding pass and like several before me and after, was ushered through the impressive business class cabin, the even more opulent La Premiere Classe, down some stairs, back through yet more business and first class, right to the back of the ship. I promptly found seat 42D in the middle of cattle class. Gosh, we were packed in like sardines! Bastards, I thought!!! Why make us go through all that torture.....showing us what we couldn’t afford! To hell with them.......cattle class had more atmosphere.
I wish I could describe the experience to you. Truth is.....I dozed. Do remember, I had not slept for close to 40 hours! Gimme a break! Anyway, Joburg was approaching!
What would that first experience be like, I wondered, as we descended towards Oliver Tambo International Airport and FIFA South Africa 2010!
Catch you in a bit!


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