We pile into a brand new yellow VW taxi off to Loftus Versfeld Stadium. They are all painted with team colours, yesterday I was in a German one, this time its got Ghana on the side-the same country that faces Serbia today. Loftus is the home of the rugby union Blu Bulls in the stadium built for the game of the white Afrikaaners, and it is always full with hundreds of corporate suites during their season.
The upmarket area is beautiful, with leafy roads and jacaranda trees. Heavily guarded homes, guest houses, embassies and attorneys offices. The high iron grill fences also have barbed wire and signs saying 'Immediate Armed Response' and many have armed guards outside and in the yards. There is a heavy police presence as the most colourful fans yet, the Ghanaians jog and weave side to side along the streets. THEN IT HAPPENS, the MIRACLE. None of us have tickets but as at most matches many people have not bothered to show up and sent their spare tickets along with friends. Too much hassle, high air fares, hotels putting their prices up, rumours of high crime, FIFA MATCH disorganization and rip offs... On the ground is a TICKET, with people passing by. I pick it up. It looks genuine, GHANA v SERBIA 16.00 hrs Loftus Verfsfeld June 13, 2010. I look around and noboby is looking for a lost one. $US 80.00 THIS IS MY DAY !!!!
My friends Francisco, Julian and Dan buy 3 similar priced tickets for half price. We are separated and they wander in through the media entrance past lots of uninterested officials, and into the media centre. They can go where they want. I invented a phrase a few years ago 'ERMOS'. Easily Replaceable Minor Officials. There are thousands of them at each venue, a free jacket and bag and a meal. Nobody is highly trained, and all wilt if you stare at them and walk past.
Of course ZURICH, Switzerland has hundreds of them at the FIFA HQ campus next to Zurich Zoo-an appropriate location. You recognize them here because they have tailored suites and have a mobile phone attached to their ears talking in English, German, Italian, French -AND Rubbish !! These 20 somethings should try a real job for a change.
Three Mexicans from Mexico City arrive at the Victoria Hotel. One has a huge man size Mexican sort of display for his back with feathers, silk, arificial flowers etc. How he got it on a plane I don't know. We nickname them the THREE AMIGOS.
After the Loftus match I walk 500 yards to HATFIELD SQUARE. A band is playing, lots of Argentinians, Mexicans, Americans,South African, Dutch, and of course Ghanaians and Serbians fill the pubs and restaurants. We are in CHILLI'S, and the owner gives us the best table ready for his TV screening of Germany v Australia. Of course there is a giant screen on stage at which a rock band has been playing prior to kick-off of the 3rd match this day.
The owner owns 2 other restaurants either side and his girls are working the crowd outside, selling buckets of beer. Dan from Michigan buys us a bucket for R150 and we are promised the next one for less, and we are also given a half dozen scratch cards and the chance to win a new car. Other girls are sent out selling shots,. I see a couple of glum Serbians smile as two local beauties sit down next to them on the benches at their table and give them a kiss. They may have lost most of their former Yugoslavia but now have new allies.
The menu is World Cup themed; The Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Kaka or Cristinao Ronaldo breakfast. I chose the Peter Mokaba Stadium: Beef burger and chips, Julian takes the Soccer City: T bone, an egg, chips and a Castle draught, Dan the Loftus Versfeld: rump steak and chips. Francisco (Marcos), Greenpoint Stadium:fish and chips. The Germans are awesome, the Aussies woeful. It's a another great party and soccer day in South Africa-and the beat goes on, and on.....