Posted: 6/18/2010


        One great thing about this World Cup is that the local trains are free. There is a superb new and spacious  station at SOCCER CITY between Johannesburg and Soweto, and after the matches free trains back into Jo'burg, and in our case Pretoria, a 2 hour trip, and elswehere .

       SOWETO means South West Townships and is a series of towns where blacks were forced to live under apartheid. They got early trains to work and had to leave at dusk. Now anybody can live anywhere-so long as they can afford it. There are slums there, but also mansions 10 times as inexpensive as in Sandton and elswhere ,and middle class residences for teachers, civil servants and the like. Both Jo'burg and Soweto have a population of about 1 million each.

      I hadn't bean to Soccer City, then FNB Stadium since covering the S. A. Women's and Men's Cup Finals for 'African Football' magazine back in 1993. It has been totally redone and is surrounded on 3 sides by huge mountains of gold mine waste which have been replanted with trees and grass, but not very effectively. As you know it is in the shape of an African 'Calibash' or cooking pot. It is almost camoulaged from a distance.

      outside I bought a $120.00 category 2 ticket for half price, and my 3 friends bought 3 X $80.00 cat.3 tickets for a similar discount. As the national anthems were being played as I took my seat in the second of 5 tiers in the 90,000 cpacity stadium. I was between Aussie fans from Perth and Sydney and below and above were red painted South Koreans.  Bright sunshine and warm weather for a change. 

    Diego Maradona was animated on the touchline and worth the price of admission, but it was his players that were the stars, with a scintillating performance. We were treated to the first hat-trick of this low scoring tournament as the Asians wilted against Messi, Tevez and company. The Koreans managed a late goal at the end of the half to make the 2-1 scoreline respectable, but the second half was all Latin skill and speed.

    OUCH ! I cried as something hit my head. It was, fortunately, an iconic plastic converted miner's helmet, a MAKARABA. I looked up and 3 tiers above I THINK they said sorry. It was white and hand painted with Korean and Argentinian flags, the date of the match, and more colour. At least it was a great souvenir as a keepsake.

    At the Peter Mokabe Stadium in Polokwane former 1998 Champions France were outclassed by EL TRI as the Mexicans won 2-0 . First Javier Hernandez the Chivas striker punishing ineffective French defending to round the goalie and score. It was all over for Les Bleus when  Blanco converted a penalty, for Mexico's first ever win over their opponents.  Greece won their first ever World Cup Finals match against a disorganized Nigeria who also face early elimination.

     The night before I had been in a packed Hatfield Square to watch Uruguay, the first ever World Cup champions, thrash Bafana, Bafana. I took the free 9 minute Metro train ride from Pretoria to Loftus station. The ride was short but the vuvuzela noise ion board was loud. and outside the stadium Uruguayan fans were bargaining for the few tickets being sold by touts. One was a Swiss tout with a concertina of maybe 2 dozen sponsors tickets with meals and drinks in box seats for R2500. The Celeste fans were paying dollars, about half price, for these. NOT FOR ME. I went 5 blocks to the square.

     A rock band and then the match. After the second goal, a penalty, the fans exited and the vuvuzelas were silenced.  It will be a miracle if South Africa don't become the first ever host nation to be eliminated in the opening round. It was a quiet 9 minute train ride back to Pretoria station, and then less then a minute walk to my hotel and upstairs to bed.