My first visit to Ellis Park, home of the Springboks Rugby team and I took the SLOW local train from Pretoria to Johannesburg Park Station that stopped everywhere with packed carriages. Maybe 500 in each of 40 of them at some points and in and out weaved sellers with oranges, apples, bananas, pears, candy, popcorn, patent medicines, at every stop. It took two hours and I was the only white guy on the whole train.
From Park Station it was a 5 minute one stop hop to Ellis. At Ellis Plaza there was a petrol station, McDonalds, KFC and a super little pizza place. The manager had lots of small pizzas ready to go for R 26 which included a free drink. I chose the CLUB PIZZA. Lots of drinks and snacks in the petrol stadion at one-third the price inside the stadium. It was mass confusion around the stadium. Actually two stadiums with the smaller soccer and athletics stadium next door, AGAIN those stadium area signs but NO You are there pointers. None of the police, volunteers, security people were locals and you get the usual answer- a blank stare and point to the next person.
Finally inside and we had great seats about 10 rows up from the pitch, in line with the penalty area. Signs hanging from the upper tiers. All Brasilian yellows and greens plus the clubs of the fans: Flamengo, Botafogo, Palmeires, C.A.M, Fluminense, Sao Paulo FC, Corinthians and Wuppertal Sportsverein !!!. Thousands of Brazilian fans. Who is left to drive the buses, deliver the post, and play on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro? There were less Chilean fans but they made a lot of noise, and a number are staying in my hotel.
As you saw on TV it wasn't much of a contest with The Samba Boys in total control, well disciplined in defence, dangerous up front and all in perpetual motion;' Goals from Juan, Luis Fabiano and Robinho, 3-0 and a quarter final match up with the Dutch in Port Elizabeth. With the dodgy referees we have suffered recently it was a nice change to see a real one for a change. Howard Webb and his two assistants were superb. Fit, on top of things, taking no Latin moans and groans, just as they treated The Azzuri in the opening round v Slovakia. I took note of their performance. FAULTLESS, Maybe a repeat performance at SOCCER CITY on July 11th at the Final?
The crowd were in great form, passing around blow up beach balls, running up and down the isles and in front of the crowd with huge gold World Cups, vuvuzelas on the attack and we even had 5 Mexican waves. The guys and their women in the VIP stand even stood up and rattled their jewelry and jingled their FIFA approved Hublot watches. Of course most of the referees wear expensive Rolexes, which they find in their hotel rooms prior to Champions League matches in Madrid, Marseilles, Milan and Athens.
Back home to Pretoria in one hour on the Express Fan Train with cheerful Brazilians, sad Chileans and satisfied neutrals, I had a discussion with some English fans about all those giant signs and banners you saw before the Three Lions went home in disgrace. A fan from Stevenage Borough, just promoted from The Conference was telling me about having to be inside the stadium at least 2 hours before kick-off to get a place to hang THEIR club flag and be seen on television.
There was a very tall fan dressed in lederhosen and Bavarian stockings and hat with his wife. They were from one of my favourite cities in Bavaria, REGENSBURG, home of Jahn Regensburg Bundeliga II who I watched a few months ago. They were happy to be flying to Cape Town or KAAPSTADT for their match up with the Argentinians.
I am off to somewhere COMPLETELY DIFFERENT for a few days. Read about it soon.