Good shot South Africa

Four Mail & Guardian staffers share their experiences of attending Confederations Cup matches

Down with the doomsayers, says Hoosain Karjieker

My experience has been nothing short of fantastic. There was a sudden burst of enthusiasm about two weeks prior to kick-off, ignited by the long-overdue billboards and street pole signage that sprang up. They enhanced visibility that was lacking earlier on in the year.

A further burst of excitement rippled through the country once we realised that the likes of Brazil’s Kaka and Robinho, Torres from Spain and, yes ladies, Cannavaro from Italy, were actually on our shores.

Ellis Park and its surroundings had been transformed into a theme park, clean and clear, allowing for a smooth flow of spectators.
Euro Disney could take lessons in the number of times I was approached by ushers asking whether I required assistance.

The congestion around Ellis Park, however, was a bit of a damper, as was the Park and Ride system, which requires some reconfiguration. It was frustrating to watch the ”blue light brigade” pass by at the obligatory speeds.

And the controversy surrounding the Egyptian team’s thefts catapulted crime to the forefront again, until it was discovered that their celebrations of the victory against Spain may have spilled over into their bedrooms.

I have attended four matches in the past two weeks. On one occasion I had to collect tickets from the collection point in Sandton; I was impressed with the efficiency.

The rest of tickets were acquired with the help of a ticket tout — a demon Fifa created through its complex online booking system. As a result I still do not have a single ticket for any of the 2010 games and I refuse to call on my acquaintances at the local organising committee (I hope you are listening, Jermaine) to assist with this.

The South Africa vs Spain game in Bloemfontein was by far the most memorable for me.

The atmosphere was electrifying with a sea of South African flags held high as we all sang the national anthem (yes the full
version). Africa’s time had really come.

We are prepared for next year’s magnificent event. Despite having lost the match we had won the game. The celebrations after the game could have been as a result only of the confidence that was restored in the hearts of South Africans.

Down with all the doomsayers! Down with all the back-up and alternative countries. Roll on 2010! South Africa is prepared!

Adriaan Basson can’t wait for 2010

For all the faults of our capital, Pretoria inspired me to apply for early tickets for the 2010 World Cup. Some refer to Pretoria as Little Tuscany, but my experience attending the humdinger match between Brazil and Italy left me with a lot of positive feelings, none of them as cheesy as the building style favoured by suburban contractors.

The opening game between Bafana Bafana and Iraq was a huge anti-climax. I left Rosebank at 12pm and arrived at Ellis Park 10 minutes before the 4pm kick-off. A friend said that it would have been quicker for us to fly to Cape Town and back and take a taxi from OR Tambo airport to get to the game.

The organisation was chaotic, the security nonexistent and where have you seen South Africans desperately queuing for a warm, reddish concoction sold under the label Budweiser for R20 a shot.

Inside the stadium I experienced a 1994-ish atmosphere, people with different hairstyles, skin tones and sunglasses uncomfortably getting to know one another while squeezing into the little red seats that were clearly designed for a pre-junk food generation.

Apart from the messy organisation and deadly boring football, I did manage to learn a few football techniques and nicknames of Bafana players from my friendly neighbour who was, thank God, in good shape.

The Pretoria experience was, however, something out of this world. After enjoying a lovely dinner with my partner and friends in one of the capital’s trendy restaurants we headed to the Pretoria Sports Ground’s Park and Ride facility.

We only queued for about 20 minutes. Inside the parking grounds friendly stewards showed us where to park and catch the bus.

A row of empty buses greeted us and we were soon on our way to experience a World Cup final atmosphere inside the home ground of the mighty Blue Bulls.

The stadium was great. Although my friend’s backpack wasn’t searched for any dangerous weapons or animals, there were more than enough stewards and security guards to make you feel safe and welcome.

The queues for beer (unfortunately the same red concoction) were considerably shorter and they actually had real boerewors rolls in stock.

The football dished out was magnificent. The way players such as Kaka and Robinho skilfully controlled the ball made me wonder whether Brazilian soccer stars are born with four hands.

I cheered for Italy (I’m always a sucker for the underdog) but wasn’t terribly upset by the end result.

Our trip back to the Park and Ride grounds — this time also escorted by friendly Tshwane Metro police officials on motorbikes — was just as fabulous. (My partner said that she felt a bit like Jacob Zuma). Viva La Tshwane. I’ll be back for more.

Stephen ‘Pops’ Ramushu is proud to be South African

On Sunday night I was invited by my chief operating officer, Hoosain Karjieker, to go to the match between Brazil and Italy at Loftus Versfeld stadium. I had not been to a football match in years because of the inconvenience associated with parking and the time it takes for you to find your way home.

I met my colleagues Bryan Khumalo, Bongi Ndlozi and Rapule Tabane at the office where a minibus was waiting to take us to the venue.

On arrival we found organised Metro Police officials who directed us to our designated parking area. The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement. The sound of vuvuzelas could be heard from kilometres away.

Before entering the stadium we were frisked for weapons and other unwanted items. This was done with a smile and respect. Those without tickets were not allowed near the stadium. Some people asked us if we had spare tickets for them because fake tickets stood no chance against such a stringent and well-oiled system.

Once inside, friendly marshals directed us to our final destination.

Tabane and I sat in the wrong seats, but a fellow fan kindly showed us to our correct spots.

He must have been a regular at this venue because he also advised that it was a better viewing position.

The energy inside was electrifying, with people from all walks of life coming to see the two soccer giants go head to head.

Brazilian, Italian and South African flags were flying high. People of all races wore our country’s jersey with pride. For the first time I felt really proud to be South African. I thought to myself: this is a job well done.

When the first Mexican wave approached I didn’t join. But when it came our way again I could not resist and from then on I was hooked.

My advice is that people should go to these events to add their energy.

The time has come for us to encourage our kids and family members to support their country. Seeing the stars in person makes a huge difference. I am looking forward to Sunday’s final.

Bryan Khumalo gives a thumbs up to the organisers

”You will not take my boy to the stadium after what I heard on radio today.”

These were the words uttered by my wife when I was preparing to go to watch the Italy vs Egypt game with my son. This, coming from a woman who is madly in love with the Italian team (possibly for the wrong reasons), was quite shocking.

With trepidation I soldiered on to Wits for the shuttle service that would take us to Ellis Park, warmly dressed for the chilly Jozi night air and prepared to face the chaos my wife warned me about.

The ride from Wits to the stadium was as seamless as it was surprising. Wow, I thought, that was easy enough; this must be my lucky day.

As I approached the stadium, taking pictures outside, I all but forgot my wife’s words. I was quickly ushered into the stadium by one of the marshals and within 15 minutes I was in my seat — this was an hour before the game was to start.

While looking for a colleague I was supposed to meet, I started to chat to an Egypt supporter seated next to me. I soon forgot about my colleague.

Suddenly I heard a familiar voice saying: ”Insizwa engihamba nayo yinde” (the man that I am with is tall). I turned around and saw my colleague talking to an usher.

Apparently, when an overzealous security official tore his ticket, he also ripped the seat number off. All my colleague had was the gate and row number. Luckily for him I knew we were seated next to each other. Needless to say everything turned out well in the end.

As the players entered the field, everyone rose as one, cheering the players on. The roar from the crowd was overwhelming and it was a proud and great moment.

After the match I followed the Wits signs to the shuttle, mentally prepared to wait for at least two hours before getting home. But again I was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of transport. I was home by 11.20pm.

On Sunday I went to Loftus Versfeld Stadium with my colleagues to watch the Brazil vs Italy game. Again the experience was out of this world.

Sure there are some areas that need to be looked at, such as more stadium orientation for traffic officials and perhaps a short course in ”service with a smile”.

But all in all a great experience. Big up to the organisers!

Keep the powerful accountable

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