Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We're Getting Closer/This Isn't Over

I've now been to two actual live games at the Cape Town Stadium (England v Algeria, insane to be there but not a particularly exciting game; Portugal v North Korea/Korea "Democratic" "People's" "Republic," a masterful game by the Portuguese--the way soccer should have been played throughout this World Cup--but tempered by my concerns for the safety of the North Korean players and their families at the hands of their government after such an embarrassing defeat). There's no way to really describe how overwhelming it all is, especially since I had the most insane seats ever. For the England Algeria game I was in the fourth row to the right of the goal--so close, I could have potentially rushed past the police and gotten onto the field. Not that I considered it or anything. I could see Rooney's increasingly agitated face (would not want to piss that guy off for sure) and could pick out David Beckham on the bench (see below). For the Portugal North Korea game I was in the second mezzanine dead center in the first row with a full unobstructed view of the whole field. I could see every goal, Cristiano Ronaldo, who is looking a lot less orange and plucked these days, thank goodness, etc. The field is so much smaller in real life, but the soccer itself is so much better. As an ex-soccer-player, I was constantly amazed by all of the teams' movement on and off ball. Perfect touches, perfect angles, perfect anticipation. And even though I was sick for both games--and sick enough in the Portugal game to doze off for a bit before the scoring began--it was worth every cold, crowded, vuvuzela-filled (not a great noise when you have a sinus headache, BTW) moment. It was even worth the disgusting hot dogs, which were an assault on all five senses, and the rain that came in from the open back of the stadium. It was awesome.

The World Cup has gotten interesting--an unexpected comeback for USA (minus perhaps the worst refereeing call of all time or at least since the Hand of God, not that I'm biased), a heartbreaking but dignified disqualification for Bafana Bafana, beautiful soccer finally coming out for many teams, France's strike/implosion/whatever, the little guys getting a good shot at the title, etc. There's a great recap of the past few days here, on one of my favorite sites--warning, only semi-safe for work due to colorful language.

And, in the full interest of being honest on one's blog, I have drunk the Kool-Aid and have embraced the Shakira World Cup song. Added bonuses: Not only does the song use a refrain from a Cameroonian song from the 80s/early 90s AND feature the excellent South African band Freshlyground, the Waka Waka dance is about a thousand times easier than the Diski Dance. Not that I can do it, but still--it's the principle of the thing.

And now, for some pictures.

Byron giving his fiercest pose while manning the braai at the USA-Slovenia game. Thanks, Jen and Andy (and Carey)!

Preparing for the walk to the stadium. Best quote of the night (source unnamed--no, it's not me): "No, officer, I do not have an open container."

Almost there...

Look how close we are (Morgan and Natalie)!

We were in a pocket of Brits but surrounded by Algerians (me and Jen). Listening to the commentary of the British fans was priceless, especially the one guy who continually referred to Rooney as "Wayne," while giving him instructions on how to play, as if he were a good friend or the England coach. Everyone was very nice to us, despite our nationality. The Algerians were particularly excited to be in the company of Yankees (and Southerners). I know, go figure, especially since we're in the same group as they are and will face them today to either qualify or be out.

Algerians. Going nuts. One fan smuggled in a marching drum.

More Algerians. They had great cheers.

That's the press--pitch side. We were that close. When the teams come out for the anthems, they walk the press up to the entrance inside an orange cordon. It's a bit silly looking--like they're herding a bunch of pre-schoolers across the street. See all the flags in the stands? We were sitting at that level for the Portugal North Korea game.
And I think that may be Rooney to the left of the ref.

Corner kick! We could actually pick ourselves out on TV afterward based on our location and Natalie's big hat. Kinda cool.

I took this photo for Byron. Why yes, that IS David Beckham. David Beckham!

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