Monday, July 5, 2010

Ayoba, One More Time

Well, the World Cup has really heated up. After Brazil's defeat by the Netherlands, Ghana's disappointing (and controversial) loss to Uruguay, Portugal's exit (thanks for spitting on the camera, Ronaldo--you stay classy!), USA's elimination, and other surprises, upsets, and all around great games, we're down to the final four: Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Uruguay. I said back when I watched Germany thrash Australia in their first match that they'd be the team to beat. I got to watch the Netherlands-Cameroon game live at the stadium, and I was impressed by the Dutch team as well.

I have a lot of respect for Brazilian fans. I managed to squeeze into the Cape Town Fan Park for the Brazil-Netherlands game, which was about 50-50 split between Dutch and Brazilian supporters. I spoke a bit with two Brazilians who had been flown out to South Africa to volunteer in the Greenpoint stadium. When their team lost, they said, with a philosophical shrug, It happens. This is soccer.

I watched the Ghana-Uruguay game at Marco's, a local restaurant, with, for all you Thacherites, Martin Sawyer and his dad. The restaurant was packed full of Ghana supporters (though very few Ghanaians, I'd wager), which made for an exciting and tense atmosphere. Like everyone else, we were for Ghana, but unlike everyone else, both Martin and I agreed that if we'd been defending for Uruguay, we'd just as readily have put up our hands to stop a certain goal. It was a shame that Gyan missed the shot and a heartbreaking finish for Ghana.

A South African friend of mine marveled at how quickly this World Cup has gone. After years of anticipation, hand wringing, and construction, it will all be over next Sunday. Cape Town will empty of tourists, bars and restaurants and roads will be less congested, and everyone will get back to work and to life. I might even finally be able to get over this cold/flu/Cape Town bug that's lingered since the USA-England game and taken down more than half of the office. It's been a transformational few weeks, I think, for South Africa. There have been few (or no) big incidents, no crippling strikes or riots. Everyone has been good, has been calm, has accepted defeat of their teams or celebrated in a relatively relaxed way (no turning over cars and setting things on fire--take note, LA). When Ghana defeated the US, the celebrations blocked up Long Street. But most of the fans of Africa United were good winners--they acknowledged the Americans passing by with support. Not to jinx anything--we still have four games to get through, with one more Cape Town based match--but so far, this World Cup has been wonderful. I'm not sure what's going to happen in South Africa after it's all over, but I'm hoping this feeling continues. And from here, I'll be figuring out how to get to Brazil in four years. I'm hooked.

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