Tues 22nd: South Africa Vs France
Lets face it, everyone likes to see the French loose.
After some ‘expert’ navigational skills by Joyces we made it onto the N3 motorway and began our trip to PE. The scenery was pretty stunning early on. Fields of golden brown knee height grass, miles of dead straight roads and delicious sunshine. Roadworks in SA are a bit of an oddity. They were replacing long sections of the motorway at a time. The N3 was mainly a single carriage road so the roadworks involved 10-15 minutes of waiting by a man with a stop sign. During the first wait, not a single car from the other direction passed our way. We had a football in the boot and played keepy uppy with a South African chap. He would be watching the game today, he keen to see Bafana Bafana put a good performance in.
After about 400k the terrain became more rugged as we made our decent down towards sea level (Free State and Gueteng provinces are on a large flat shelf with an altitude of 2000+ meters. Joycey took over the wheels having recovered from his hangover (he tucked into some ‘French’ vodka whilst back at the guesthouse the night before). DBR took over map reading duties.
‘BABOON! I’ve just seen a *King Baboon…’ Nedwards interrups an rare moment of silence between football talk and tunes. Our first sight of roaming wild animals.
After passing several roadkills, (two of which could be attributed to us) and a rather nasty looking car accident (apparently 10’000 people die every year in SA road accidents) DBR contributed his stroke of map reading genious. Thinking that roads with a green outline indicated a ‘scenic route’ we were diverted down a non-tarmac road (as the map key would have told him). As the quality of the road detiorated we found ourselves driving through some rather bleak mountain townships and rural areas. Some of the higher hills were topped with snow… Stick or twist. Do we carry on or drive back to the safety of the tarmac or go for broke as we had already travelling 15k down the dirt road? We should have gone with Nedwards choice to stick. Twisting resulted in a two hour odd detour which meant we wouldnt get to Port Elizabeth in time to watch the South Africa game.
FOTOS TO FOLLOW
Nevermind. We stopped in a town called Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape, South Africa. We got some fried chicken and found a local bar to watch the game. Having just bought our Bafana Bafana kits we were welcomed with open arms by the locals. South Africa made a good start to the game, putting France under pressure and deservedly went ahead. Several fans in the bar had Vuvuzella’s which added to the atmosphere. On the TV back home and as a collective the Zellas are very much an annoyance but the sound is different when played one at a time. A lad called Mikardo passed us his Vuvuzella, I had no idea how to play one. There is actually a technique to getting a sound out of one, only Nedwards managed it go begin with. The atmosphere improved with South Africa’s second goal, there seemed to be belief in the bar that they could not only beat France but secure the 3 goal margin which would give them the goal difference to qualify. When a third goal went in the bar erupted. Unfotunatley the celebrations were caught short when the goal was ruled offside. On the stroke of half time, the footbally commentry was switched off and the DJ fired up some tunes. Immediately everyone in the bar jumped up and started dancing. It was like a carnival. No mundane football pundits to pour over the first half chances. Strangly, although their qualification relied on the result in the other group game, none of the fans seemed to be much worried about the score in that game, they were just enjoying the moment.
France picked up in the second half and managed to get a goal back, without ever actually looking convinced that they could get back into the game. So far in this world cup, the sound of the Vuvuzella has overpowered most of the chants you can hear on TV. There was no singing in the bar in the first half. Out of pretty much no-where, the Bafana Bafana around us starting singing. I’m not sure what language it was (SA has 12 official languages) but I have never heard anything like it watching football. An amazing sound, totally in tune and in time. I have no idea why this wasn’t present in the first half – if your fans can sing like that, the Vuvuzella should certainly be banned…
After the game we stayed for some beers with the locals. I had given Mikardo my England pin badge and he wanted us to stay for a beer. I got the feeling that most of the locals knew everyone in the bar. Several of the people wanted pictures with us. Mikardo said that he appreciated us coming into the bar and engagin with the locals. He said that we were the first white people to come into the bar and sit and drink with them. Later he told me that he had only ever really had a proper conversation with one other white person, a lady from his work at the local government. What stuck me, was that before speaking to us, a lot of the locals thought we were white South Africans, so the welcome we had receive had been the same as whether white South Africans or English football fans. There was no resentment, depsite the countrys history.
Mikardo introduced us all by name to his friends and fionce. We were invited back to their house for some dinner but unfortunaly had to continue with our journey. We missed the evening game as we drove to PE but were glad of the diversion and an experience that won’t be forgotten…