Its been exactly a month to the day we witnessed the last game of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. We as a country proved the world's critic's wrong by hosting one of the most successful events seen, not only with world class stadiums but we, the public being so welcoming to the world. It was us everyday South African's that made it special.
Before a ball was kicked, many groups/ companies made their slogans for the World Cup known, none more catching than our national broadcaster the SABC. "Feel it, It is here" I admit to being one of those who mocked & said "I wonder how long they took to come up with that?" But as I look back on what was, I think its the best one that suited the tournament as a whole.
The Football Fridays was one of the best initiatives made, getting the country into the football spirit by allowing workers to wear their favourite team's shirt to work. It was a joy to see many wearing the yellow of Bafana, our national team. Albeit many companies made deals to get them at a discounted price for their workers, seeing a nation slowly unite for their national team was a feeling that gave many goose bumps. We all knew that they were the underdogs that no one had the slightest hope for progressing from the group stages, but you try to tell any local that. We were determined to support our team! Come 9th of June, the greatest show of unity the countries ever shown & of course "Vuvuzela Moment". At 12pm the millions of South Africans, stopped what they were doing & went outside and to blow their Vuvuzela's in support of Bafana Bafana who at the time were battling to make their way through the packed streets of Sandton on a open top bus. The numbers were overwhelming, it was like we had already won but the tournament hadn't even begun!
The tournament on the whole was an amazing experience, for me to have witnessed it in my own country was a once in a life time opportunity so I tried to go for as many games that were financially possible. At the time 7 didnt seem enough but now that I look back at it, it was sufficient. Traveling the country was one of my goals. To witness what each major city had to offer. Each unique but equally special. Being held in winter, it wasnt the most pleasant weather to go around watching games in open arena's but many braved minus temperatures to watch the world's stars ply their trade. The games I went for were'nt always the most entertaining, but as always with me at live sporting events, its the vibe of the crowd that gets me excited & thankfully most games had awesome crowds. None more than the English in Cape Town, never have I ever felt the stands tremble with the sounds of the singing by the fans. It was certainly an experience that will stay with me forever.
Visiting many of the countries stadia & fan parks was great. Mixing with the tourists, making new friends & on the whole having a good time is what made the World Cup so special. Daily chats begun with "so did you watch the game last night" & many couldnt wait till the day ended so they could get their fix for the day by watching the next live game. Days where there werent any games were filled of confusion as to what to do with the spare time? Many caught up with duties that were neglected due to the football but could you blame them?
As the team's got knocked out & the competition drew ever to a close, no one could think of what was beyond the 11th of July. It was all about the final. My last game seen live was the semi final at Durbans Moses Mabhida stadium (still the best stadium Ive visited). It was between favourites Germany & Spain who didnt really play their best during the tournament, footballing knowledge told me Germany would win but my gut feel was that Spain would cause an upset & so I supported Spain. After a cautious first half which saw Spain nullify the Germans, the killer blow was struck in the second half by Spanish defender Carlos Puyol, which saw them progress to the final for the first time in their history. After the game I didnt want to leave the stadium, making my way around the place, seeing the jubilant Spanish supporters singing & dancing whilst most of the Germans were in disbelief from what had just happened. As I walked out of the stadium I too was in disbelief, seeing that most of the past 3 years Ive spent looking forward to the world cup & now it was all over. At that time if someone offered me a ticket to the final I would have bought it no matter what the price, I needed more, I wanted to continue with the journey but I couldnt.
I said before the tounrament that I'd watch the finals at home with my family & thats exactly what I did. Spain were victorious against the dutch at Soccer City, my second pick came through for me (first being South Africa of course). If I were a betting man I could have made some money! The celebrations were great & the ceremony before left me speechless, as SA has a knack of producing closing ceremonies that made you cringe. World Class was not a word that could justify what was done at Soccer City. Pictures of Fernando Torres wearing the Liverpool scarf & celebrating with the trophy broke through the internet, which sent me to bed with a bigger smile.
Monday the 12th of July, both teams decided to leave the country early that morning & with them, they took the "gees". Soon as I stepped into my office I could feel it was back to normal again. That feeling was gone, the hype was over, so much so it felt like the World Cup didnt happen. I had to look through my pictures to convince myself it did!I can talk about it but I will never get that World Cup feeling back.
Tonight (11/08/10) Bafana Bafana play a friendly against Africa's Black Star's (Ghana) at Soccer City. Many have been waiting for this moment, the first International football game after the world cup, hoping they can summon the feeling back. I hope for them they can, as they dawn the yellow for South Africa once again & take out the Vuvuzela's that have been gathering dust, lets unite again like we did for that special month & keep it going this time. Like many great initiatives that have been started such as Keep Flying the flag & most recently LeadSA its up to us, the very people that made the World Cup a memorable event to the world, to keep it going & with that I end off, my some what summarised version of what the World Cup meant to me.