Tuesday, June 15, 2010
A rotten night in Rustenburg
A dismal opener. England failed to beat a USA team inferior in all departments except that goalkeeper, which sadly counted on the night.
It was not Robert Green's almighty hash which denied England victory. It was heroic defending from the muscly but limited American centre-back duo of Jay DeMerit and Oguchi Onyewu, key interventions from the underrated Michael Bradley in the middle, but above all England's lack of penetration.
But enough of the game; you all saw that. Feel lucky you were watching it on television instead of having to endure a nightmare journey to and from the game in a middle-of-nowhere place called Rustenburg.
Based less than 90 minutes away, we took over twice that reaching there. The only route to the host venue consisted of a single lane highway and with no rail service or scheduled bus services, car hire was the only option for the majority of the 38,000 present.
Despairing drivers took to using the hard shoulder while a police car stopped one of the opposing lanes to create an extra lane for those trying to make kick-off. Ridiculously, the local organisers had kept toll booths functioning instead of making an exception last night, creating another needless bottleneck.
But the travails on the approach roads were nothing compared to the gridlock around the park and ride. Over two hours after final whistle we were still stuck in a traffic queue waiting to leave, and all this in a venue holding only 38,000.
Add to that the plunging temperatures, no stadium scoreboard, the running track around the field and England's poor showing and you can imagine how glum I was.
The policing here has been low-key which is fine. And the locals are wonderfully hospitable people. But with the stunning lack of public transportation and inadequate road network, I have to say South Africa was the wrong choice for fans. Rustenburg was too hard to reach easily, and even the picturesque tourist town where I am lodging has no buses or taxis!
I have never experienced such transport chaos at a game like last night's. Never again, FIFA.
(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile
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