As usual I ignored all the hype and planned to do my own thing for this World Cup. Having befriended a South African in Ghana during CAN 2008, I was offered accommodation in Cape Town. I decided to take up this offer and spend my first week there.
Arriving in Cape Town on the first Sunday of the tournament I immediately set about finding the ticketing centre based in the airport, as no tickets were sent out of the country, all tickets were to be collected in South Africa by providing the card used for payment and the applicants passport.
The centre was quickly located and my request just to have my tickets for Cape Town released was granted. This meant that I did not have to carry my other tickets around with me. I was delighted to be able to report that this is the most efficient ticketing process discovered on my travels.
Having done my homework on my hosts whereabouts I found that there was a restaurant at the foot of the block of flats - Arnold's. A useful reference point for finding the accommodation.
Unfortunately the weather in Cape Town for the first few days did not live up to its surroundings, as the days were overcast and wet, whilst the nights were cold especially at home where central heating appeared unheard of.
The weather did improve towards the end of the week and this enabled me to see the beauty of the area. Numerous golden beaches adorn the peninsula and a trip to Chapman's Peak brought back memories of the Amalfi coast, (to help you, think of the minis in the Italian Job driving along the costal roads, with rocks falling!!!!)
The first match I saw was Italy v Paraguay, outside the stadium news broke that the security guards had gone on strike, but the police handled affairs with no apparent problems. It seemed a very European crowd, until of course the vuvuzelas got going.
I am sorry but anyone who thinks that this adds something to the game needs their head examining. The game itself was cagey with Italy managing to scrape a draw. Remembering the scenes at the Fan Fests in Germany I decided to try the South African version. Whilst the backdrop with the town hall and Table Mountain looked good, unfortunately the weather proved to be the deciding factor. In Germany the weather had been glorious here it was still wet and miserable. Fan Fests in winter don't work as well as they do in summer.
My next game was England v Algeria, the highlight of this was strolling down the Fan Mile to the stadium, pedestrianised with plenty of bars and eateries and being made to realise how good this was compared to what I have to come, by friends who had already visited a number of stadiums. By this time the weather had turned and it felt like a warm summer's evening back home in the UK, so of I went to freezing Johannesburg the next day.
I had read all about the Gautrain, the new rail link which connected the airport with Sandton a popular area for tourists, in fifteen minutes. So upon arrival at the airport I headed off to find the local transport intent (as ever) on making my own way to my accommodation. Eventually I located the local mini buses, in order to get into town I would need to change at Kempton Park. Then I would be dropped off near the train station. From there I could catch a train to Soweto.
I remember the advice given to me by South African friends in Cape Town, and realised that within three hours of arriving in Johannesburg I had done most of the things that they told me not to. But I had made it, finally by hijacking a minibus near Orlando station, to tour the area in order to find my accommodation.
The B & B was frequented by a number of Mexicans, all of whom had hired cars. They warned me that it was not easy to get around with out them. Undeterred I set out on the afternoon of the Brazil v Ivory Coast match to make my way to Soccer City.
I was aware of a new bus service provided by Rea Vaya that had started a few weeks ago and was I believed set up to provide transport to and from the games in Johannesburg. Despite the fact that no locals appeared to know about this I made it to the stadium by bus with just a fifteen minute ride. The instructions for getting back were simple get the bus from wherever you were dropped off. So after the game I did exactly that only to be told that this was not the case. (This is Africa.) A trek around the perimeter and I found the bus back home.
I had found details of a bus company that were taking fans to games outside of Johannesburg, so I decided to use their services to get to Rustenburg for the Mexico v Uruguay game. Whilst Rustenburg is a mere 121 km away from Johannesburg and therefore what I would class as a two hour journey, the truth was from from this. The town of Rustenburg is reached by a single lane road which meant a horrendous build up of traffic approaching the town.
However just when you reach Rustenburg you realise there is no stadium in sight and the situation persists for another 30 minutes until you reach the Park and Ride the other side of town. On the bus one passenger decided he had had enough as we slowly crawled towards the Park & Ride entrance and he decided to get off for a toilet break. One minute later we reached the entrance and as the cars turned off we sped down a deserted dual carriageway.
His son was still on board and gave his dad directions. I directed his dad back to the Park and Ride to get a lift. A good job as the stadium seemed to be a further 10 miles out of town. As ever the Mexican supporters provided good entertainment on a day when both teams were virtually assured of their place in the next round.
Returning back to Johannesburg around 11, the next dilemma was, how to get back to Soweto. I heard someone nearby say that he was going back to Soweto so suggested we go together. He agreed and then asked how brave I was as we got off the coach at Johannesburg Park Station! Fifteen minutes later and we were in a minibus in Carlton Square where a certain Dr Mutalezi drove us back to Soweto going through every red light as though he was coiour blind!
On Thursday I had a choice to make. Do I stay in town and go to Ellis Park to see Slovakia v Italy, or do I take another four coach ride to see Paraguay v New Zealand. Off course I took the coach.
Arriving at the pick up point fifteen minutes early I was not surprised to see no-one else there. Found that the set off time had been delayed by an hour and that we were to wait for people to be brought from Sandton. We eventually set off at 10.30 for the 4p.m. kick off in Polokwane. I noticed the driver seemed unsure of his directions and read the signs with him and realised we were not heading north as I expected.
He answered a phone call (whilst driving) and then explained that he was now heading to the airport to pick up some other passengers. This decision did not go down well with the current passengers as we sat stationary in queuing traffic. We then had the farce of picking up the passengers and driving round in circles trying to get out of the airport.
We finally made it out of the airport and headed towards our destination, only for the driver to answer his phone again and then slow down. His boss was bringing another passenger from the airport and we were to wait for him. The rest of the passengers told the driver, in no uncertain terms, that he should not stop.
Seeing police at the side of the road he quickly parked up and walked towards the police for refuge. Whilst he did this the passengers argued between themselves about who should drive the minibus to its destination. A foolhardy thing to do when the driver was with the police just 50 metres away. Several members of our party decide to relieve themselves at the side of the motorway. One of our party approached the police to complain about the service we had received as he had an important football match to go to.
The policeman well aware of the unrest on the bus, threatened to arrest all of those urinating in public. This turned the tables, and silence ensued. At this moment I asked the policeman if you were allowed to answer your phone whilst driving, he replied that you were not. I was confident now that we would finally get going. We eventually arrived 30 minutes before kick off after I directed the driver to the correct parking spot.
The game itself wasn't great but the atmosphere was better than I had experienced elsewhere. There was a large number of South Africans present and to hear them sing their national anthem, instead of blowing on their vuvuzelas was a welcome relief.
My final few days and some better football games. Chile gave a good account of themselves against Spain at Loftus Versfeld, whilst on Saturday I returned to Rustenburg for the USA v Ghana match, the journey back home being completed by 4a.m. My final match was Argentina v Mexico, would you believe, this time, on my third visit to Soccer City I caught the bus back from where I was dropped off.
© Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com