Thus begins our series of on-the-ground reporting from South Africa courtesy of the lovely and vivacious Laurence Weinstein
Just a huge, big, gigantic first day.
First, the easy. Cape Town, with the sun shining, absolutely beautiful. Hop the topless tour bus (the bus is the one lacking a top), ride it around. Stunning views from above the city, and great town for lunch on the other side of Table Mountain in Camps Bay. Maybe we are too familiar with the Paulaner restaurant, but don’t want to discount a quality place for German food and drink. The Irish place around the corner from the flat becoming another easy destination.
Too, too easy.
There are fewer better feelings than picking up your tickets. Swipe the card, then the printer whirrs, providing more and more access to pure happiness. Italy, Argentina, USA v Slovenia, and a possible Netherlands/Italy 2nd round match.
So different than Germany. 2006 meant large crowds gathering behind certain teams, all together in a central location, with the locals hardly taking notice. Here, we have small clusters, constantly on the move, brushing against opposite groups and locals, involving EVERYONE. The Cup has woven itself into the every moment fabric of daily life. The cafe waiters, mixing with dancers outside of the African Music Store, mixing with American, Dutch, and Uruguayan visitors, collecting and dispersing. There were fifty people surrounding the seating of a cafe, only because they had a 19″ TV on an aerial showing coverage. Half the crowd dancing to the TV commercials, exuding a happiness to participate that’s hard to capture.
2.5 hours prior to the opening match, and the fan fest is already full. Somehow, the almighty ruckus rumbling through Cape Town’s streets continues to build from two days ago, growing exponentially. The vuvuzelas’ buzz never stops. Ever present from above the city as one prepares to head out, and then in your face as you watch from the jampacked Irish bar.
HOW CAN THE MATCH NOT BE A LETDOWN?
It is, in a way, as the closeness of victory tantalizes, and yet, South Africa remains jubilant. Happy to have had the chance to cheer THEIR team, on THEIR continent. The match started and the TV commentators could not be heard over the stadium’s crowd noise. When South Africa scored, somehow the windows remained in place, as surely the horns and shouting should have blown them into the spectators watching from the street. That bout of “Ole, Ole” shook the bar nearly as hard as the equalizer silenced it.
The crowd’s joy of that first goal overwhelmed its sense of the responsibility and difficulty of defending that lead from a confident, talented Mexico. Perhaps, the draw was a fair result, and after France and Uruguay did the same, not too damaging to their hopes of advancement, but South Africa knows it had a very good chance to win. They have no choice but to say, “Fuck me.” They could have had everything, but have to settle; for the party, for the joy in hosting, for the swirl of activity and excitement. I wish we could all have what South Africa had today.