[We are still going back in time to experience Coach Larry’s trip]
The drive into Durban went easily enough, and we arrived at the hotel around lunch. We walked down to the beachfront and enjoyed the warm weather. A mile of sandy beaches with swimmers and surfers, sand sculptors, and a wide promenade separate
the FIFA fanfest area in the south and gorgeous Moses Mabhida stadium on the north end. The casino and its food court are also in the north, hosting the secondary fanfest sponsored by Hyundai. Hey look its Frings, and we all enjoy bidding, “Arrivederci , Italia!” though regretting we will not be enjoying a Netherlands v Italy second round match on the 28th.
We decide to utilize the main fanfest for the Brazil v Portugal crunch on the 25th. After we enjoy our toes in the sand and a lovely walk around the beachfront, FIFA opens the gates two hours before the match. We sample some local foods, though somehow miss the bunny chow as we opt for more sausages. We then find our seats in the sand in front of the stage, which has filled with some pre-game musical entertainment for our benefit. More and more surround us, enjoying the atmosphere, plus full videos for both Shakira’s “This Time for Africa” and K’Naan’s “Waving Flag.” The uninspired nature of the match does little to dampen the enthusiasm
or size of the crowd which has split about 2/3rds for Brazil, and the teenage girls screaming for the gelled one.
After the previous day’s crowds jammed all of the dinner spots along Florida Road, we make sure to find a place early for USA v Ghana on the 26th. A group of younger Americans sit nearby and their quick and easy pronouncements regarding everything soon drive us to find another location. Our second stop has fewer people, and they definitely support Ghana in a show of continental unity. We all know what happened. Ghana scored early twice, playing Clark was a mistake, Donovan barely made his penalty. Obviously, the USMNT brings certain strengths to each match, but the USA could not out-hustle, -work, or -physical a talented Ghana squad, outfitted in a wonderful red and yellow kit. Hopefully the talent pool improves enough, so that like for like substitutes can make a difference, lessening their reliance on shifting Donovan and Dempsey around, as each time it happens, they must spend too much time adjusting their play.
As Americans we still have a long way to go as fans. Some rely completely on their faith that we will do well, but don’t even know for whom some of the starters play club ball and generally have no idea about strategy or tactics.
Apparently they feel sufficient in just having Donovan as their favorite player and pronouncing Dempsey as, “pretty good, too.” At the other end, some of us (yes, including myself here), prefer to stay quiet early, absorbing the atmosphere, and only get involved in response to the chatter of the other side’s fans. We need to work on that blend, plus, please find a chant other than, “USA, USA, USA, USA.”