From the Streets to the Stands
As the World cup draws to a close we ask our 2 Football mad backpackers from Amateurs in Africa of their experiences at South Africa’s finest sporting event.
What’s it actually like at the World Cup?
We’ve all read stories and seen the World Cup on TV but we’ve been behind the scenes and this is match day as we saw it on the ground with fans of all walks of life.
Game Day. So you’re in South Africa with tickets to game. You’ve got your nations colours on, you’ve found cheapest possible accommodation and you’ve got a feeling inside that you can’t explain something in between pent up excitement, anxiousness and pure jubilation that you’re about to be part of history.
If you’ve just backpacked West Africa for 3 months like us – you’re ready for the night of your life. So of course you’ve drank with fellow countrymen the night before. Wake up with a hangover, cold and shivering after being shocked by the South African winter in a tent.
Eat some biltong (a highly addictive South Africa meat snack) for breakfast. Kick around with other football tragics. Gasp for air after 5 minutes whilst failing to replicate the skills of the stars. Find yourself in a bus on route to town to search for cheap snacks and beverages. Go all out on a champagne breakfast in a shopping centre eatery to the cheers of passing supporters. Grab roadies (a six pack) and head for Fanfest.
Pre game hype builds as you stand with thousands of locals and other fanatics without tickets watching in a park on a big screen. See the excitement in the eyes of the South Africans as they bask in the cup fever. If you can’t get to a Fan-Fest try a shopping centre, airport, local store or car park – there will be a TV and it’ll be packed.
Work your way to the nearest pub and text everyone you know. If you’re like us, find one full of Aussies – it’s never particularly hard. Engage in a bit of banter with any non-Australian supporters present. For us this involved getting on the Algerian bandwagon to test out the wits of the American fans seated alongside us.
Grab some greasy food and haggle with a taxi. Grab a lonely Englishmen to share the costs. Practice your Vuvuzela skills after he purchases Vuvu’s to say thanks. Find out it’s not that easy to blow a Vuvuzela so just wave it around and pretend.
We must note – we are big fans of the Vuvuzela and everything that comes with – loud and proud in Africa.
As game time approaches make your way to the Park & Ride in the middle of nowhere. All aboard for 30 minutes of bus chants and Vuvuzela madness. From the car park follow the unmistakable buzz of the sound in the stadium. Be guided to the stadium purely on sheer volume alone. Only in Africa.
Before entering the ground search high and low for opposition supporters. In our case – firstly it was Ghanaians. Pose for photos and speak to them about their football league. Shock them with local knowledge and reassure them unfortunately today they will not win. Dance, sing, dangle limbs and stock up on supplies at the entertainment outside stadium as beats are blared across all parts of the complex.
Weave your way into the stadium for kick off. Stand in awe at the sight of row after row of seating covered in your national colours thousands of miles from home. Meet and greet the locals in the seats beside you and apologise for the 90 minutes ahead. Be lifted out of your seat as the roar of Australian supporters deafens opposition fans. Sing along as your footballing heroes march out.
Feel your hairs stand end on end as your national anthem is sung.
Be blown away as your team scores the first goal and jubilation reaches fever pitch. Stand as one as a Mexican wave sweeps through the stands. Lose voice, beer, sense of reality and total control as your team strikes a second goal to lead 2-0.
From an unbelievable high to a solemn low as the opposition score. Silence.
Anxiously await the final siren. Realise on this night, you will not be denied an inevitable victory. Experience an all time high as not a single Australian fan leaves and 20 minutes after the game they’re all standing as one in applause. Their World Cup is over but the memory is not.
Let loose amongst pure pandemonium with complete strangers from across Africa and Australia. Join the masses as the celebrations into the night are only just beginning.
Blow your Vuvuzela.
Reflect on the significance – you’ve been part of the most watched sporting event in the world which they might say is only a game but on this day there is nothing else that matters. Feel the emotion, the colours, the people, the sights and yes, the sounds of the World Cup in Africa are you’ll know they are like no other.
On the road to the World Cup at a developing football club in Ghana a young star a few months ago told us for him as an African it would be ‘once in a lifetime’ – he was right – it was once in a lifetime for us as well, but we know that it has changed Africa forever.