I’m now back in Auckland and have just finished my first week at work. I also moved house yesterday and (attempted to) play football today, but I was pretty shocking – no touch, really unfit and in the wrong position half of the time (remind you of a certain Gareth Barry??).
When I last blogged we were in Durban airport watching the All Blacks beat the Springboks. The locals weren’t all that happy about it (especially as I was wearing my All Whites shirt) but they were well and truly beaten.
We got to Jo’burg and dropped our stuff off and went into Sandton and to Nelson Mandela Square. There were hundreds of Dutch fans around with their brass band playing loads of Dutch songs. We hung around there for a bit and then went to watch the 3rd Place Play-Off – we were going to go to the Fan Park, but ended up watching it in the Hostel because Nidge wasn’t all that well. What a great game it was – one of the best of the tournament, simply because either team had nothing to lose so both teams played to win.
The next day (the day of the final) we went to do a Township Tour in Soweto. It worked quite well because Soccer City is in Soweto, so we would be in the right area. Soweto’s a massive place with 3 tiers of living – rich area, which contains good 3-5 bedroom houses which you would be happy to live in (they’re in a decent area of Soweto as daft as that sounds), medium houses which are not all that nice, and then the poor area. The poor area is unbelievable – we went into one and spoke to an old lady and there are 7 people living in a space not much bigger than most people’s bathrooms. It certainly shows the gap between the rich and the poor. Even with the World Cup, I don’t know how the South African Government will change it though. Anyway…
After the Township tour, we visited Nelson Mandela’s old house – the one that he returned to after being freed from Robben Island – and it’s on the same road as Desmond Tutu’s house. It’s the only street in the world that had 2 nobel peace prize winners living on it. We then went to visit the Apartheid Museum which was really interesting and we spent about 2 hours there – however, we had to leave because apparently there was a game of football happening somewhere near by.
We got to Soccer City and the stadium is pretty amazing. I still think that the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban was the best stadium that we went to, but Soccer City’s not too shabby. We got there in time for the Closing Ceremony (which, ironically is before the final) and it looked really good on the big screens. However, we were sitting pitchside, 5 rows up and couldn’t work out what was going on and it looked pretty crap.
Most people won’t have seen it on TV because the production teams chose not to show it, but when Cannavaro came out and put the World Cup onto the plinth, before the teams came out, 1 guy ran from the crowd and tried to pick the cup up. He got about 3 foot short before he was hauled down – in the end, he was less than a foot away from touching it. I kind of wish he had got it!
I don’t really need to say much about the actual game, because I guessed most people saw it. We were sat really close to where Robben missed his 2 one-on-one chances, and if he’d have scored, I’m sure most people would have seen my big HTFC flag on TV.
The atmosphere was awesome, and we were sat at the Spain end, and when Iniesta scored in injury time, the place went nuts. During the tournament, I didn’t really mind the Vuvuzelas, but it did stop fans singing. The only song we heard out of the Spanish fans really was “We’re all off to sunny Spain, a Viva Espana!”, although the “We’re all off to…” bit was changed to “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah”
We stayed around for the cup to be handed to Spain and all the customary fireworks and stuff, and left before the lap of honour. Some stadiums were a nightmare to get out of – Nelspruit had it spot-on – but it was actually pretty easy. Whether that was because we left early or not, I don’t really know.
We had heard about a bar in Sandton, near the Hyatt Hotel, that had a good range of whiskeys, cognacs and cigars, and we thought what better way of capping the World Cup off with a nice whiskey and a cigar? We got the fan bus to the hotel and thought to walk through there. When we got into the hotel, there were loads of fans behind ropes, we got a free glass of Champagne and couldn’t work out what was going on. After asking a geezer what the craic was, he told us that the Dutch team were staying there and they would be coming back soon. Of course, we decided to hang around, got a glass of wine and an hour or so later they arrived. Here’s Wesley Sneider walking past:
The day after, we had a few hours to kill, so went to the South African Breweries museum. It was alright – once you’ve done a brewery, you’ve done them all, but it was done a bit differently – more like a museum than a brewery – plus you get a couple of free beers, so it could be worse.
Afterwards, we set off to the airport to leave. I said bye to Nidge, he went back to England and I boarded my flight to Hong Kong. I had 3 days in Shanghai, and spent most of the time on the booze. I did manage to get to the Shanghai Expo, which was a bit of a let down. It took ages to get in, all the pavillions have a massive queue (the UK pavillion had over a 3 hour queue) and when you do get in, it’s a few photos about each country, perhaps a video of the attractions and then you’ve left. The pavillions that I went to were Spain (my friend got me VIP access so I didn’t have to queue) and Monaco, Lithuania and New Zealand all because they had short queues. It was pretty disappointing, in fact it was much better to see the pavillions from the outside than the inside!
I got back to Auckland last Sunday, and for the first time ever, I suffered my first bout of jetlag. I struggled to sleep on the plane, so ended up being wide awake at 2am on both Monday and Tuesday meaning that I just took sick leave. On Tuesday, I ended up getting out of bed at 4:30 and answering my work emails. I went back on the Wednesday and it was a bit of a rude awakening being back, trying to work out what had happened in my absence.
Anyway, now I’m back and the World Cup adventure is all over. I’ve had an amazing time, and even though England were crap, the All Whites were the only team in the tournament that didn’t lose! Not many people would have predicted that before it started.
I just want to say thanks for all your emails everyone – if I haven’t got back to you it’s because I honestly haven’t had the time. I’d like to get a reply to everyone later this week, but we don’t have internet access in our new house yet, so will just see what I can do.
Cheers for reading for the past 6 weeks or so!