Home > Shamrock Rovers Programme General Articles, South Africa 2010 World Cup, Travel > Been there, done that, got the vuvuzela!

Been there, done that, got the vuvuzela!

Article from Hoops Scene (July 5) Shamrock Rovers against Saint Patrick’s Athletic:

Hoops Scene contributor, Macdara Ferris, spent the recent break taking in the greatest show on earth…

“Tonight it is back to a home Airtricity League game for me after I spent the mid-season World Cup break at the World Cup in South Africa. I had actually booked and paid for World Cup tickets for Ireland matches nearly 18 months ago. The disappointment of Ireland’s play off defeat was tempered somewhat by the refund of the cost of the tickets from FIFA a few days after the away game in Paris. So despite Thierry Henry’s hand ball antics a group of eight of us travelled out to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa anyway including some Shamrock Rovers fans (myself, Kevin Daly and Paddy O’Connor). A flag was made up in honour of Sepp Blatter with “Team 33 on Tour” which got much comment wherever we went including getting a mention in the New York Times no less!

Having attended one game at the France 98 World Cup, travelled out to Japan/Korea in 2002 and spending a few days in Germany in 2006, I was luckily enough to be making it a four in a row at the World Cup. It was my first chance to visit South Africa and with match tickets for games in Johannesburg and Pretoria we were trying to ignore all the horror safety stories. In fact, we couldn’t have been better looked after with all the local South Africans immersing themselves in the World Cup. This started right from the flight out with South African Airlines where all their staff were in World Cup mode wearing the South African team kit at check in. They even handed out ear plugs for the flight and the vuvuzelas. I’m a proud owner of an official World Cup 2010 vuvuzela now, green in colour of course, but I think I would be lynched if I brought it to Tallaght!

The first game we attended was the host nation’s defeat to Uruguay. It was an amazing atmosphere at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. Listening to the South Africans sing their anthem was hairs up on the back of the neck stuff. Sadly they couldn’t replicate the form of their opening game. For Uruguay, Diego Forlan scored a cracker and then he silenced the vuvuzelas when he scored from the penalty spot before Uruguay grabbed a third.

The next day we went to the amazing Soccer City stadium to watch Argentina play the Korea Republic. An incredible stadium with a capacity of 95,000. Sadly like all the games we attended there were several thousand empty seats with most blaming FIFA and sponsors for not selling the tickets appropriately. There was several thousand South Korean fans at the game but a multiple of that from Argentina. Flags hung off every available space in the five tier stadium, one of the very best I have been to. It was a great game with Leonil Messi running the show, Higuen slotting away a hat trick and the living legend that is Maradona prowling the sidelines. We had the whole carriage on the train back into Jo’burg singing “We all dream of a team of Leonil Messis”!

Everybody staying in our hotel was out for World Cup. Australian fans (who brought 15,000 fans to South Africa), Americans, English, German and Brazilian. The Americans we met had traveled out in huge numbers to support their national team but didn’t seem to show any interest in their own domestic football league which reminded me of somewhere close to home. Out next game saw their USA team come back from two goals down to level with Slovenia before a very poor refereeing decision robbed them of a famous 3-2 win. We had the Shamrock Rovers and Team 33 on Tour flags hanging at all the games and I’m told Gabriel Egan gave the Shamrock Rovers flag a mention at that game in Ellis Park. The following night we traveled back up to Pretoria to watch Cameroon be eliminated by Denmark 2-1.

The next day we took the opportunity of taking in a tour of Soweto (which is adjacent to Soccer City) which was a real eye opener. Everybody was very friendly (many wishing us happy Father’s Day for the day that was in it) and we saw how so many South Africans live with our guide showing us her “house” which shares one communal toilet and tap with 39 people living in the area. However, there is still a mix of incomes in Orlando West where we went to as on the same street the owner was out washing his fairly new BMW car. We traveled by local bus to Soccer City that evening for the game between Brazil against Cote D`Ivore. The setting of Soccer City with the sun setting behind the orange coloured stadium facade was incredible. As we were getting some photos of the stadium, the RTE team of George Hamilton and Trevor Steven dropped across to say hello. Watching some of the games on South African TV, we have been listening to our own Eoin Hand give his expert analysis sitting alongside George Weah, Paul Ince and John Barnes.

With all the inverted Irish tricolours for Ivory Coast on display outside and inside the ground it was almost like Ireland had made the World Cup. I am sure that Trapattoni wouldn’t have let Ireland make an embarrassment of ourselves like the French did. Whenever people saw the Irish colours during the tournament they always gave us a huge amount of sympathy for how Ireland were eliminated from the tournament. Indeed when we met World Cup winner Frenchman Christian Karembeu after a game, he apologised for the hand ball incident and told us the Irish should have been in the tournament. As it turned out the Brazil game was probably one of the less interesting games we were at with Brazil coasting through the game with a helping “hand” from Fabiano. Only a late Drogba goal raised the energy but Brazil won 3-1.

I managed to pick up a category 4 locally priced ticket for the Italy v Slovakia game which was the final one I attended. 140 Rand or about 15euro gets you a seat in the second highest row in the stadium. The Italian team never really got going until they were too far behind a Slovakian team who punished the Italian mistakes going 2-0 up. The Italians came back into it with Pirlo off the bench trying his best . They got a stunning goal to make it 3-2 and pushed for the equaliser which would have put them through but it never came. The World Champions were out and it made it 24 goals from the six games I attended.

I did manage to escape the world cup (somewhat) during the visit to South Africa. Despite the vuvuzelas and the friendly South African stewards, the World Cup is it’s own self contained kind of city which can be transported to any Coca Cola drinking, McDonalds eating or Hyundai driving location. Having said that the Mexican wave seems to be going the opposite way – something to do with being in the southern hemisphere maybe! I spent a couple of days on safari and the last few days in Cape Town amongst other things I watched games in local bars or in the FIFA Fan Fest in Grand Parade square (where Nelson Mandela gave his speech on the day he was released from prison in 1990 – I also took some time to visit Robben Island where he spent 18 years). Watching England being destroyed by Germany was very entertaining as was viewing Argentina, Holland and Brazil who all look worthy winners. Next Sunday will see the World Cup Final and will determine who will be bringing the trophy as holders to the next World Cup. I’m looking forward to Brazil 2014 already!”

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