Monday, August 24, 2015

Impressions from USA v. England

We were off for our walking safari the following morning, so I dashed off a few impressions from our first game of the World Cup - England v. USA in Rustenberg

We were joined by our hosts, the Welsby-Karps, as well as Meg Macy, an American based in Durban and her friend Val.  Meg and Val (and Susan Welsby) traveled in our car while Nancy and the teens all traveled with Craig.  Traveling to the game, it seemed that most of the fans (including us) were on the N4 from Pretoria (and Johannesberg).  This is a one lane road most of the way, with toll plazas every 40 kilometers. So, at the Marikawa Plaza about just before Rustenberg, there was a huge backup, maybe 45 minutes to travel a mere 2 or 3 km.

We arrived in Rustenberg hoping to find something to eat before the game -- I had some listings noted down -- but it was getting a bit late and it turned out that we had to go beyond Rustenberg to the stadium, so we made a beeline for the stadium parking areas. The cars were divided into several park-and-ride areas, and one park-and-walk area.  The arrival system was well-organized with buses and vans to take fans to the stadium.  We aimed for the park-and-walk, but the directions were confusing and we ended up about 2 kilometers from the stadium. Still, it was a straight shot down the R565 from our parking area, so most of our party walked; Val and Meg chose to ride, and they got to the stadium first and back to the car first as well.

Walking down the 565, local residents were out by their houses, blowing vuvuzelas and cheering the fans as they walked toward the stadium.  (South Africans have gone out of their way everywhere, as they have noticed us, to tell us how welcome we are in South Africa and to hope that we are having a good time).  We got to the stadium 90 minutes before kickoff and joined the party outside in the bars along the 565.  This was our dinner as well as our drinking (when we got into the ticket area, the Budweiser sponsorship meant that was our only choice, not that South African beer tends to be much better)  There was great fan spirit, mostly partisan and bedecked in jerseys, many England fans dresses as crusaders.

There was camaraderie between the partisans as well as among the Americans,

as well as with fans in South African colors

The stadium was not quite full, maybe 4000 empty seats (BBC report said tickets were being sold at face value).

The English fans had arrived early, though, and it was their banners that were most evident
 hanging along the stadium decks

Our section behind the goal was mostly US, but a smattering of England fans. Chanting and singing, shock at the early England goal that happened right in front of us - was this going to be a long night? 

But we settled down, had chances of our own.  And Dempsey's buccaneering goal botched by England's Robert Green, reminiscent of Howard's Howler from a few years ago, evened the score.  Tonight, Howard himself was huge, he was man of the match easily.  We enjoyed regaling the fans with an Evertonian cheering some drawing on Howard's Tourette's syndrome -- Tim timeree Tim timeree Tim-Tim, Terooo, We've got Tim Howard and he says, FUCK YOU!

It would have been better to win but we are happy with the tie.
We walked back to the car; on the way, Theo and Shona were among the fans interviewed by the BBC (reporter Ben Brown could be heard saying, "the studio says we need American fans")

and were thrilled when Susan and Craig got text messages - we just saw Theo and Shona on BBC World).  Then we joined the traffic jam toward home.  It was a four hour drive to go 150 km, what with an accident, toll plaza line ups, and the like.  We got home at 3 a.m., but I posted this note to the Washington Post blog and went to be, still planning to be up at 9 a.m. to try to catch Theo and Shona on the BBC before leaving for Kruger.

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