Sunday, August 23, 2015

Our first day in South Africa: The kickoff concert!

Our trip to South Africa was uneventful.  Eight hours to Amsterdam, a painless transfer at Schipol (no need even to go through customs, as we have often had to do on international travel recently even just switching planes).  The plane from Amsterdam was full of orange shirts, but there was a smattering of fans from other countries.  I had a nice chat with a young Honduran fan who had already been going 24 hours from San Pedro Sula.  Our friend Craig met us at the airport and guided us to his home in Pretoria.

On Thursday morning, we headed down to the Brooklyn Mall to take care of the mundane details - get our tickets, pick up a local cell, and get some local cash.   Craig and his wife Susan had snagged tickets to the kickoff celebration at the Orlando stadium in Johannesburg,

So Joe and Nancy and I went along with them and their children Shona and Theo (shown pictured with Joe)

I had some excellent Boerwurst, nicely flavored with nutmeg and served with well done onions.

Here is the view inside the stadium before darkness descended

The concert featured a collection of international super stars along with some terrific African singers (the Tuareg band and Angelique Kidjo) especially stand out in my mind)  My first (!) stadium concert, nicely arranged with cameos where the TV commercials must have been - soccer figures, short agit prop films about education and political local figures who kept their talks blissfully short .  Desmond Tutu also spoke - a bit longer but what a live wire! 

It was a bit odd being among a crowd that could sing along with many of the major stars that I have been hearing in the car while driving with our children; I recognized the names and even some of the tunes.  La Camisa Nera was, I think, the only one with which I could sing along.

We spotted Joe Biden high up in the stands.  He did not seem to be having a good time - down on the stadium floor, we were all bouncing with the music, but so far as we could see, he was standing still, occasionally being consulted, and taking pictures of the ladies standing up there with him.

We left just after Shakira performed – she played the theme song for the tournament: Waka Waka, This Time for Africa

as they began a series of shots of World Cup winners from the past, followed by a fireworks display.  And it was a good thing we left early.   There is no parking at the stadiums - all parking is at park-and-rides; we were parked at Soccer City, a beautiful stadium where we might see our quarterfinal game. 

We caught one of the first buses out of Orlando stadium, and as we headed back to Pretoria on the N1, we heard on the radio that there was an incredible traffic jam back at the concert venue, as hordes of fans walking out of the stadium were preventing the buses from taking fans back to the park and ride. A very worrisome omen for Saturday, when we will have to drive two hours home from Rustenberg and leave for our walking safari in Kruger first thing Sunday morning. No way we will leave the US v England game early.....

On the bus back to our park and ride, a young South African with perhaps too much to drink was tirelessly trying to get his fellow fans to sing the South African anthem, or the World Cup "Wave Your Flag" song.  We sang along as best we could, but many others on the bus were apathetic. He bemoaned the insufficient participation - "How can your team do well if you won't show your spirit?"  Joe and I regaled the bus with our own songs and chants from RFK - "La Barra Brava, La Barra Bruta", and "Vamos, Vamos United."  The young South African and his companion sang along, but pointed out that we had even less participation than he did.....

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