The show’s over. After 64 football matches, hundreds of thousands of foreign arrivals and over 3 million stadium tickets sold, the football circus has moved on to milk another country, leaving South Africa buzzing. Partly in outrage over the violation it underwent to get this massive event organised (FIFA needed laws to be changed to benefit it and its sponsors, tax-free status, dedicated highway lanes for its officials, and more), but mostly because this insecure, battered nation proved that – against all odds and many predictions – it could pull off a world-class event. And do it well.
Despite a lot of doubts and bad press from both locals and foreigners, there was not a single noteworthy incident. There were pickpockets and a few mugged journalists (why only them?) as you’d expect anywhere, but none of the predicted disasters befell this cursed, blessed nation when the world was watching. Instead, we had hundreds of hours of excruciating to brilliant football and thousands of smiles on the faces of visitors, surprised they weren’t raped the minute the left the airport and delighted at the friendly welcome they were given instead.
After visiting the opening match, we followed plenty of matches at home, via the BBC website, in Melville’s cafés and bars and at the fanzones. The best was perhaps the match between South Africa and France, viewed at the Newtown fan zone in the city centre. Thousands of locals headed there after work, and the atmosphere was great. We watched South Africa beat the French in style as the sun set behind the raised M1 highway.
The moment of the match: just before the second half, as the crowd was waiting for the match to resume, a noisy flock of ibis came flapping overhead, and hundreds of vuvuzelas were raised to joyously honk back at them.
The World Cup may have cost a lot, the confidence that South Africans of all colours and backgrounds have gained from this event is possibly worth it.
The crowd at the South Africa – France match.
Two lobsters watch glumly on as Spain beats Germany at the Melville Café Portuguese restaurant.
Crowds at Mandela Square in Sandton – probably the Joburg district that made most money from the foreign fans.
Three Olland fans, just before they glumly watched the Spain-Netherlands card game (note the orange juice, there’s a true fan). That €4.95 shirt was the best and ugliest thing I ever bought from Blokker.