Posts Tagged ‘world cup


World cup diary – the trouble with FIFA

Amazingly I'm the only one who didn't get nicked that day

With the World Cup finally beginning to live up to the hype it seems football’s world governing body can pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
Not only are goals finally flying in, but with all the scaremongering about potential robbery rape and murder the fact that there have been relatively few violent incidents also means the safety aspect has been well handled.

Well while the World Cup may be a success- unless you’re English, or an Italian manager- FIFA’s handling of certain aspects has been nothing short of shocking.
There was the whole orange dress girls debacle, where FIFA inadvertently gave the chaps at Bavaria Beer far more publicity than the scantily clad ladies did alone. I was at the Holland Denmark game and had my picture taken with a pair of the ladies in question and had no idea what they were meant to be advertising. It wasn’t until they were arrested and the story hit the headlines worldwide that I along with most other people realised they were part of an advertising campaign for Bavaria Beer.
Not only did FIFA give the company more publicity they could ever have dreamed of, they also made themselves look harsh and foolish for over-reacting.

Then there’s the FIFA fan parks which are scattered around the country. Here you can watch all the World Cup games on huge screens free of charge with entertainment in between games. Simple eh?
Well not when they’re run by FIFA. Before the World Cup thousands of South Africans applied for licences to trade at these parks. The cost wasn’t cheap – around 20,000 rand –around 2000 english pounds as a deposit plus a lot more in expenses.
FIFA promised these traders they’d be given prime locations in the parks and that entertainment would be put on near their stalls to keep punters happy.
In the fan park at Innesfree park I visited the stalls were set so far behind the screen, I almost didn’t realise they were there.
The Coca-Cola stalls as well as other sponsors MTN were in prime locations where you literally couldn’t miss them.
The place was like a ghost town and I spoke to a couple of the traders about their predicament.
Jamiliah Khan was running a food stall with her family, she was quite vocal in her anger at the situation:

“My kids education fund, I’ve dug into that, it’s going to take me years to recoup my losses.
They promised that there was going to be a stunning line-up of entertainment that was going to pull crowds.
We thought it was going to be win-win situation for everybody but it’s only a win-win situation for coca-cola and FIFA the small vendors get screwed.”

Joseph Molwatnwa was another trader who was furious with FIFA’s broken promises:

“It’s bad, bad, bad, horrible, they’re changing the rules every day- there’s no entertainment it’s terrible. We’ve lost a lot of money.
“The first day this was open people came because Bafana bafana were playing, but it wasn’t arranged properly, there was only one till open.
“We’ve decided to close down and pack up, FIFA said there would be twenty thousand people a day but there’s been around only twenty people. It’s a disaster.”

Jameliah Khan and family- picture by Jon Devo

While the official fan parks have been something of a total let down that’s not the only area that FIFA have behaved badly.
Recently stewards at five stadiums across the country went on strike due to a pay dispute. This meant that the South African police force has had to step in. While that may seem hardly the fault of Sepp Blatter and his mob, once you scratch beneath the surface you can see it’s again down to the misdeeds of the ‘evil empire.’
Workers were told that they would be given 500 rand per day but then were only paid them 190 causing uproar.
FIFA awarded the security contract to Stallion Security despite several warning signs that this would lead to disaster.

The security company lost their international partner, Securitas from Sweden, earlier this year when they pulled out of the tournament, apparently following financial disputes.
The South African Police Service also had to step in to protect another FIFA tournament in June last year, after the local organising committee and Stallion fell out over money shortly before the Confederations Cup.
According to the FIFA safety guidelines, the local organising committee and FIFA itself, is responsible for safety at stadiums on the day of matches.

While everyone I’ve met here is justifiably proud to not only be hosting the World Cup but also to have done it with a warmth and friendliness I’ve not seen since my raving days ended, there are some major concerns.
Last week thousands took to the streets of Johannesburg in protest at the amount of money the government is spending on the World Cup when so many people are living in poverty.

FIFA has made record profits from the South African World Cup and many here feel the South African bid committee allowed football’s governing body to make far too many stipulations just to have a successful bid.
Here the South African government could be accused of adhering to too many demands, but FIFA should be held culpable for exploiting the situation to their utmost benefit.
South Africa missed out on the World Cup in 2006 by a single vote, after Charles Dempsey- who’s almost as famous as Francois Peinaar in parts of South Africa- abstained from voting despite being told by his confederation to vote for South Africa.

Many of the stadiums here will likely be unused or even demolished after the tournament as some are in areas where there will be absolutely no need for them.
It seems in the nation’s eagerness to become the first African host of a world cup- it was announced that this tournament would be in an African country before the bids were in- the government may have given too much leeway and paid a price that people here will have to live with for many years to come.
The question is did FIFA exploit South Africa, or is this nation’s government to blame? Personally I have only two words in my answer – Sepp Blatter.


World Cup diary- Denmark – Holland game at Soccer City

The flight back to Holland was gonna be messy

The flight back to Holland was gonna be messy

With the World Cup three days old I finally managed to bag myself a ticket for the Holland – Denmark game. One of the tutors working on the newsroom had a spare ticket – for 14 quid no less!- so I thought it only polite to join her and her two mates for the match at Soccer City.

Despite one of our party being a Leeds fan- had I known this I’d never have gone, in fact I’d have told her to stick her ticket up her sheep bothering mate’s *rse- we actually put rivalry aside and remained civil.

We got a park and ride bus from Wits University, where it became obvious from the start that this was going to be like a Netherlands home game. The majority of white South Africans are descended from the Dutch so it was literally a case of spot the non-orange shirt as we made the shirt journey to the stadium.

Arriving at Soccer City, it was at least five minutes before I finally spotted some Danish fans, playfully headlocking an elderly Dutch fan as strangers took pictures.

The stadium itself reminded me of the spaceship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and even more impressive was the amount of truly stunning supporters from both sets of fans.

After getting through the first barrier, which doesn’t get you into the stadium, but into the surrounding area, it was amazing to see so many fans from both countries, getting along so well. The Dutch may have outnumbered the Danes by at least 10 to 1 but it really didn’t matter, as fans were mingling, hugging and having a whale of a time with no signs of malice or antagonism.

Smurfs......I've absolutely no idea.

Smurfs......I've absolutely no idea.

I’d managed to dig out an old three stripe orange t-shirt, purely to fit in a bit rather than having any preference and as I wandered around with the members of my group it amazed me just how well everyone was getting on. I’ve never seen this sort of atmosphere at a football match before, it was heart-warming as fans from both set of teams took photos with each other and joined in with one another’s singing.

The weather also added to the occasion as it was getting quite hot, and as the Budweiser flowed- it’s the only beer sold at stadiums due to FIFA sponsorship, fans in an assortment of wacky outfits mingled cheerfully in the epitome of World Cup spirit.

There were even fans from other nations getting involved, I saw several Argentine fans, not to mention Mexico and Slovenia, there was even a Stoke City fan?!

I spotted a lad in an England shirt who was posing with a bloke in a Germany shirt, this was almost a bridge too far, what on earth was happening?

I spoke to the craziest England fan I’ve ever met and asked him what the f*ck he was playing at.

“Me and him work together, he’s the only German I know and he’s my mate. We both married South African women so we’re here together watching a few games.”

Amazing. It’s enough to make Winston turn in his grave. It’s a ridiculously friendly atmosphere which has been the story of my stay here so far.

Fans from around the world getting along, in the true South African spirit.

After entering the stadium I realised I needed to use a cash machine so joined a queue to wait and draw some money out. The line seemed to be made up entirely of Americans all waxing lyrical about the South African hospitality.

By the time we made our way to our seats the national anthems were in full swing- although to be honest I couldn’t tell you which one was first. The stadium was like a sea of oran…..erm, tangerine, sorry but I promised I wouldn’t use that term.

Around one in ten seats was empty but just to compound the Danes sense of being outnumbered the seats were orange coloured.

After admiring Dirk Kuyt’s new haircut, I took in the crowd, which was a mad mix of vuvu blowing locals, Afrikaans and the occasional section of Danes.

Soccer City - what a dump.

Soccer City - what a dump.

We were sat among a few hundred local school kids who’d been given tickets by Sony and Coke as part of an award scheme. It was truly an awe-inspiring sight seeing so many local African children blowing their vuvu’s and laughing and singing as the game progressed.

The strange thing about the match was not Holland’s 2-0 victory which was fairly predictable, but it was the only game I’ve attended which was bereft of any chanting. There was lots of vuvuzela blowing and clapping but no real chants. Not necessarily a bad thing, just a bit strange compared to what I’m used to.

Looking around the magnificent stadium I spotted a few England flags hung over the middle barriers, one said “Stockport Blues”- typical.

It was truly one of the best games of football I’ve ever been to, not because of the match, but just down to the atmosphere- a real ‘pinch yourself moment’- if this is how my first ever World Cup experience has started let’s hope it continues in the same vein. ‘Mint.’


world cup diary- opening match screening in Newtown, Jo’Burg

Some typically miserable South Africans

Some typically miserable South Africans

Having failed miserably in my admittedly half-hearted attempts to get a ticket for the opening ceremony I decided to the next best thing and go and watch it on a screen in Newtown, Johannesburg.
We made our way to the ‘fanpark’ over the imaginatively titled Nelson Mandela bridge with the sound of vuvuzelas becoming less and less random as we got nearer to the site. A few students from the Uni’ I’m staying at and I stopped off at a cafe for a bit of lunch. The topic of Nelson Mandela’s absence from the ceremony came up- it was obvious he wasn’t going to attend due to the tragic death of his great-grandaughter.
“I feel sorry for him,” Jo- one of the South Africans in our party commented- “he’s like the nice silverware you bring out for visitors at home, every time we have a big event they wheel him out.”
While Mandela’s- or Madiba as they call him- absence was a shame for many here, it was more than understandable and I felt in a way it may even show the world that there’s more to this country than just its former legendary leader.
We left and finally arrived at the fanpark which was basically a large square with a screen and stage at the front and several tents, selling beer, food, a makeshift apartheid museum and other assorted items.
just in front of this ‘shopping section’ was a 20 foot statue of a man with his arms held aloft -in a Frank Lampard type celebration- made out of coke crates.
The screening of the ceremony and the South Africa- Mexico game was preceded by some bands on the stage in front of the screen, as the crowd began to swell, me and my new friends decided to stand at the back and take it all in. I tried my hand on one of their vuvuzela’s and found -after a little coaching- that I was practically an expert.
So after a little persuading that you can’t come here and not have a vuvuzela- it’s like going to merseyside without having your vaccinations- me and a student called Bianca made our way to Marketsquare which is apparently world-famous, although I’d never heard of it, which was situated just to the back of the fanpark. We found a woman selling vuvuzelas along with a load of other cr*p, so after a bit of haggling by Bianca, I bought myself a funky one with painted with random colours in an African style.

We made our way back in to the fanpark -where I received the most laid-back search I’ve encountered -and rejoined our group. By the time the opening ceremony had started the place was getting pretty full and everyone was in full swing- dancing, blowing vuvuzelas and general cheeriness that has no place at a football match.
Oddly enough the ad-break in the proceedings was met with a mild hysteria as everyone sang along to their favourite adverts and cheered when certain ones came on. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, thousands of cheering Africans singing-along to a coke ad. A Disprin ad was also warmly received just in case you were wondering.

After queueing for a ridiculously long time for a ‘wors roll’ which is a type of hotdog, with a huge sausage made out of meat, I preferred to remain ignorant about it, we ate, then made our way to the centre of the mass of people just in time for kick-off.
During the first half there was lots of vuvuzela blowing but less dancing as the crowd was very tightly packed. The chap next to me managed to create a bit of space for himself by urinating into his plastic pint pot which wasn’t big enough to hold his efforts so he had to finish off by just peeing on the floor. He then spent the next five minutes holding his p*ss pot debating what to do with it as people cleared a circle around him and gave him a mixture of telling off and laughter. I almost felt tempted to suggest what is common at many British festivals and throw it to the back of the crowd.
He eventually placed it on the floor where someone kicked it over- the ground was made of small concrete slabs by the way- and everyone’s attentions returned to the game.

The ad break was a strange affair

The ad break was a strange affair

During half-time there was lot of singing and dancing, plus the obligatory vuvuzela blowing, which I attempted with gusto. It was a proper carnival atmosphere and me and the two British lads with me all agreed we’d love to see South Africa win, so the party would no doubt continue. When Bafana Bafana did score I found myself celebrating as though it was England, it then dawned on me that I wasn’t actually South African although I was still chuffed for everyone there.

During the game there was a distinct lack of amateur coaches among the crowd- usually when you watch a football game you end up surrounded by wannabe Fabios giving suggestions at every possible opportunity at who should have done what differently on the pitch and which subs the coach should make. There was none of that here- although I did catch one guy stating that Benni McCarthy should have been in the squad, when Bafana Bafana missed a chance.

The Mexican equaliser was met with the expected shouts and groans not to mention a chorus of vuvuzelas as it slightly deflated the crowd, only slightly though.
When the final whistle blew a bloke next to me said “Oh well all fair and square.” It suddenly dawned on me that these happy shiny people lovely people have no business, hosting a world cup or even participating in one for that matter. There was no blaming the referee or the manager or anyone for South Africa’s failure to hold on to their lead. No one started fighting or starting a riot and I didn’t even see one pint pot get thrown at the screen when the Mexicans scored.

After the match, everyone was still singing and dancing?! What the hell is wrong with these people?! They’d been drinking all day and just seen their national team throw away a lead- not to mention hit the post in the last minute and yet they were acting as though they’d won, no violence or anger. Talk about weird!


World Cup Diary – Dutch training session

Some happy Holland fans, hopefully it'll all end in tears.

Bill Shankly once said of Everton: “If they were playing down the bottom of my garden- I’d draw the curtains.
While that may have been true from every Liverpool manager’s benchmark, the prospect of the Netherlands training in my ‘garden‘ made me do anything but draw the curtains.
Staying in Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg for the duration of the World Cup, I was informed that the Dutch team would be training in the stadium next to my block.
Despite a trip being organized by the tutor who’s leading the newsroom I’m working on for the next four weeks, which involved looking at Lions and Elephants, I decided I could always see Elephants anytime, but how often do you get the chance to see Dirk Kuyt miss from 2 yards?
So after grabbing a ticket from the University office- which was for the Grandstand seating no less- I joined the many assembled Dutch fans in the queue as we waited to be let in.
Holland are well supported here in South Africa as many white South Africans or Afrikaans are descended from the Dutch.
The Dutch fans mainly seemed to be South African residents although there were still a few who’d made the trip from the country that gave us legalized weed and clogs.
After two Wits Uni’ students and I had taken our seats in the Grandstand- think Unibond Prem- we waited for about fifteen minutes before the team arrived on the pitch.

Looking out into the ‘Sea of Orange’, sorry I promised myself I wasn’t going to say that but couldn’t help it- it struck me that there must’ve been at least a few thousand who’d turned up to see Bert Van Marwijk’s men.
As the team walked onto the pitch the sound of Vuvuzela’s –which had already been blaring intermittently- rose to a crescendo –with the shouts of ‘Robin’ or ‘Ryan’ or ‘Manchester United’ -for some inexplicable reason- barely audible.
The training session itself was fairly routine stuff, a bit of jogging and sprinting followed by passing and a bit of ‘keep ball.’
While the players had a bit of a breather I spoke to a couple of fans to see how they viewed their team’s chances.
After finally finding three lads from Holland- at the tenth time of asking- I got the lowdown on just whether they thought they really could go all the way.
Moike Sovavacs- I think that’s its name but to be honest he’s a little drowned out by Vavazula’s – from Rotterdam.
When asked how well he thinks Holland will do he says he believes they will be champions, pointing at his friend before adding he is from Brazil and even he thinks Holland are the best.
Speaking about the group he says with a big smile that he thinks it’s very easy and not until the second round does he expect any difficulty.
When I ask him which is the best Dutch player his smile fades slightly : “Robben….but he don’t come here.
“Other than him Van Persie, he is the best one now, he will make the goals now.”
When I ask him which teams he’s wary of, he lists Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain.

Jose Antonio is one of Moike’s friends and he tells me that he believes Holland will go far stating he’s ’90 per cent confident we will win.’
Again he believes the group stages will be easy and laments the loss of Robben but believes Wesley Sneijder is good enough to shoulder the burden, he also expects to meet Argentina in the final.

It’s now time for the Dutch team to play a match against each other so after the player’s move the goalposts to the edge of the 18 yard box, the game kicks off.
It was a fairly routine affair, with Dirk Kuyt volleying wide from two yards, Robin Van Persie looking a tad rusty to be perfectly honest and Sneijder holding onto the ball well. Klaas Jan Huntelaar rifled a first half winner, while Rafael Van Der Vaart hit the bar from twenty yards with the last kick of the game.

There was a slightly shaky moment for the assembled fans when Sneijder started limping and holding his foot after a challenge but he soon ran it off.

Overall the Dutch looked pretty impressive with Sneijder and Van Der Vaart being particular stand-outs.

I grabbed another fan just before the end and asked him the same questions I’d posed earlier- he was a little bit more pessimistic than the previous two, stating that he was worried about Argentina and Brazil- although he felt confident that they’d get through the group easily.

The team then did a final lap with much of the crowds chanting seemingly reserved for Robin Van Persie- although it was difficult to hear much as there were a few vuvuzela battles going on near me.
It struck me that none of the fans I’d spoken to, including the two South African students I’d gone to the session with, rated England as one of the top teams, maybe that’s a good thing, but who knows?

Vuvuzela battles- be afraid, be very afraid.

The sun was shining as we left the stadium to the sound of more vuvuzela’s- yes they do get very annoying and I’m dreading to think what several thousand are going to sound like- all in all not a bad way to spend a Wednesday afternoon.