Simon ‘The Happy Hoofer’ Hagens is in South Africa for two weeks of World Cup football and boozing. He’ll be providing irregular (and we mean highly irregular) updates for At The Rails, and through Twitter. Enjoy!
Touching down in Cape Town Thursday morning, the night after South Africa’s 3-0 loss to Uruguay, was a little like attending a New Year’s Eve party on the morning of January 1st. Clearing customs took a while, as the agent complained about Bafana Bafana’s performance and South Africa’s chances, paying little attention to the credentials of me and my disreputable companions. Long faces drooped on the streets and in the bars. A lone vuvuzela would sound out only occasionally. But as the day progressed and England fans continued to pour into the city, the mood became merrier, louder and drunker. As France took the field against Mexico in Polokwane, the French anthem was drowned out in our Cape Town pub by English supporters singing ‘God Save The Queen.’ The Mexican death-blow to the French generated a sense of jubilation, which spilled over into the next day for England-Algeria. The Algerian fans were great in the run-up and after the match, totally full of energy.
Green Point Stadium in Cape Town is beautiful and pristine, perched between the mountains and the ocean and equipped with a football field’s worth of urinal. Near perfection in design. The lone flaw? There’s only one entrance for all 64,000 fans, a few short of what’s needed, and the only time I felt the England fans might actually lose their temper.
As England entered the pitch, they’d have been hard pressed to think they weren’t on home soil. The St. James cross outnumbered Algerian flags at least 20-1, and the stands were a sea of red and white. God Save the Queen boomed as the anthems were sing. Inspiration, one would think. Despite the scoreline, it was not a boring match to watch live. Algeria were quite competent, although many in the crowd gave more credit to lack of competence for the ‘home’ side. Frank Lampard received plenty of ill will for his uninspiring play, while much more was expected of Wayne Rooney. The most enthusiasm came following Peter Crouch’s entry late in the second half. As the minutes ticked down, despite some limited excitement near the end, it felt like a foregone conclusion. And while the draw was a bit of a letdown, our blues were erased when Fatboy Slim took the stage in the convention centre a few hours later to put on a stunning show (including, with a favourable exchange rate, $3 Cdn. pints).
For England, it all rests on a victory over Slovenia on Wednesday in Port Elizabeth, which is our next game. It looks to be a challenge for the Three Lions, and should be greatly entertaining. We’ll update again then.