Party time in Port Elizabeth

Simon ‘The Happy Hoofer’ Hagens is in South Africa for two weeks of World Cup football and travel. In his second note from the road, Simon heads east to Port Elizabeth for England’s pivotal clash with Slovenia. Keep up with Simon’s gang on Twitter for plenty of fun photos.

Port Elizabeth stadium scene

Inside the stadium at Port Elizabeth

A long, beautiful drive out of Cape Town brought us as far as Knysna on the first night, where we stayed in the impressive Phantom Forest. Beautiful huts scattered throughout the trees were truly impressive… although better suited for young lovers than a squad of smelly football fans, as evidenced by the numerous soaking tubs, and absence of televisions. We took the opportunity to clean ourselves up, talk about (rather than watch) football, and tried keeping the monkeys away from our food with a slingshot. Still lost some jam.

By the time we got to Port Elizabeth, we were just one of a long stream of cars full of England fans descending on the city, which was just as prepared as Cape Town for the onslaught. A quick word about the exemplary organization of the event and the country as a whole. Having been to South Africa a number of times over the last three decades, I was curious to see how this would all come together. In a word, it’s amazing. Shuttle buses carry fans wherever they need to go, security is excellent, roads are smooth roads, the people are helpful, friendly and proud to show off their country. And in most places, a beer costs about $2.

Posing with police

The lads pose with the local constabulary

The lead-up to the game was a perfect mix of orderly and disorderly. Shortly after noon, the beach front was decorated in red and white, chants of “10 German Bombers” rang out time and time again, bars were being drunk dry. Hordes of people stumbled towards waiting buses and were shuttled to the stadium. England’s fans were outwardly optimistic, but their faces clearly showed worry lines. Unlike Friday in Cape Town, where Algerian fans mingled and joined the party, Slovenian fans were few.

As we bustled into the stadium and found our seats, it was red and white alone. The big show of support was clearly the inspiration this time and England came out strong, to the great approval of the crowd. The line-up (a topic of much drunken debate) was to the crowd’s liking. David James’ sure hands were a pleaser, and Jermain Defoe was roundly thought to be an addition that would add neccesary spark, a suspicion that was proved right. Some Tottenham pride showed through as Defoe’s goal generated a massive holler, the loudest I’ve heard, and an enormous sigh of relief. A few more goals would have been nice, but it was roundly considered well played, and well enjoyed. Lots of curiousity about the US game, and as news of the American goal trickled in at the end (thanks to a message from my wife, back in Canada), the importance of a second goal caused a few groans.

On the Road With England

Our correspondent meets a two-fisting Manc

At the final whistle, the fans tipped their pith-helmets to the riot police and headed to the pubs for a night of singing and watching Germany-Ghana. At the end of the night, many of these fans knew they would be heading to Bloemfontein to see England play Germany, a much anticipated match. Maybe not as easy as Ghana, but a welcome challenge. We’ll be holding our breath until then.

Some of my travelling party are off on safari while I visit family, with our next game back in Cape Town on June 29th. Friday’s matches will decide the competitors, but we’ll likely see Portugal vs. Spain. More then.

Simon Hagens

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