Tag Archives: cape town

Life’s a beach at the World Cup

Simon Hagens has (somewhat reluctantly) returned to Canada after two weeks in South Africa watching World Cup football and visiting family. In his final post, Simon returns to Cape Town for the playoff match between Spain and Portugal. Check out Simon’s complete adventures on Twitter to see more photos from his travels.

After a few days in Plettenberg Bay visiting cousin Nicola (where I enjoyed the beautiful setting, great people and Nicola’s pub), while my travel companions headed north for a safari in Kruger National Park, we were all back to Cape Town for our last game: Spain vs. Portugal. It would have been nice to see Cote D’Ivoire have the chance to take on Spain. Everywhere we went there was massive enthusiasm for the African teams, and Ghana is clearly now shouldering a lot of hopes. The Ghana victory over the USA was the talk all over South Africa.

On match day, the city had a great feel. Not like the wash of red and white, and spontaneous belting out of songs we’d seen before England games, more of a sense of camaraderie with flags from both countries everywhere and lively debates to win fence-sitters. The stadium filled up early, and the vuvuzela buzz started to build. The lack of fondness (mildly put) of the England fans for the vuvuzelas meant that we hadn’t experienced much more than a few random honks. Spanish and Portuguese fans, it seems, appreciate the vuvuzela a great deal more. Other than a few bouts of excessive ear damage, I actually came to appreciate them…sort of.

There was a huge banner inside the stadium that said “Brantford, Ontario supports Portugal.” There wasn’t nearly as much decoration for this game, so it stood out as a little odd. Go Brantford.

The game itself was a fantastic show, with plenty of spark and energy. Save for a few minutes early in second half, Spain was dominant, controlling the ball in the midfield and providing numerous entertaining attacks before David Villa’s breakthrough goal. The crowds were fantastic after, filling the streets and kicking their heels up. Cape Town is accommodating of revellers and treated us well, be it with great places to watch games while enjoying drinks and food, or finding locations to show off traditional Canadian dancing (wildly popular in South Africa). Full of regret, we wandered home to bed that night to prepare for the lengthy journey home.

The energy in South Africa, some super travelling companions and a lot of quality football made this an amazing trip, one well worth the effort. It was fantastic to be at the tournament, and there was a great vibe throughout the country. I’m already pencilling my next World Cup trip into my schedule.

Simon Hagens

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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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Our correspondent checks in

NBA player Steve Nash shares a pint with his old school chum Eric, and our correspondent, on the right.

Steve Nash shares a pint with his old school chum Eric, and our correspondent, right.

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.

Our correspondent and his England mates share a cheer with some Algerians on the Cape Town waterfront.

Our correspondent and his England mates share a cheer with some Algerians on the Cape Town waterfront.

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.

Simon Hagens

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