After lots of deliberation (yes, even here I am known as the indecisive one), I (Sandy) decided to buy the plane ticket join two friends from Blantyre in Johannesburg for the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
We flew down on a Friday morning, and the first thing that hit me was how quickly I was back in the developed world. After only a few minutes, it was like I had never left all of this technology and development. I was immediately used to it again, and it was like all that time in Malawi was just a brief trip.
When we walked out of the airport, we were incredibly lucky, and ran into a friend of a friend who gave us a ride to our apartment, about 30 minutes outside the city. From there our luck didn’t stop. We went into our 5-star apartment, threw down our bags, and got right back in the car to head for a happening bar/restaurant where we ordered seafood (which I hadn’t eaten in 6 months) and watched the Brazil – Netherlands game with a packed crowd of people from all over the world.
Our biggest question mark for the weekend was the possibility of getting tickets to a game. We had heard that FIFA had been arresting people all over the place for buying tickets outside the stadium, and that the only place to get tickets was at the FIFA office, which meant about a 5-6 hour wait in line, and even then, you wouldn’t be assured of getting tickets.
As luck would have it, I left the bar to go to the front of the restaurant and ask for a table, and I heard a guy walk in and say to his friend, “Hey man, Ive got two tickets to the game tonight at Soccer City that I need to get rid of, do you think I could get them to announce it over the loud speaker.” I left the front desk mid-conversation and told him I wanted them. So, not only did we end up with “50-yard line” seats at one of the best games of the World Cup (Ghana vs. Uruguay), but we also paid 2/3 the face value!
Soccer City and the World Cup atmosphere was unlike any sporting event I have ever seen. The camaraderie was incredible. There must have 10 countries represented within a 5-foot radius of where we were sitting, and most people were pulling hard for Ghana, the last African team in the cup. On the way out after the game, everyone was talking to each other about how Africa had done itself proud, how Asamoah shouldn’t have missed that penalty kick, and what an amazing experience the whole thing has been.
The only downer, was that I didn’t have my camera for any of it. I thought we were just going to be at the bar, and so I didn’t bring my camera with me. Such a regret!
The atmosphere around town was almost as exciting as in the stadium. All over South Africa they had set up these huge fan parks where people gathered and watched the games on giant screens. The vuvuzelas were probably louder there than in the stadiums.
It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience…thank goodness my wife talked me into going…