Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Hatfield Square was a rocking place and it was packed with a good mix of Americans, South Africans, and Algerians. There was no trouble to speak of, everyone just wanted a good night out. We all watched the evening games, and we got great match ups out of them. USA get to play Ghana, who beat us in Germany 4 years ago, and in probably the tie of the round (for a neutral) England will take on Germany.
We stayed out in Hatfield Square until almost 3am. I can't even remember the last time I was out until after 10pm! I guess that's what being responsible will do to you. Believe it or not, I was actually pretty responsible despite being out so late. I did manage to get ribs and hot wings from a fantastically named restaurant here!
I also recognized another guy who is doing a world cup blog. I saw the cowboy hat and said "Is your name Jeremy?" Of course it was and we had actually been reading each other's blogs. Here is where you can find his: http://worldcupjeremy.blogspot.com/.
Well, it has been a fantastic two weeks of soccer, friendship, and education. I got to see some old friends, make some new ones, and see what a World Cup and do for a country. I do hope that South Africa can follow the progress they have made here - not just on the field but off it as well.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Tonight was a bittersweet night here. The host Nation put up a brave fight, but were not able to pull of the near impossible task of getting to the next round. Since they only won by a single goal, Mexico proceeded to the round of 16 on goal difference. It was great to be there for the game that South Africa won in the tournament, and the locals were proud of their team and their nation. It isn't a small feat for an African country to beat one of Europe's powers in a World Cup.
The day started out quite early again with Rick picking me up at my place a bit before 8am. This was the first day so far that I wasn't doing all the driving - in the last two weeks I have driven about 1,500 miles - it has all been worth it though. This drive was 250 miles from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein, and it seemed to go quite quickly. I think the reason it went quickly, is because I slept the first half of the way before taking over the driving so Rick could have a nap as well.
We are staying at an absolutely lovely guesthouse (with awesome shower) here owned by an angel of a woman named Retha. She and her son Roelof and daughter Sylvia have been taking excellent care of us and we are lucky to be in such a place. One day Rick might actually be able to take Sylvia out for a drink - I'll keep you updated on that one!
Now I'll try to get some sleep. I'm very anxious for the USA-Algeria game tomorrow. I almost said that it'll determine if this trip was a success or not, but I have seen and done so much in the last two weeks that this will definitely be a trip I'll fondly remember for the rest of my life.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Since it was a far drive, and I was unsure of what the road conditions would be, we started from Johannesburg at about 10am, six hours before kickoff. We were pleasantly surprised that the roads the entire way were in great condition. This is mostly because the two main roads we took were toll roads and obviously taken care of.
We did see some interesting things along the way. There are several nuclear powerplants between Johannesburg and Nelspruit, and also, the most popular way to remove overgrown brush by the road is NOT a mower, it is by a controlled burn. We saw a lot of fires going each direction where they were just burning away the growth.
After a couple hours, we made it to Nelspruit and the Park and Ride. This city KNEW what they were doing - unlike all the others ones so far. We were able to easily park and then catch the bus to the stadium.
This is the one stadium I was most looking forward to seeing. The supports for the stadium are actually done in the shape of a giraffe. I really was something to behold. I think it is probably the most interesting feature I have ever seen on a stadium before.
The game started extremely well for New Zealand. They scored only their 2ng goal in their World Cup history after only seven minutes. It doesn't look like Italy coach Marcello Lippi is very pleased at all... Italy did manage to pull a goal back from the spot, but they couldn't get another one past New Zealand, so it finished 1-1.
With a just a few mintues left before the final whistle, most of the New Zealand fans started taking off their shirts and waving them above their heads.As you can see from the 2nd picture, it wasn't just the guys who were doing it, either!
For New Zealand, the game was as good as a win, and their team did a "victory" lap saluting all of their fans. It isn't every day one of the minnows of world soccer plays such a game against the current World Cup Champions. The NZ fans even stayed inside the stadium cheering and celebrating for almost an hour after the final whistle.
Even New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (on the right) came over to where all the fans had assembled to pay homage to their support. NA coach Ricki Herbert is the one in the suit also saluting the fans.
Tommorrow will be a rest day for me in the beginning, but the night game tomorrow I'll be going to and that is Spain - Honduras. With the way things have been going, you never know what'll happen!
Saturday, June 19, 2010
This day started off a bit earlier than most with me picking up Marcel at about 9:30 from his hotel. From here we started the 100 mile drive from Johannesburg to Sun City, which is the little resort place I had visited earlier with Aghas and Mallory. From there it is an easy 20 minute drive to Rustenburg, the location of Australia-Ghana.
Halfway though the trip, we saw a sign for a place called "Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary." This place sounded too good to pass up, so we decided to have a look.
The place ended up being a whole lot of fun. There were about 70 monkeys of a few different species living inside this enclosure. Two of them spent a lot of time following our tour group. One was a little Monkey that I named Chester and the other was a Spider Monkey named Sara. This little guy having a bite to eat is Chester and the one climbing across the rock face is Sara.
The monkeys were quite friendly and curious about us. At one point in the beginning, one monkey quickly jumped on Marcel's shoulder and Chester quite a few times was trying to grab the ottom of my pants while I was walking.
From here we went to Sand City to grab a bit of lunch before the game. While we were waiting for the tram from the parking lot to the main area, we met some Australians that we helped take a picture for. We had a nice talk with them and then said good luck as we went our separate ways when the tram stopped. Marcel and I both had a tasty lamb schwarma for lunch.
Since we didn't have too much time, I gave Marcel a quick tour of Sun City. When we popped over to a section called Lost City, we ran into our Australian buddies again. We helped them take pictures, so i snapped one with my camera as well! It was definitely a money themed day so far as this large fountain showed us:
We did a last bit of scouting for a place to have dinner after the game, and then we departed for Rustenburg and the day's match.
This was my 2nd time using a park and ride for this stadium. The first one was at USA-England and it was a total disaster. We used a different lot this time and hoped for different results. Going to the game was easy enough. We got parking fairly quickly and got the bus to the stadium. We ran into some Ghana fans who let us in on a little bit of inside information that we didn't know:
While we were in the stadium, we did get another little bit of a surprise. While I was watching something the video board, something caught my eye. A few rows in front of us a over a bit, there was someone waving up to Marcel and I. It was our Australian buddy that we ran into before the tram, in Sun City, and now at the Stadium. We actually ran into him again walking around the stadium at halftime.
The match was a very good one which finished 1-1. Oz had Harry Kewell sent off about 25 minutes in for a handball on the line (where was this ref in 2002?) which meant his whole World Cup is going to be about 25 minutes long unless Oz make it out of the group, which is a possibility because the group is so tight after two games.
Marcel and I actually made our way back to the car easily enough. It seems that the organization was about a thousand times better than it was the week before. This was a relief, as I really didn't know what was going to happen for the trip back to the car.
Sun City was easy to get back to and we sat down to have dinner. Sadly, this was not a highpoint of the day. We were seated right away, but it took a LONG time for anyone to take our order. I ordered ribs and Marcel got chicken - we also ordered Calamari as a starter. After about 25 minutes, the manager came by to ask how everything was, and i told him we had been waiting 25 minutes for our starter. He went to go check on it, and just a second after he left, our waiter arrived with our entrees. I told him to go ahead and cancel our starter. This was the first time this has happened without Liz - for some reason her and I often have the main course come before the starter. The food was really good, but it was hard to really enjoy because the service was so garbage.
We went to the "Super Bowl" to watch Cameroon-Denmark. The game finished well, with Denmark winning 2-1. Hopefully Denmark will be able to get the result they need against Japan so they can go on to the knockout stage.
The 2 1/2 hour drive back had a bit of fun as well. Just after we left Sun City, the police blocked off the road at an intersection. The England team bus was going past, so I rolled down my window and held up my USA badge on my jersey to the bus. Several of the England players saw it, and this made me happy.
Dropped Marcel off at his hotel, but I'll be seeing him again soon. Him and I are heading about 200 miles away to Nelspruit to see Italy take on footballing superpower New Zealand.
Sleep time, for soon I drive!
Friday, June 18, 2010
Tomorrow should be another exciting day. I'm getting up in about 7 hours to go pick up Marcel and then him and I will be heading over to Sun City before attending Australia-Ghana. This game has major significance for both teams as Germany shockingly lost to Serbia today. I'm really looking forward to it!