So after two and half years abroad in the Cayman Islands, I returned home for the football world cup. I arrived a few days into the tournament and the excitement and energy was palpable as I walked off the plane. World cup fever had well and truly taken over the country. And rightly so. The football world cup is the biggest sporting event in the world and to be able to host such an event while showcasing this beautiful country was an honour and a privilege.
I hadn’t felt such excitement in the country since we hosted and won the rugby world cup in 1995. It made no difference where you were from, or what you did, or what colour or religion you were – everybody united behind South Africa’s Bafana Bafana and were proud to be a South African for that fantastic month. Streets felt safe and all problems seemed to be put to one side as football well and truly took centre stage.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to secure tickets for any of Bafana Bafana’s games but I did see two pool matches and the quarter-final between Brazil and the Netherlands, which the Dutch won 2-1. For the QF, I wore my Gremio shirt (Gremio is the local team from Porto Allegra, a city in southern Brazil. Living with Joao in the Cayman Islands we had all became fans and I had even visited him and been to see a game!).
This obviously endeared me to the huge contingent of Brazilian fans in town and I felt so bad explaining I wasn’t actually Brazilian & couldn’t speak Portuguese. Nevertheless I was warmly embraced, by both sets of fans, and I loved sharing their excitement with them. Having followed South African sporting teams all over the world, I completely get how they felt to be watching their side in a world up away form home.
As is often unfortunately the case at major sporting events, beers inside the stadium were ridiculously expensive so it’s good to enjoy a few pints before the game. It’s also the best way to meet fellow fans and to beat the traffic! The go-to pub in Port Elizabeth was Charlie’s Tavern while in Cape Town it was one of the many pubs situated along Green Point Main Road, the Slug & Lettuce being one of more popular ones.