World Cup Almost-Live Blog

Staples soccer players, alumni and fans are traveling to South Africa for World Cup 2010.  Many will send photos and reports to StaplesSoccer.com.  Check this page often for the latest info, direct from Westporters on the scene.

Trevor Lamb '04, Eric Steffen '96 and Brandon Lamb '01 enjoy some quality time at the US-Algeria match (obviously before the final result). Check out Eric's Staples Soccer 50th shirt.

The Staples soccer connection is alive and well in South Africa.  Below:  Alex Tonsberg ’12 and Trevor Lamb ’04 have a halftime strategy session during the US-Ghana game in Rustenberg.  The photo is a lot better than the Americans’ result.


Christian Tonsberg P’12, June 26:

We are 1 hour away from kickoff of one of the most significant soccer games in US history.  We hear from everyone we talk to that interest back home is enormous.

The US players were just on the pitch inspecting the field.  We can’t wait for the giant roar from the many American fans here when Stars and Stripes are carried onto the field.

Rustenburg is a smaller city some 110 miles northwest of Johannesburg.  Today we “flew” out here on the newly constructed N4 highway with 1 pit stop to grab a burger at Steers — the local upscale McD (and watch 1 half of US’s next opponent’s round of 16 match).

Thursday evening when we were here, we ventured out on small roads taking the old route from Pretoria with the confidence of having GPS in the car.

We saw sights of the real Africa — among others, women carrying hugs amounts of goods on their heads.  A few women carried an enormous stack of branches from trees for firewood for cooking and possibly heat.  We drove through a flat landscape of bush (bushveld as the locals call it), and there is an ever present smell of burned grass and hay. We are unsure if these are wildfires or controlled burnings, but they certainly are all over.

The stadium is filling up now. There are many, many Americans here, but we seem to be scattered around with only a couple of clusters on the lower level.

Americans by far outnumber Ghana fans, but there are many locals who will support the last African standing.

We are surprised how many “neutral” spectators are here, but the match is billed as a cracker of a game, so we assume soccer lovers from around the world come to see the game.  Donovan’s goal gets a lot of attention by the local media which show the goal very often under the billing “World Cup Classics” and talking about US Glory.  How sweet is that?

The mood among American fans is upbeat but also a bit nervous. There is a sense that Team USA can make it very far here with a possible 1/4 Final being a strong, but beatable Uruguay.  But first we need to take care of Ghana, which explains the nervous feeling.  They have proven that it is no accident that they are the only remaining African team left in World Cup 2010. We hope USA can change that.

—————————————————————

Diego Alanis, incoming freshman, June 26:

The World Cup  was a great experience.  I was in the biggest soccer atmosphere, where all everybody cares was following their country and seeing them win.

Diego Alanis outside Soccer City in Johannesburg.

My favorite stadium was definitely Durban.  It is beautiful, brand new and made for the sem-finals. It reminded me where I was, and brought joy and happiness.  It was the greatest feeling to be at the first African World Cup.

The vuvuzelas weren’t really a problem, but something unique this World Cup had.  We heard them at every game, especially when South Africa was playing.

The inaugural game against Mexico was one of my favorites, because my country was playing the 1st game against the hosts.  It had a special feeling for me.  I thought it was really funny how in the game, right beside us, a South African couple asked my dad and me what language we spoke.  We said it was Spanish.

The 2010 World Cup opening ceremony, before the South Africa-Mexico match.

South Africans were very friendly though.  We wore our Mexican jersey to many places, and South Africans never insulted us or told us that they should have won against us or anything like that.  Before I went to South Africa everybody told me about crime and insecurity, but we witnessed none.  South Africans were very friendly people.

When I saw the US against England I was surprised by the major quantity of British people that outnumbered the Americans, mostly hooligans of course.  I went to see more games like Brazil vs. Ivory Coast and Japan vs. Netherlands, but none of them was the same as watching your country win and advance to the 2nd round as Mexico did.

South Africa was a once in a lifetime experience I will never ever forget.

Christian Tonsberg P’12, June 25:

One of the most surprising aspects of our trip has been the enthusiasm for the local South African team:  Bafana Bafana.  (They live down the road from our guesthouse).

In the streets you see a very large percentage of locals wearing the yellow team jersey — even Alex sports one now — and many cars are equipped with flags and side mirror covered in yellow and green.

Objectively, Bafana Bafana is one of the weaker teams in the World Cup, but they made quite a splash bowing out with a victory over France’ s 2006 finalists.  Even at that last game, with the odds stacked against the team, we felt enormous support from the public.  The Fan Fest area near here was packed, and people followed the game on TV in bars and cafes.  Even burger joints have TV screens set up.

We saw the game in the local Virgin Active — a giant fitness club that compares to the biggest, most modern US centers.   It has an olympic size pool in the middle of the 2-story building.

We go to the club in preparation of the upcoming high school  season.  We need to keep one of Dan and Kurt’s troops fit for the  state championship defense this fall, and it probably does not hurt my body either with the intake of great South African wine and food!

It was a moving experience.  Every person in that club watched intensely.  The place got excited when Bafana Bafana went up 1-0, and it completely erupted when we thought they scored to 3-0 (that goal was disallowed).  All the locals  — black and white — joined in the celebration together.  The middle-aged man on the treadmill next to me jumped in joy, and the young African woman to my other side was screaming.

It was very moving, and even I — a neutral observer (well, I always like to see the French lose) — got a bit emotional.  Luckily, on a treadmill tears and sweat mix well, so there were no loss of dignity.  But it is hard not to rejoice behind soccer helping bring together a healing country.

We noticed during the Brazil-Cameroon game how the locals are supporting the other African teams.  We thought the Brazilians would have most of the spectator support, but that was not the case at all.  Too bad that the African teams are not doing that well, and that the last Africa team goes home tomorrow afternoon sent out by Altidore, Dempsey, Donovan and all the other American heroes.

But be prepared for an equal battle among fans tomorrow. The locals REALLY like the US, and we are treated extremely well here, but tomorrow they will be behind their African brothers from Ghana.

The South Africans are riots at the games. They are masters of the vuvuzelas, and they blow beautiful tunes where lots of people join in (as opposed to most non-Africans, who just blow the horns for noise).  Locals also use they vuvuzelas when the chant for their team.  They swing their horns in synchrony while dancing and singing. I believe Budweiser’s marketing people made a smart decision being a Sponsor of the World Cup, because these guys here certainly like to party.

We are getting prepared for the US game tomorrow. We went to Rustenburg yesterday to check out the pitch (well, truth be told, to see a sub-par Danish team get trashed by Japan), and it is marvelous with the stands being close to the pitch.   Americans will descend on Rustenburg in hordes on Saturday, and the players will be able to feel our support even more than the Algeria game.

USA, USA, USA – we can’t wait!

Alex Tonsberg prepares for the Denmark-Japan game by wearing Denmark's colors and flag -- and eating sushi.


Alex Tonsberg and his Brazilian friend Carlos, before a Brazil World Cup match at Soccer City.

Staples junior Alex Tonsberg, June 23:

I’ve really enjoyed this World Cup adventure.  The greatest part about South Africa is the people.  They are so friendly to you when you talk to them.  They greet you with a smile and are very upbeat. Every day I hear vuvuzelas on the streets, and everyone has national teams flags on their cars. There are hundreds of signs with FIFA on them.  It’s a soccer experience I’ve never come across before.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I am really enjoying.

The first game I saw was Brazil vs. Ivory Coast.  I was so excited that I asked my dad if we could get there 5 hours early.  I really wanted to see the new stadium “Soccer City.”  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’ve been to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, Upton Park and Nou Camp.  I’ve experienced many wonderful stadiums but not like Soccer City.  Soccer City is very clean, its capacity is 94,700, and the outside of the stadium is designed to have the appearance of a calabash (an African pot).  I consider Soccer City my favorite stadium of all.

Before every game I paint my face with the national team colors (which is mandatory).  At the Spain vs. Honduras game, I was actually asked to be interviewed by ESPN while celebrating with many Spanish fans.  We had fantastic seats so we could see every move the players made, all their facial expressions, and could feel the intensity of the game.  The fans at the games are in high spirits; they love to dance, sing, chant, blow the vuvuzelas and drink a lot of beers.

The vuvuzelas are the key to the atmosphere.  People don’t just blow the horns for noise. The sounds of the horns becomes a song/ beat/ tune. It is really incredible how one person can start a tune and then the whole stadium starts doing the exact same thing.

The best game so far, for me on this trip was USA vs. Algeria. Before the game we saw some USA and Algeria fans juggling and playing small sided soccer games on the street.  I of course was very eager to join in, so I did.  A very talented Argentine juggler showed me some interesting moves, like the “around the world,”“triple around the world” and catching the ball on your neck.

The stadium wasn’t as nice as Soccer City, but the seats were pretty close to the field which was amazing.  The atmosphere was intense, and every time the US got near Algeria’s goal everyone jumped up with excitement.

When Algeria hit the crossbar I was shaking.  I couldn’t believe Clint Dempsey’s goal was called offside.  What a joke!

Late in the US game I thought it was going to be a draw.  Once it got into stoppage time I couldn’t watch the game because it was so intense.  On the counter attack the US had in the dying minutes everyone was screaming and people started nail biting.  That split second when Landon Donovan tapped the ball in, the stadium just exploded.  Beer bottles were being thrown up in the air, I had beer spilled on me, and everyone was freaking out.  It was truly an insane goal. I have never seen a better game in my life.

Hopefully with the Denmark and Japan group stage game, the 2 round of 16 games I get to see, Argentina vs. Mexico and USA vs. Ghana, there will be much more late drama to come.  Being at the World Cup is simply unreal.

——————————————————————————————–

Brandon Lamb (left) and Trevor Lamb on the international TV feed during the US national anthem, before the Algeria game. We have no idea what's up with the dude in the middle.

Christian Tonsberg P’12, June 23, less than 1 hour before US-Algeria kickoff:

Hey from Pretoria less than 1 hour before kick-off of USA-Algeria.

US players just entered the field to warm-up……super excited crowd here.

US fans in face paint, less than an hour before kickoff against Algeria. (Photo by Christian Tonsberg)

There is a wonderful atmosphere here.  Pretoria almost feels like an American city with so many Stars and Stripes flags and happy Americans.  Heck, we even passed people tailgating, and they are most likely not Algerians!  In typical American fashion, people were drinking beers right next to a “no alcohol” sign.

We are surprised to see so many Algerians though.  They are out in full force with their white and green outfits.

It is very touching to see that fans of both teams go to great length to interact.  There are thousands of pictures being taken with groups of both nationalities in them.

It is a beautiful afternoon with the sun shining without a cloud on the sky, so we are waking around taking in the sights.

Alex was just playing pass-the-ball around with a group of young kids from Algeria and the US, and a cute little local kid in his Bafana Bafana jersey.

Next to us Sony has a stand where they have people — again from both countries — learn the dance steps to the waka waka song by Shakira. What a sight.

Nothing brings cultures together like the beautiful game.

The field looks really good, and even though the stadium here in Pretoria is older, it sets a perfect frame for a hopefully good match.  The task for Donovan and company is simple:  A win sets up a playoff match vs. Ghana, Germany or Serbia.  A tie is likely not enough.

Christian Tonsberg P’12, June 22:

Our World Cup experience continues to be awesome.  We have seen fantastic Brazil beat Ivory Coast, and Spain demolish Honduras.  In Brazil they say that Fabriano is better than Maradona, because he scored a goal using his hand twice.

We are impressed by so many things here.  Just to mention a few:

The organizers are doing a great job.  Everything seems to run smoothly.

There have been reports of bus drivers striking (no, they are not French!), but our experiences have been good.  For both games we drove to the stadiums and parked at our pre-booked “park and walk” sites, and got in and out quickly.  Our only problem was the rental car company: I felt like Jerry Seinfeld trying to explain what a reservation meant but they did not have any navigation systems, so we are left with an old-fashioned map in a huge and sprawling  city.  But FIFA are good about putting up signs, so we manage.

It is almost startling how friendly the locals are.  We are always met with a friendly face, and often there are big grins and smiles (minus the rental company).

The fans are fantastic.  We have yet to see  an angry person, and so far that involves 138,000 fans for our 2 games.  Everybody talks to  and high-fives  each other, laughs and blows the vuvuzelas together.  We sat with mostly locals at the Brazil match.  They clearly favored the African team which is great to see, but they could also laugh at the loss.

Alex became friendly with 2 local funny guys who taught him notes on the vuvuzela.  They joked about his Brazilian outfit. When we left, they were dancing in the stands blowing the horns.  Alex was very impressed by the amount of (empty) Budweiser bottles left under their seats.

At the Spain game we sat next to 2 Japanese guys, so we had a good chat about the upcoming Denmark-Japan match.  They were very modest and said they feared the tall Danish strikers, but I think they like their chances.

We had five rowdy Honduras fans right behind us, and they were quite inpressed by Alex’ vocabulary of Spanish soccer terms as well as Spanish swear words (a side benefit of playing with  South-Central Premier’s Spanish-speaking teammates and coaching staff).  Alex was face painted, wrapped in the Spanish flag and in full Spanish gear.  But they hugged him and laughed at him anyway.  Last night my ears were still ringing  “vamos Honduras”!

Talking about true soccer fans.  Our friend Carlos from Brazil left his very young wife back home alone with his 3-year-old son, spending all of his 30 vacation days here.  That may not sound very smart, but Carlos really is a smart man.  Realizing that all of Brazil’s “follow your team” tickets were sold out, he bought the same type of ticket for North Korea.  Not because he is a big fan of Kim Il Jung’s troops, but these tickets allow you to follow the winner of your team’s group for the rest of the tournament if your team exits – a smart move when you have Fabriano’s hands to help Brazil win the group.

Not being a big fan of North Korean soccer, Carlos tried to sell his ticket for their last game against Ivory Coast at the small community of “ticket guys” here. He was told by one of the scalpers “not even if you pay me, will I go see that game”! But still Carlos is happy for his North Korean tickets.

On a different note, Carlos predicts that Brazil will not win the Cup this year because no team can possibly win 3 Cups in a row, and he claims there is no way Brazil will not win at home in 2014.

One downside of hanging out with Carlos:  After the game we were hungry but it was Sunday and very late,  so most restaurants were closed.  We did find one small mall with two restaurants – one nice-looking Argentinian steakhouse and one named Tivoli, which sounds suspicious and tacky for most Danes.

But Carlos flatly refused to enter the Argentinian restaurant, leaving us with Tivoli.  It turned out to be a nice Italian restaurant, but we probably would have gone to bed hungry had it not been for that alternative.  Carlos is not only a smart man, he also appreciates good food and wine, so tonight Carlos, Alex and I go to Johannesburg’s foremost non-Argentinian steakhouse called Butchershop and Grill.  And since Alex’ Connecticut drivers permit probably is not accepted here and he does not like the left side driving–  especially not in a small stick gear car — we take a taxi tonight.

Our next match is USA- Algeria in Pretoria tomorrow.  Alex is preparing the Stars and Stripes face paint, and I have to get more South African rands out of the ATM to buy the jersey and flag.

Go Donavon and company!

Christian Tonsberg P’12, June 20:

The 2 Tonsbergs  arrived!  We are in our seats at Soccer City for the Brazil-Ivory Coast (read: Drogba) match.  Granted, our seats at the top corner of the stadium are far from the best — but we are here and we are excited.

As about 90% of spectators here, Alex is in full face paint, the blue and yellow Brazil jersey, hat, scarf and most importantly, equipped with a vuvuzela.  He even had a guy come up to him asking a question in Portuguese!

We drove to the beautiful Soccer City stadium located in a pretty deserted area close to the Soweto Township.  It was a super easy drive on highway N1, which easily rivals  highways in the NY area.  We parked in our prepaid “park and walk” area and walked the last 1/2 mile, arriving 1 hour before the gates opened.  We were among the 50 first spectators in the stadium ready for the magic of Robinho, Kaka and company.

So far we have seen 3 Ivorian fans, so Brazil is playing home field today.

Yesterday eve was a triumph!  We arrived to our guesthouse very tired, but a shower and dinner made us  feel prepared to watch our fellow Danes fight off Cameroon.  Marion Lodge (our guesthouse) is a global village of soccer fans, so at game time we already were best friends with 4 young Brits, an Australien couple, our new Brazilian friend Carlos (whom we gave a lift to the stadium today) and so on.

The owners of Marion Lodge are Persians with a son in Denmark, so 10 minutes into the game (when Eto’o scored) I found myself speaking on a cell phone in Danish with an associate professor of economics at Copenhagen University.  His son studies at Boston University.  It is a small world we live in, and soccer definitely makes it a friendlier place.

By the end of the game we were all singing “we are Red, we are White, we are Danish Dynamite.”

We thought is was a good performance by the Danes.  They had to be aggressive and they stepped up. The defense which is normally solid provided a lot of entertainment with sloppy passes.  Our brazilian friend Carlos told us parts of the Brazilian press named the match the best and most entertaining so far in this World Cup.

It is a little known fact that Denmark actually has progressed to the 2nd round all 3 times we have qualified to the Cup.  Maybe we can keep the perfect record, but we need a win against Japan.  Alex and I will do our part cheering them on in Rustenberg on June 24.  Alex will use the red and the white colors from his palette.

This morning we ventured out in Johannesburg.  It is very, very nice in our part of town.  The Dutch team lives up the road from us and Bafana Bafana stays another 1/4 mile further down the road.  Our British friends met Arjen Robben outside of the Dutch hotel, and he was nice enough to stop and chat for a minute.

We also went to the FIFA ticket center and were lucky enough to buy tickets for the US-Algeria game.  We will try watch 2 games in 1 day.  First the US game in Pretoria at 4, then Germany-Ghana at 8:30 here at Soccer City.

FIFA may have to give us an award for being true fans of the beautiful game!

Christian Tonsberg P’12, June 19:

We arrived in style.  Tired but very excited, and so far we have been met by a very friendly attitude.

We printed out our tickets (huge relief) and are now waiting for the brand new train to Sandton (the upscale and safe area of Jo’burg).

We will watch Denmark’s do-or-die game tonight at the hotel.  I am moderately optimistic, but the Danes need to be aggressive up front and that is not their strength.

Trevor Lamb ’04, June 19:

Not so much time on a borrowed computer, so it’ll be brief now.

Fantastic game last night (US-Slovenia).  The comeback of the tournament so far!  We were in position to view all 5 of the goals (we’re still considering the 3rd as legitimate!).

Also, after the game we ran into Sean Milligan (Staples ’05) and a few of his friends from Dartmouth, which was nice.  There’s a photo that will be updated later, as well as some great fan photos from the games.

After the next match Matt (Staples ’07), Brandon (Staples ’01) and my mom will head back to the States.  I’ll stay in South Africa.  Since I have little plan, the more contacts here the better.

(Note to anyone in Africa, or anyone who knows anyone there:  Contact Trevor at rovertlamb@gmail.com.)

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

Peter Dickstein ’73, June 17:

We leave Joburg for Cape Town tomorrow morning, so unfortunately we won’t make it to the safari site.  Yesterday we visited Sterkfontein Caves, aka the “Cradle of Humankind.”  It is a World Heritage site, clearly the real deal, a first class experience and only 1 hour outside of Joburg.  The surrounding area is lightly populated and there are still leopards, hyenas, jackals and antelope that inhabit the rolling hills that resemble California’s.

Yesterday was the annual national day of commemoration of the student uprisings in Soweto in 1976 that left several youth dead from police gunshots.  The day before we toured Soweto and saw the bridge where the students were shot, the church that was surrounded and fired upon by the Afrikaner police and the memorial for Hector Pietersen, the youngest of the students killed and the iconic name that emerged from the event.  There are 3.7 million who live in Soweto and it is now a mix of middle class and shanty-town residents living side-by-side.  The melting pot, perhaps more accurate to just call it a pot, is of indigenous black cultures each with their unique set of values, belief systems and traditions makes it a multi-layered and complex social fabric and evidently very difficult to organize into a “functional” society.  The Zulus’ way of settling their scores is by killing the person or people whose idea or approach is not acceptable to the other side thereby ending the propagation of the idea.  We have a Zulu driver who speaks 8 of the 11 official languages of SA and has been educating us about his and some of the other cultures.

Peter Dickstein ’73, June 15 (Former Staples and University of Pennsylvania captain Peter Dickstein now lives in San Francisco.  He and his son Jackson, 13, are in South Africa):

This is an amazing adventure so far.  It’s other-worldly in many ways, and having a severe case of experiential overload.

The flight from San Francisco to Dubai was over ice-capped Hudson Bay, snowbound Greenland and the Arabian Desert.  Dubai was 95 degrees at midnight — pretty much all mosques, malls and unnatural combinations.

The South Africa-Mexico opener was magical, as I’m sure you sensed watching on TV.  It started with tears of sadness over Mandela’s great-granddaughter, and erupted in tears of joy when Tshbalala struck.  It felt like we were witnessing a miracle and history, which I think we were despite the final score.

Based on what we’ve seen of Joburg’s tattered infrastructure and menacing streets, there is no way FIFA would have awarded this event to South Africa were it not for what this place represents — as opposed to what it is.

It feels like we are very removed from home, and in an Africa very different than the one that exists in most minds.  Joburg and its residential surroundings, which we have driven through on our way to matches, is very developed (10 million people in the metro area).

When we take a tour of the city (and then of Soweto), we look forward to gaining an understanding of what we’re seeing.  We have no game on Wednesday, and plan to check out museums and the cultural scene.

There are constant and unsettling warnings about being safe and staying in safe places, even in the very residential area where we are.  All of the homes are walled off from the street with electrified fences atop the walls, and gated entrances.  It’s hard to know how real the danger is, because people like taxi drivers seem to trump it up to get business while others, like our guesthouse hostess, downplay it — also to get business.

The streets of Joburg feel a little menacing.  There are a lot of burnt-out lots and buildings with broken glass.  It is remarkable that a world event like the World Cup is here.

They have banned cars from a several block radius around Ellis Park downtown, and created pedestrian-only routes which take you through some hardcore blighted areas.  This would never happen in the first world.

The people, especially the hordes of security and docents, are very welcoming and delightful, which makes it feel more hospitable.  There seem to be plenty of alcohol/drug-taking young people hanging out on the streets and eager to get your attention.  Their pitch is that it is great to have us here, it makes them proud, we are all human beings on this planet, I’m struggling and would you help me out?  No physical threats, but it seems very possible.

Jacks is taking it all in.  Last night he almost had his new South Africa jersey taken by a young guy who asked him to see it.  Jacks now understands that when he let the guy hold the jersey, he risked losing it in a flash.

After the South Africa-Mexico game we got separated from our very nice driver, due to the chaos of re-routed post-match traffic.  We hitched a circuitous ride back from Soccer City with a group of Brits who work for Nike — and Anton Ferdinand, a Premiership player whose brother, Rio Ferdinand, is the injured captain of England.  We dropped them off in Melville, a hip neighborhood but evidently pretty dangerous — setting up a daily conundrum for visitors and locals.

At the match we set next to a local guy who invited us to a barbecue (called a braai) tomorrow.  He was there with 1 of the 4×100 South African Olympic swimmers who beat out Phelps and the US for the gold medal in 2008.  He said the soccer match made him more excited than any swimming event he ever participated in.

Jackson’s knowledge of the game, the countries and players is phenomenal, and very handy for me.  He’s in heaven.  We know that we are in the urban phase of our trip, and will escape to the physical beauty and relaxing atmosphere next week.  Meanwhile, we are enjoying this adventure.  Flying over Africa and getting a tiny slice of this one unrepresentative (but fascinating) place, and the wild mix of cultures, makes me want more.

—————————————————————————————

June 13:

Kyle Martino ’99 announced the Ghana-Serbia match on ESPN radio today.  He referred to a 6-8 striker as a “giraffe.”  Not PC — but funny.

———————————————————–

June 12:

Over 500 Westporters of all ages — primarily young — jammed the Staples auditorium today to watch the US steal a point from England.

The WSA-sponsored event featured an enormous screen with great sound, plus a raffle for autographed Landon Donovan, Kristine Lilly, Kyle Martino and Staples boys team items.  Giveaways included flags and scarves.

Excitement was high.  For many children — and parents — it was their 1st time watching the US play in a high-level match, while surrounded by avid fans.

Late in the match, Brandon Lamb ’01’s face filled the TV screen.  He has now been seen by more people at 1 time than any player in Staples soccer history.

Now it’s on to Slovenia (Friday, June 18, 10 a.m.)…

(Click here for TheDailyWestport’s story on the Staples-WSA event.)

Many Staples soccer players helped out at today's WSA event. Setting up were (from left): Ethan Bradeen, Alex Zuckerman, Zack Morrison, Max Hoberman, Steve Smith, Terence Gibbons, Brian Wolgast and Jay Kaplan.

Trevor Lamb ’04, June 12:

At noon today (June 11)  shops in Johannesburg started closing and cold beverages started opening.  Nearly the entire country held its breath to watch, listen and observe the opening match, hoping for a victory and dream start for the national side.

After 90 minutes of a tight match players and fans from Mexico and South Africa will have 2 things haunting their thoughts…one being the several easy  scoring chances squandered by both teams.  The other is the constant chorus of vuvuzelas (the horn-like instrument sounding from every corner of South Africa!).

On television 2 announcers competed with the noise of the vuvuzelas and offered intermittent commentary between languages of English and Zulu (the Zulu announcer had much more enthusiam!) no doubt in demonstration of the “Rainbow Nation: this country is attempting to create.

A fan who witnessed the match commented that sound after the epic first goal was scored by SA was comparable to an airline jet taking off.  It’s football madness.  It’s a sporting history.  It’s the World Cup in Africa.

And while neither team can be satisfied after a match that seesawed momentum from start to finish, starting with Mexico and ending with South Africa, both teams can’t rest assured their tournament hopes are far from over.  This is just the beginning.

South Africa is enjoying the task of welcoming wave after wave of visitor arriving from all corners of the world, and South Africans people are flashing their smiles everywhere. The positive energy and everyone’s shared interest to celebrate such a fantastic global event is contagious. People from all nations are supporting the local team, and the host nation is appreciative of all support and attention.

A major South African restaurant chain has even offered free lunch for supporters of any team that loses to South Africa. Stories about superfans driving from Norway, or celebrities and prime ministers arriving via private jets to support the tournament and country are covering the headlines.

The world is watching this tournament with a magnifying glass, and the pressure is mounting on the South African team.  Expectations are high for the local boys, and memories of the 1996 rugby team’s success have locals hopeful for another triumphant South African performance.  One report even stated that a South African victory in the opening match would boost the value of the South African rand.

The truth is  the SA team is largely unproved at the highest level and pundits agree that simply advancing beyond the group stages (which every host nation in the history of the tournament has done) and avoiding humiliation would be a victory in itself.  Nevertheless even the smallest victories for the home squad and other African teams will surely be celebrated in style. and memories will last long after the tournament.

Also, many South Africans have expressed their admiration for the USA team, recalling some inspirational performances in the Confederations Cup last summer, also in South Africa.  With any luck tonight there will be a similar performance, and much reason to celebrate!

—————————————————————————————————-

June 11: A large crowd gathered in the Staples cafeteria — and at the TVs throughout the hallways — this morning to watch South Africa and Mexico battle to a 1-1 draw.  There were athletes from many sports — and plenty of non-athletes too.  Interest in the World Cup — and knowledge of all teams playing — was high.


————————————————————————————————————–

Trevor Lamb ’04, June 10 (via Facebook):

Just arrived…of course it’s worth it.  There’s a crazy fever here already.  The customs officer stopped me and asked me for my passport.  He jokingly said,  “Good you are not from Mexico.  I can let you pass,” with a big =D

—————————————————————————————————————

Eric Steffen ’96, June 9:

I arrived in South Africa safe and sound this past weekend.  I’m staying in a safari-style house (white walls, thatch roof, no insulation) with 2 housemates.  I’ll be here for the next 2 months at least.

Eric Steffen

After graduating in mid-May, I’ve returned to South Africa on a 1-way ticket to work in investment banking.  I’m pounding the pavement looking for jobs, but it’s challenging for an international to find work here.  There’s a big push for South African banks to hire South African blacks, Indians and coloreds, and I am American and quite white.

I’m just going to give this thing my best shot and see where I end up.  For the first time I feel like I have a clear career direction. I’m chasing down a dream and it’s very exciting.

Speaking of excitement, the World Cup begins Friday.  The country is electric!  There are flags on cars, flags in shops, people are selling flags on the side of the road, they’re even putting up flags inside investment banks.   I have 3 tickets for the Cup, with good friends from the Peace Corps.  One is for USA vs. Algeria, the 2nd for a round of 16 and the last for a semifinal in Cape Town.  Rest assured, US government, my student loans have been put to excellent use.

A brief aside:  Dear God, I don’t ask for many things.  But if you could please, please find a way for the USA to stomp on England’s face this Saturday I would totally do something you wanted me to do in retribution for something somebody else didn’t do for you.  Especially if they’re English.  I know, there are probably a lot of English fans cutting similar deals with you.  But remember, they started Anglicanism.  You can’t start an entire religion because someone wants to get a divorce!  We have to teach these people a lesson.

I hope everyone is doing well and please do stay in touch.  This Saturday don your red, white and blue!  And if you’re ever in the hemisphere/continent, look me up!

Two words: lion kebabs.  They are delish.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s