Friday, July 2, 2010

USA vs Ghana

Back to Rustenburg! The last time we traveled to Royal Bafoken Stadium in Rustenburg it took us almost 4hrs on a bus and we tied England 1-1. This time things would be different we said. We decide that since there were only 5 remaining in our group we would cram into one car and make the drive ourselves.

The decision to drive wasn’t the worst or the best, 5 grown men 3 which are 6ft plus crammed into a Toyota Camry for a 2hr drive…Why Not? It was a quick 120km drive there as we left 6hrs early just to avoid any possibilities of hitting the awful traffic we witnessed the last trip. The idea was to arrive early enough to catch the 1st game at a local bar, we arrived to the stadium (well as close as we could get w/out a pass) and were forced to a park and ride in order to get close enough to a bar to watch the game. We hoped on the bus and took the short 10min drive to the stadium, then asked “How do we get to a place to watch the game. We are told “There’s a Pub across the street” Really? I don’t see a Pub? We decide to talk a walk.

We walk around the security fences and make our way across the street where we find some houses that have made their front lawns into a place to sell goods, which is know in Africa as a “shabeen”. A “shabeen” is an old-school type bar typically found in neighborhoods I guess similar to the old time pub in Ireland but different… Way Different! We look at each other and decide to try our luck so we enter. We see four older men are sitting at a table on their front porch. We give a good wave HI and walk the front door AND WOW…the smell was overwhelming. There were four people (locals) sitting a dinner table in the front room, and a small table in the room behind (kitchen?) had a few others watching the Uruguay vs. South Korea game. I decide to exit at this time and wait for my drink outside. I’ve decide since I wasn;t inside to see what happened I’ll use German’s decription from his email back home about this experience.

Next to the front-room table, a small hallway is turned into a bar, Milk crates are covered by a few pieces of wood to create a knee-high ‘bar,’ which is the width of the hallway. The ‘bartender’ stands in the hallway and charges us for 70 rand for seven tall beers – which to us are ridiculously inexpensive (less than $7 dollars for seven 32-ounce bottles). We couldn’t believe it. While two guys stood to wait, other guys had to walk out – the smell of body odor was that intoxicating. I got stuck. A 40 year old man sitting at the front table – clearly a local – gets up, and approached me, two feet away. He begins to hug me – I held my breath, as I couldn’t believe it – it being his smell. What do I do? Am I in his house? Do I have to show some type of respect and reciprocate? I stop breathing, close my eyes, and give him a tap on the back. His accent was so strong – or he was so drunk - that I couldn’t understand him. Something about happy to see fans, USA something or other, Ghana bla-bla – it was all hidden in the spit that kept flying out of his mouth and onto my face. I wiped my eyes, lips, and cheeks with my sleeve as he continued with his arm around my shoulder.

Disgusted, I push him back and point to the TV with the game on – he wants nothing to do it, and starts hugging me again. With one hand I tried to push him off, the other hand covering my pockets as I understood his next line – ‘10 rand, please.’

It took all of 30-45 seconds, but felt like an eternity. I tried to shake myself from shoulder to feet as I hurriedly turned and stumbled back out the front door. I jumped off the front porch onto the dusty front yard. The rest of our group was outside now. I couldn’t stop laughing inside – my way to recognize the absurdity that just happened and my once-in-a-lifetime bar experience that is completely unique to Africa!

I also laughed at the thought of some of my friends (Aloisi, Clint, Nahodil, others) being in this same situation – I’m laughing now as I type this, imagining their reaction to reading this last story or being in my shoes.

The ‘Tuck Shop” outside served ‘food’ well something like food, we head over to check out what’s on the menu. Here is what followed as described perfectly by Curtis’s blog.

Corey and I walk up, we are greeted by a very friendly young lady and the following, almost unbelievable, conversation follows: Me- Hi!, She- Hello my handsome friends, Me- So, what’s on the menu tonight? She- Well you are going to have to wait 15 minutes because the meat is cooking. Me- Okay, so what kind of meat is it? Beef? Chicken? Pork? She- Well it's like beef yeah, its red meat. Me- Well I prefer my "like beef" medium rare. She- 15 minutes honey and I will make you a nice plate! I then look at Corey and say "I will definitely be back at this spot in 15 minutes to try me some 'like beef'!" She winks at us as we walk away and 15 minutes later I bought a plate of that delicious "red meat". I have no idea what it was and I don't care, it was good!

I decided to wait and try my luck with the hot dogs in the stadium. Not the best choice because they ran out of food even before the game started! What are they not prepared? How are the beer lines 40min long and how the heck do you run out of hotdogs and hour before the game starts? (This only begins my unpleasant experiences at this stadium… there are more to follow)We walk into the stadium and just like before the American fans are spread out all over the place. There is no one section that could carry a group. WTF! This is why we purchased Category 3 tickets! SO the supporters could sit together!

We find our section and decide what the heck lets sit in the front row! NOT everyone wants us to SIT DOWN, so we move to our correct seats where we begin our chant. “Stand UP for the USA, Stand UP for the USA!” We were able to get our section to rise and cheer for the remainder of the half, and at half time many of our fellow supporters from the Slovenia and Algeria games found their way to our section and the 2nd Half was much better but just not enough. It was so difficult to get anything going from the crowd All of Africa was behind Ghana (including the English fans), a sign we’ve often seen when the U.S. loses – it seems every nationality is cheering against them. It was a tough final minutes of the game because many England fans were at the match because they purchased tickets for the #1 in the group so confidant England would win the group. WELL THEY DIDN’T! WE DID! Suckers!!! However At the end of the match I was able to control myself as a piss drunk English Fan w/ a Ghana flag painted on his face shouted “ The Yanks are going Home!” This pissed off many of us and I’m not sure where he ended up but I’m sure if he kept that up he was bleeding in a ditch somewhere J

The US is out of the Cup with the loss and I’m not sure how to take it. We all just stand there with a glazed look as we applauded the effort of our boys in blue. Was I sad? Yes. Was I happy I was there? Yes! The way the US played and how they put their all into this World Cup especially this game I was overwhelmed, and glad I made this trip. Now it’s time to head back to Pretoria.

Well we didn’t even get much of a chance to mope, because of the complete disaster of the exit after the game. We find the field where were supposed to pick up our shuttle bus to take us back to the park and ride. It was a crowd of people, no lines or barricades, no instructions of where to go, no signage or personnel directing fans. It was in better words a complete CLUSTER F*%#!! It was a 10,000-person mob trying to inch closer to a fence where we could see some buses. It was more than amazing how bad this was organized. It took us forever to get a bus and luckily we are all pretty big guys because the pushing and shoving got pretty bad. By the time we got back to the lot, in disbelief, it seemed like no one had left. There were just as many people in the parking lot as there were trying to get on the buses! There were no attendants directing cars, so every car tried to cut to the front by driving around the parked cars. It was just plan funny now and could only laugh at the disorganization.

The game – which didn’t even have 35,000 fans, ended before 11 pm. We get to our car at 1 am. We got on the highway at 2 am. It was a two-lane highway so for all of you who have driven from GJ to Montrose that’s what we were dealing with! And it took us 4hrs!!! We got home around 4:30am. If the loss didn’t make us ready to leave, the frustrating lines, inept organization, and just plain pain in the ass effort required to get to / from games has got us looking into changing our flights! Really who wants to stick around here for a weeklonger?

Maybe I’m just a little tired; maybe I’m bitter maybe I miss my kid too much? Who knows! I’m just ready to leave.

USA vs Algeria

Well the time has come and today’s battle is in our backyard. The march to the stadium is only 10min and one to be remembered today. We wake up early for yet another lovely breakfast, then off to get ready. I choose the Captain America theme for today’s war paint. (it’s also the choice of Bret’s for the 98/06 World Cups)

Anyways, German heads down to the stadium early to try and off load some extra tickets he has as we get all dolled up. It’s Brett’s 10th anniversary so he makes a sign “Happy Anniversary Jen” in red/white/blue, as Corey, Curtis and I finalize our war paint.

We start our march from the guesthouse and head to Hatfield Square for a quick bucket of beers and some friendly chants w/ US supporters and a few Algerian’s.

The town seems to be packed with Algerian Fans! They have invaded our turf overnight! It’s depressing but we won’t let it get us down. Hatfield Square is half full and the majority of the crowd is supporting the USA so it’s exciting. We grab a few beers and participate in some cheers then it’s off to the stadium. Back in the streets the Algerian’s still our number us, and the walk takes longer than usual as many of the fans want to stop and have a photo with the American Fans all painted up for the game. Once we reach the first security check point outside the stadium we decide it’s no time like any other to burst into song as we get other USA Supporters to join us in “God bless America” This was chilling and made the next 1000 feet to the stadium that much better!

We enter the Loftus Stadium and find where all the USA Fans were! The place was packed with RED! WHITE! And BLUE! The stars and stripes waves proudly overheads of fans as we joined into the cheering!!! This is the 3rd game for the US and a very anticipated one for we have a chance to move to the next round. The game was AMAZING! and the game winning goal will most likely go down in history as one of the best goals EVER!! At least for the USA, we cheered and cheered and the cheering didn’t stop at the final whistle. The US fans stayed and cheered for about 45min after the match. We did so too. German, Monty (a US supporter from Philly I think) and Myself decided to show are appreciation with a victory lap around the field. There was new excitement in the air after the match, not only did the USA win the game they also won the group!!! USA 1st, England 2nd!! Let the party begin! We were all forced from the stadium however the cheers continued in the streets. We participated from a distance as Curtis decided to jump into the crowd for about 20min. The game has been over for about an hour and a half so we think it’s time to leave the stadium grounds and walk. Everyone besides Curtis and I decides to head to Eastwood’s for some post game cheer and the next game where we find it best to crab some take away food and watch the next game from the comfort of the couch in the guest lodge.