In 2010 I travelled to South Africa for the FIFA World Cup. During my travels I wrote weekly articles for the Matamata Chronicle. I have combined these articles and will present them in two parts – pre-tournament and during-tournament. Part 2 is posted here. This wasn’t the first time DB’s World Cup Diary made an appearance. It made it’s debut for Germany 2006.
DB’s World Cup Diary returns
Four years after debuting in Germany DB’s World Cup Diary is back. Germany 2006 was great fun but, for me, lacking a little something. That little something, having a team to support, ain’t gonna be a problem in South Africa. In case you hadn’t heard New Zealand, the All Whites, will be at the biggest festival in world sport and this time (whisper it quietly) we may just have a chance of achieving something quite positive.
Okay, booze-fuelled optimism aside (it was late on a Saturday night when I wrote this), I think anything close to a result will be an achievement for New Zealand. We have a decent team now, but this is the World Cup and I’m not sure how many kiwis actually know how big this thing is. And how small New Zealand really is. So I’ll be happy if we can score a few goals and maybe nick a point against Slovakia or Paraguay. Anything else will be the stuff All Whites fans dreams are made of.
I’ve been lucky enough to secure tickets for eight games in South Africa. For a long time there it was ridiculously easy to get tickets so I basically made a pig of myself. It seems people were wary about travelling to South Africa – I can’t imagine why. Along with the three NZ games, I’ll be watching some of the biggest names in football. Holland, Argentina, Italy, Germany, Spain and (possibly) England is not a bad line-up!
My schedule in South Africa follows:
• June 14 arrive in the morning, then watch DENMARK V THE NETHERLANDS at 1.30pm. Then crash!
• June 15 NEW ZEALAND V SLOVAKIA
• June 16 Sun City tour
• June 17 ARGENTINA V KOREA
• June 18-19 Free (for now…)
• June 20 NEW ZEALAND V ITALY
• June 21-22 Free (for now…)
• June 23 GHANA V GERMANY
• June 24 NEW ZEALAND V PARAGUAY
• June 25 CHILE V SPAIN
• June 26 ROUND OF 16 GAME (possibly England v Germany or Australia)
• June 27 Rest
• June 28 Fly home
• July 1 to June 2014 Find a way to pay this trip off before heading to Brazil for the next World Cup.
There is actually a group of five of us travelling from Matamata. We’re part of a tour group being led by former All White captain, Danny Hay. Two of us headed away on June 8 as we’re travelling to Finland first (work beckons). At this stage I expect to be sitting in a pub in Helsinki for the opening couple of games.
We meet up with the rest of the group in Hong Kong on Sunday before heading off to Jo’burg. Our hotel is in Pretoria and we are literally on the doorstep of Loftus Versfeld Stadium, a legendary rugby stadium, which has been hijacked by the round ball for a month. A good location for a great couple of weeks I reckon.
On the road again
Finland is famous for its ice hockey players and motor sport legends. For its lakes and its trees. So naturally Finland’s capital, Helsinki, is where I kicked my football world cup off…
Four years ago I missed the opening game because I was on a bus travelling between Naples and Rome. I didn’t make any such mistake this time. The Sports Academy, a pub in central Helsinki, was our chosen venue. It came with the highest of recommendations (from a local taxi driver, no less) so we scouted it out a couple of days before the big kick-off. It passed the beer and food test so we were set.
My work colleagues and I squeezed ourselves in with half of Helsinki. An illustration of how global this thing is can be shown by our group, containing two Kiwis, two Americans, an Indian, a Spaniard and a Brazilian, sitting down in Finland to watch a game of football that was being played in South Africa. It’s not every day you find yourself in such a situation.
The game itself was not really the best you’ll ever see, but it was more about the occasion. The hosts managed a point, and could have won it near the end, which is good for the tournament. It’ll keep the locals buzzing. The opening day’s second game, between France and Uruguay was described by the BBC as a ‘turgid affair’, so I’m kind of glad I missed most of it. The choice to go and grab some dinner at a local Greek restaurant was a good one.
I’m writing this in my hotel room on the morning of what is looming as one hell of a long day. By the time I next rest in a proper bed I will have flown from Helsinki to Hong Kong (where we meet up with our tour group) then on to Johannesburg and then watched my first live South African World Cup match (Netherlands versus Denmark). I’d be tempted to say I’m getting too old for this stuff, but I think I’ll just have to harden up and force myself to manage!
The Dutch match is being played at the magnificent looking Soccer City Stadium in Soweto, which is where the opening game was played. The stadium looks like one of the modern wonders of the world and from this distance it seems like South Africa is going off, so I can’t wait to get there and be part of the atmosphere.
By the time you read this New Zealand will have played our first World Cup match in 28 years. The fixture in Rustenburg against Slovakia presents itself as our best chance of getting a result in South Africa but it will be tough. The All Whites have raised expectations thanks to their pre-tournament friendly results so who knows what we can achieve? The Slovakians will probably be as nervous as us so if we get a couple of breaks we may just pull off an upset. Fingers crossed.
While I’m on the other side of the world, my thoughts are still very much with the Swifts back in Matamata. The team picked up an important point in Auckland this weekend from their 0-0 draw with Western Springs. It’s the first time we haven’t lost in Auckland this season and, with two home games remaining in the first stage of the season, we’ve set ourselves up with a bloody good chance of making the top six.