MIXING WITH THE BIG BOYS
With the biggest sporting event in the World in the neighbourhood, and with a slogan of ‘Ke Nako’ (It is time), I thought it was time I joined the frenzy. We managed to get tickets to join other football fans for a special date at the England against United States of America game in Rustenburg. Joined by my wife we took a decision to use the relatively safe mode of public transport, and at AT & T MONNAKGOTLA transport. Beside this name being like mine we are not, unfortunately, related.
Excited we set off at 0900 hours and by 0930 hours the 13-seater mini bus was at the Tlokweng boarder and cleared at the Botswana side in 15 minutes. Arriving at the South African side we were greeted by a very long queue, with no apparent order of keeping the line. Some just barged to the front and were surprisingly successful despite the protests. My wife, although I assume joking, tells some of them that queue jumping is punishable by death, and she would be the executioner.
That seems to have some effect as South African police with guns arrive, not thankfully to arrest my wife on terrorist charges, but to sort out the situation. They instruct those with World Cup tickets like the ones I am clutching in my sweaty palms, to form a separate line.
We do that and by 1150 hours – almost two hours after arriving – we squeeze through, but not after a slight altercation when one of us takes pictures of the chaos and is accused of being the ‘paparazzi’ by the none to pleased SA police.
At 1300 hours we arrive at Zeerust in time for lunch and depart after an hour. We go to different food outlets all of which seem to be full of Batswana going to the game. Many who I know have never left the shores of Southern Africa, are wearing the shirts of a people of whom Mugabe at least once said: “The only white man you can trust is a dead white man.”
I think about the notorious, and very much alive England hooligans, and wonder about the possibilities of trouble.
At 1500 hours we make the grand entrance into Rustenburg and make our way to the stadium, but are turned back because we don’t have a parking permit. We are directed to the ‘Park and Ride’ access point where the commendable Rustenburg City Council have laid on free transport to the stadium.
This is where the real atmosphere begins as hundreds of fans mingle, joke and drink, but there are no signs of hooligans. At 1600 hours we are at the gates of the ground, four and a half hours before the game is due to kick off, but only one before the ‘doors’ open. We all now tourists, and no one objects as we take pictures of Brits abroad, and Americans on tour. Everyone is in a jovial mood, and there is a festive atmosphere as many are in fancy dress costumes. We meet the Queen of England, Prince Charles, George Washington and various other ‘dignitaries’ in a colourful show of pageantry – and still no hooligans.
By 1800 hours we are inside the stadium, the security is tight but friendly, as we are welcomed to the game at the same time as being body searched. They take away our food and drink supplies – they are not allowed in, but fears that we might die of thirst and hunger are misplaced, as there is a plentiful supply of food and fizzy drinks inside – beer being by far the most popular. There is no restriction on taking in vuvuzelas, most are carried by the local fans – it seems that the British and American fans have not yet adopted the instrument.
The BFA Legal advisor Tebogo Sebego leads the largish number of Botswana fans at the stadium, and again it is noticeable that they have come pay homage to our former colonial masters.
By 1830 hours we are joined at our seats by The Voice’s Managing Director, Donald Moore and Voice columnist Guy Brina. Moore is England while Brina is USA. I wonder how the men will drive home after the results. Moore jokingly says he will leave Brina behind if England loose. I trust that he is indeed joking.
The atmosphere grows as the crowd swells and the players come out to warm up. It is an appropriate term, as it is getting decidedly chilly, although some English fans are only wearing their team shirts.
The 40,000-seater stadium is 95%full, and the there is a sea of red, white and blue all around. There is a sense of wonder as before us in the flesh are the players we only see each week on the television. Moore’s favourite player Heskey is in the starting line up, my wife is a Crouch fan, but he is on the bench alongside my own favourite David James.
Steven Gerrard scores three minutes into the game, and I along with thousands of English supporters and I guess their players too, are already imagining how many more they are going to get.
I fear for America, but am at least pleased that Brina will have no problems with his lift home.
But God must have been an American for a while as the USA got a goal gifted by England’s keeper, Robert Green. The rest is an exciting affair with fast flowing football. The Americans have a well-organised defence and the English forwards are off target. The great Rooney is surprisingly quiet, but we see some brilliant football moves from both teams.
In the end it was a great day out, and a real football treat. We arrived home at 0500 hours the following day, and still not a single football hooligan or terrorist in sight!