Archive for August, 2010

Bafana to Bokke… back to Soccer City!

August 23, 2010

A friend asked me earlier which was a better experience? Being at Soccer City for the opening game of the world cup between Bafana Bafana and Mexico, or going back to Soccer City for the first rugby match ever to be played at the stadium between the traditional rivals, the Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks?

A tough question to answer…

Firstly, I just can’t get used to calling it FNB stadium again. How could I? The old FNB stadium has gone through a complete metamorphosis. From the stark, somewhat foreboding, concrete caterpillar of the 80’s & 90s’s to the architectural marvel of the new millenium that has emerged from the cocoon to become the colourful calabash of Soccer City. For many millions around the world the first visual image they ever had of South Africa was when they first tuned in their TV’s to watch the opening game of World Cup 2010. I can only imagine what the Serbians, the Japanese, the Chileans must have thought of South Africa the moment our most modern coliseum filled their TV screens with the faces of thousands of yellow and green South Africans. Third world?? I think not! “Welcome to Soccer City!” is what the world will remember!

After many years of anxious waiting, and fretting like many others over our ability to pull it off, finally taking my seat at the World Cup opening game between Bafana and Mexico was a once in a lifetime experience. I vividly remember kitting up in my green supporters outfit, Makarapa & Vuvuzela et al, and heading out to the game on that typical sunny winter’s morning. I didn’t know what to expect. Did anyone? I remember the goosebumps I had the moment the UFO-like stadium first came into view as we came round the last bend of Nasrec Road. It was like those Umhlanga holidays I had as a young kid, driving for what seemed like eternity from the Joburg Highveld down to the Durban coast, and the rush of excitement I felt when my dad finally called out “kids, who can see the ocean?” and we would all screech out in delight as the vastness of the Indian Ocean rose up over the horizon.  The moment I stepped out the car and took in the massive expanse of the stadium that was about to swallow me up I think I started bouncing up and down like a little kid again. The events of that afternoon will live in South African folklore for time itself. Just being there, blowing my Vuvuzela as the teams walked out onto the field, to stand up and patriotically belt out our national anthem ‘Nkosi Sikelele’, and rejoicing Bafana’s  cracking first goal – the goal heard around the world – I have never felt prouder of being able to call myself South African. It was my moment, it was your moment, and it was bladdy well everyone’s moment! From Madiba to Zuma, from Francois Pienaar to Simphiwe Tshabalala, from the Boere in the platteland to the township kids playing in the streets of Soweto, from Pofadder to Mpumulanga, this was a moment when we could all call ourselves ‘Proudly South African’!

Now being back at the stadium this past Saturday to witness the two goliaths of world rugby, the old foes, do battle for the first time in the cauldron of the Calabash was also an outrageous experience. At the soccer I was a proud South African, yet, like many others in the stadium, the South African soccer culture was as foreign to me as the crazy Mexicans seated next to me. However, rugby is different. I am a Springbok rugby man by birth right. And like all fanatical fans I believe I could pick a better team than the coach (bring back Frans Steyn!) So being at this specific rugby match on Saturday was a call to arms, a battle cry – I just had to be there. I had to be there to witness the first time South Africa played rugby in one of the world’s most magnificent stadiums, I had to be there to be one of those 94,000 plus fans who made up the biggest crowd ever at a South African rugby game, I had to be there to drink cheap ice-cold Castle Lager beers (goodbye overpriced Budweisers!), I had to be there to pay respect to our Kaptein, John Smit, as he ran onto the field to a hero’s welcome for his 100th test, I had to be there to shout out “BOK-KE! BOK-KE!” in the most electrifying response ever witnessed to the All Blacks famous Haka chant

"BOK-KE! BOK-KE!"

, I had to be there to sing the Zulu/Xhosa parts of our national anthem which is becoming just as loud as the Afrikaans/English parts, I had to be there to boo the ref for his perceived bias against the Boks and apparent favour for the opposition captain Richie McCaw, and I most certainly had to be there to jubilantly celebrate as the might of the South African forwards bulldozed over to score the first ever try in what will surely be the first of many Springbok games at our new ‘national stadium’. And I don’t think anyone missed the Vuvuzelas (they were banned).

Sadly the Springboks lost! And like all Bok fans I despaired about why and how we lost the game. Without getting technical my main gripe is how could a team, which is mostly comprised of players from the two teams (Bulls & Stormers) who dominated all and sundry in this year’s Super 14, perform so badly in the Tri-nations? My buddy summed it up best “We simply got outcoached!!” Enough said.

The main differentiation between going to the opening game of the world cup soccer and the first rugby game ever at Soccer City is that we hoped Bafana would win, but in the rugby we expected the Springboks to win. The sport might have been different, however the stadium was the same, the atmosphere was just as stirring and the GEES and patriotism at the rugby was as immense as that opening game of the world cup. As the cliché goes, word just cannot describe it…

So what was the better experience? I can still sense that rush of excitement as the world cup kicked off, and my voice is still hoarse from screaming at the ref on Saturday. Perhaps the opening game of the soccer pips it… just… simply because it was a once off event, never to be repeated. No time is better than the first time, but the Springboks will be back at Soccer city.

Either way, I was truly fortunate to be at both games for such momentous occasions in South African sporting history.

And best of all it all happened right on my doorstep in the city of Gold… and Green: Johannesburg.

Jozi Fo Sho!

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Betting on Liverpool to win the league

August 14, 2010

Whisper it quietly, but I reckon Liverpool is going to win the premier league…

I am feeling so optimistic about it, that I am contemplating whether to do something that I never had the inclination to do in my lifetime – bet on sport. I am surfing on the net, sipping a Jameson 12yr old, perusing the online betting sites for the best odds.

Betfred.com is offering 16-1 on Liverpool to win the whole dam thing. Hmmm…

I have obviously made the friendly wager here or there, and most Saturdays on the golf course the usual R40-R20-R20 is agreed upon on the first tee. But those winnings have to be expended at the 19th hole. Every now and again, the standard R100 bet on black when I happen upon a roulette table. I have never called up a bookie and wagered a bet. I wouldn’t even know how!

Probably the biggest punt I have made in my life was on a freezing winter’s night at a dodgy bar in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Due to the lack of action, and just for kicks, I bet a mate $50 to walk up to the only half-decent looking bird in the bar and whisper in her ear how her straight posture accentuates her… well… assets. Never thought he would do it. Easy money. Needless to say, within the allotted 10 minutes deadline he had, Braveheart marched straight up to the lass, glided through the group of relatively large chaps she was talking to, leaned over and whispered something in her ear. I felt that much more relieved at the initial look of shock on her face as my mate ostensibly repeated the agreed upon words. But then she laughed! I knew I had lost the best. Confirmed when my mate left the bar with her that night. Easiest money he ever made.

For my sins, I am a lifelong Liverpool fan. Over the last 20 title-less years, it hasn’t exactly been a wise investment decision to bet on football. More so after last season’s pitiful performance when the finished 7th.

So I must be absolutely insane to believe that they will end the 2010/11 season as Champions! However, my gut tells me something special, something completely unexpected is going to happen this season… And as my Liverpool buddies like to believe, when I “feel” something I am usually right.

Thats GEES right there my friend!

Why am I so bullish for Anfield glory? For as far back as I can remember, never have I been so entranced by the pre-season build up, my interest probably kick-started by my thirst for football post world cup. I have followed every news report, every transfer rumour, and I like to think that I am in a good position to assess the situation. At Liverpool, despite the ongoing boardroom shenanigans with regards to the ownership of the club (this should hopefully reach a resolution sooner rather than later) the current CEO, Purlow, has performed a sterling job. In hiring Roy Hodgson, they have brought a tactically astute and experienced manager, probably the best in the league last season, and who, importantly, knows how to say the right things to the media and players (Pieter De Villiers take notes). The speed in which he has turned last season’s pessimism into massive optimism for the new season, even with the most sceptical & loyalist Liverpool fans, and before a ball has even been kicked, speaks volumes for the way he is going to manage the club. His calming manner has convinced two of the best players in the league in Gerrard and Torres to commit to the club. Roy has also convinced the most sought after free agent of the summer, Joe Cole, to leave his beloved London to join the Red Army. The spine of the team has survived the turmoil – we were expecting a mass exodus – and includes established and experienced internationals such as Agger, Reina, Johnson, Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez, and more than matches any of the other top teams in the league.

You can see how up for the new campaign Liverpool’s most important player is. Stevie G’s midweek performance for England lit up a side struggling to shed the disappointed of a dismal world cup. I could see it in his eyes, the way he celebrated his two cracking goals showed that he is ready to fight for the cause this season, energy renewed. Except for probably Wayne Rooney, there is no more influential player in any team in the Premiership who would fight for the cause as much as Gerrard does.

Most importantly, the pressure and expectation for success is at the lowest levels in years for a club who demands so much. That makes Liverpool very dangerous.

To have Arsenal up first match this weekend is a blessing in disguise. Anfield will be a cauldron of atmosphere, and the players and Roy will be out to send an early message to the rest of the teams that will say “Liverpool are BACK!”

Obviously the success depends on the fitness of key players, but then again what is Man United without Rooney (his injury at the end of last season wrecked United’s season), Chelsea without Lampard, Terry, Drogba (admittedly still the strongest team in the league), and Arsenal without Fabregas and Van Persie. And with all of Mancini’s money he will have his hands full juggling a big squad and even bigger egos. Houdini Harry will be happy just getting Spurs to 4th again!

I called up my mate, Bazza, who is a lifelong Man United fan, and asked him which online betting site he recommended. I told him I wanted to bet on Liverpool winning the league. I was worried he might collapse from laughing so hard…

Not long after Bazza sent me a text which read “Payne Stewart has more chance of winning the PGA championship this weekend, than Liverpool has winning the title.

Payne Stewart passed away in 1999.

Eish!!

That’s the beauty of being a Liverpool fan – our eternal optimism. So I am not too worried, after all, there is always next season!

Regardless of who wins, if you are a true supporter of English football, this is the best time of the year. The opening weekend! 9 more months of non-stop football to go!

You will never walk alone… Liverpool Fo Sho!

Bafana BaGhana Basasta Disaster!

August 12, 2010

(AKA The lessons that were NOT learnt during the World Cup 2010…)

Its 8:40pm, and I should be at the game tonight.

Instead, I have just got home after an hour and a half joy ride trying to get to the game between Bafana Bafana and Ghana (BaGhana was sooo July ‘10), and now I have resorted to watching the game live on TV, match ticket in hand, as opposed to my unreserved seat at Soccer City, oops, I meant FNB stadium 🙂

This was supposed to be my much anticipated ‘Return of the Mlungus’ as my brother and I excitedly geared up for the match. It was like a scene out of Rambo as we laid out our battle outfits as we did countless times during WC2010: Makarapa – check, Vuvuzela – check, Bafana jersey – check, SA scarf – check, and the coup de grace, the green overall with “Mlungu 1” adorned in bright yellow on the back spotted numerous times at many world cup games. We were ready! A mocking parallel to those many freezing nights during WC2010 is that it was bitterly cold tonight. So we had to pack our Winter Warmer Emergency Bag including Beanie, Ski Gloves, and personally for me, knee high Ski Socks. After the recorded coldest night in the history of Joburg for the month of June, during the Brazil/North Korea game, we weren’t taking any chances!

We were up for it! Both of us were looking extremely forward to going to the game to support Bafana, to blow vuvuzela’s for our stars Mphela, Pienaar, Tshabalala, Khune et al and to play our part in carrying on the GEES generated by the World Cup!

Sadly, that is where it ended

Buying the match tickets on Computicket was the easy part. At R100 a piece to watch the clash of our nations favourites against our adopted & beloved quarterfinal cousins, it seemed fair value, compared to the R350 I paid to get a ticket to watch the off-form Springboks at the same battle ground next week. The only thing that raised an eyebrow was that the seats were unreserved? According to the SAFA spokesman, it seems many people haven’t been to Soccer City before so they will “struggle to find their seats”! (hmmm… I wonder how the Mexican, Brazilian and South Korean fans managed to find their seats during the WC2010?)

Getting to the game was potentially the deal breaker for making this gargantuan effort – note that the weather had no bearing on our decision to go. That said, based on the pleasurable experience of going to Soccer City no less than six (6!) times during the world cup, I assumed that the transport organisation would be if not as efficient as during the colonialists FIFA’s brief reign over South Africa, then at least up to a similar standard. In hindsight, as someone once said, assumptions are the mother of all…!

Being typically sceptical Joburgers we didn’t go into this one blindly. We double-checked of course, and after some nifty googling we stumbled onto the www.safa.net website, which conveniently emblazoned all over the home page travel arrangements for tonight’s match. The three options were: Train it; Rea Vaya bus it; or Park & Walk it (for the WC2010 uninformed that means DRIVE). The ‘specially arranged’ trains leaving from JHB Park Station were at 14:53pm, 15:36pm and 18:21pm. So for the working class that only left one feasible option: the 6pm train, also, who wanted to arrive 4.5 hours early?? Against making the 6pm train was fighting the notorious peak hour M1 South traffic to get to the stattion, and we couldn’t run the risk of missing the train. Thus Metrorail was ruled out. The fore-mentioned traffic hindrance didn’t seem all that appealing so Park & Walk was ruled out… although I did buy a ‘Shareworld’ Park & Walk ticket anyway as an emergency option (At R15 it was worth the safety net). The website clearly stated that Rea Vaya busses were leaving from “Con Hill” every “5 minutes between 5pm and 8pm”. As Con Hill was suitably located for us, with plenty street signs dotted along the way pointing us to the location, and also due to the great reviews this mode of transport had during the world cup, this was the option for us!

Con Hill here we come!!

But we came… and… left.

We arrived at Con Hill, and there was not a bus in sight! The security guard pointed us in the direction of the Civic Centre. But we weren’t taking our chances. If SAFA can’t get it right, what chance did the poor security guard have?

Cue the safety net Park & Walk ticket! Luckily for me, I learnt a secret route during the World Cup, via the western suburbs of Jhb snaking through the northern parts of Soweto, to get to Soccer City (if my mom only knew that her precious boykies were driving through Soweto at night!) If it wasn’t for the secret route we would have missed the WC2010 opening game due to the now infamous ‘Opening Match Gridlock’. As we embarked on my secret route through areas of Joburg my suburbanite brother had never seen before, we ducked under the highway and I noticed the peak hour traffic back up that we would now avoid. I quietly gave myself a pat on the back. The secret route worked again, and it took us next to no time to get to Nasrec Road…  But that was the beginning of the end.

There are only 2 ways to get to Shareworld – via Nasrec Road or via Main Reef Road. The route in from the other side was closed off by the cops (I know because we tried it!) During the World Cup we sat in traffic on Nasrec road, which moved along at snail’s pace but eventually we made it to the game on time. But that was with the advantage of arriving plenty time in advance and with a battalion of metro cops to marshal the traffic. Tonight the back-up down Nasrec road spanned the length of the entire road – that is a couple of kilometres – and not a metro cop in sight! Based on my world cup experience I knew that we were in for trouble, and there was no way in hell, with just over an hour to go before kick-off, that we would make it into the stadium on time, let alone find a parking in the chaos.

We had to make a call: sit in the car, tear our hair out and struggle to get to the game. Or call it.

Common sense prevailed – we called it!

I did suggest to my brother that we try finding an alternative route. But that was taking a chance it would be better elsewhere, further complicated that we did not know how to find any other way with no marshals to assist us. My secret route only knew one direction! As I did a u-turn to hit it back onto the highway, I felt guilty that we were wimping out of it. But my boet, wise beyond his years, consoled me with these words “It shouldn’t be this hard to get to the game”.

We came, we most certainly tried, and we sadly left.

All kitted out and nowhere to go!

So what does this all say about our post world cup abilities? For those who doubt my optimism and patriotism and think I am conveniently backing the naysayers, go read my other blog entries … I am the biggest Advocate for Mzansi! But this whole experience left a very bitter taste in my mouth, as I have read countless articles on how the Administrators of the game were going to take the lessons learnt from the world cup and move forward in a positive direction (and the leaders of our country on a more general basis). Yet, the first opportunity they had was blown. Badly. They spoke of how they wanted to attract more whitey’s (whose pale faces were plentiful at the world cup games) to support local soccer. But based on tonight’s experience, would I dare try it again? On tv the stadium was half full. I read an interesting article by the sports columnist Mark Gleeson in which he said that low attendances at local soccer games are caused by the “appalling experience” of going to a game, from the “transport, parking, seating, concession stands and general bonhomie in the crowd”. I cannot comment about the inside of the stadium, I never made it there, but from a transport point of view, the organisers definitely missed a trick. Even my mother commented to me, as I was despairing to her on the way home (moms give the best sympathy!), that how could it have messed it up SOOOO badly as there was a perfect transport infrastructure from the world cup!

And worst of all? I missed a perfect start to Pitso’s reign as Mphela scored a cracker for a 1 nil win!

We begrudgingly arrived home after the 1.5 hour ride around Joburg.

My brother got out my car, and all he could say was “Thanks for the ride…”

Mzansi Fo Sho!

* I have print-screened and saved the SAFA website transport details in case of any denials! Let the typical weak excuses begin. I am going to ask for my money back… watch this space!

Unused match ticket for sale!

Moving up in the world of blogging!

August 10, 2010

Sacksinthecity has been invited to blog for the up and coming Newstime website (www.newstime.co.za).

Check out my profile at http://www.newstime.co.za/blogger/Sacksinthecity!/97

Onwards and upwards!

Mzansi Fo Sho!

Does Joburg need Superheroes?

August 9, 2010

Yet another long weekend in Mzansi – we are truly blessed with our liberal culture of needing to celebrate and honour almost anything: woman, youth, freedom, Selebi going to jail – or is it all just an excuse to put our feet up and relax? I thought that’s what strikes were for! I guess it’s all in the name of Ubuntu!

Nevertheless, today gave me some time to do a spot of housecleaning. Or, as most spring cleanings tend to up for me, a few hours spent perusing through my old comic books.

Like many teenage boys of the time, I got caught up in the mid-90’s comic boom, a massive comic craze created by speculators who believed they could make a fortune in unearthing rare comics and selling them on for a handsome profit.  Together with a cousin of mine, I would trawl the handful of comic book stores in Joburg – I remember one being in Edenvale, another at the top of Grant Avenue in Norwood – debating which rare gem of a comic would lead to an early retirement.  This was before the days of the internet, and we had to batch-order new titles from overseas, and then wait excitedly for weeks for the snail-mail postal system to deliver the slew of newly created comic titles or yet another spin off series of X-Men or Spiderman.  It was only when I entered university, and happened upon my first Economics 101 lecture, did I learn about the phenomena of ‘Supply vs. Demand’. Needless to say, my Gen 13 #1 edition is worth less now than what I paid for it, and I never got to retire young!

My lasting legacy of this craze is the big box of individually plastic-wrapped comics that I now store in my cupboard (I didn’t sell one), together with my vast collection of Archie comics… Every now and again I flip through a couple of books and get lost for a few hours as my mind wanders through the imagined world of Metropolis or Gotham City.

I am a day-dreamer supreme, and I often lose myself in thought as my mind wanders through its labyrinth of crevices. So as I read through Green Lantern #56 this morning, I wandered what Joburg would be like if Superheroes were real, and if they were, what kind of characters would they be?  I think these heroes would specialise in tackling and combating the problems evident in our city. There would be characters such as METROMAN, the only honest traffic cop in the city. He would cruise around the city in his Orange customised superfast bike battling his arch-nemesis, HiACE, and his evil army of Taxi drivers. METROMAN would never accept a bribe, take no mercy on the cowboys who drive without number plates, would never hide behind a speed camera, and would certainly be in a physical shape capable of running at least 30 metres to chase down a suspect! Then there would be the dynamic duo of ELECTRO, and his boy wonder sidekick, HYDRO, who side with the honest citizens to rid the city of the lazy and corrupt ‘OFFICIALS  of the MUNICPALITY’ who hide out in their secret lair called ESKOM. Of course there would be a group of vigilantes, appropriately named ‘the CHOOKIES’, who would roam the streets of Joburg, during all hours of the night, tackling the scum of the city, the criminals, aka the TSOTSIS. Everyone has their favourite character, and mine would certainly be JACK TAR, who has the ability to shoot bolts of tar when he points at a pothole, instantly filling it up. In his  Tar-Tank, with indestructible wheels, he would seek out those Telecom company managers who dig up our roads (without fixing them properly), and puncture all their tyres! Cameo appearances would be made by characters such as THE REPORTER, who reports on the truth on matters that count, in total disregard of the mechanisms of dictatorship such as the Media Tribunal, and the creepy ghostly spirit TOKOLOSH, commandeered by the SANGOMA, who appears in the bedrooms of politicians during the middle of the night to scare the kak out of them whenever they say or do something stupid in the public eye. Julius Dilemma would be a frequent host of the TOKOLOSH.

Eish! My imagination is running wild…

But does Joburg need Superheroes? Do we really need METROMAN, or ELECTRO, or the TOKOLOSH. Or… do we simply need honest and capable officials, who perform their jobs admirably, with pride, and most importantly, put the needs of their citizens first and foremost.  Is that really such an outlandish, imagined ideal or does it need to be drawn up in comic books??

Whereas a Superman is an impossibly fantastic concept, a hard working city official isn’t. You don’t need an imagination for this one, all we need is a bit of faith, as perhaps one day the impossible will happen!

Now wouldn’t that be a great story to read about…

Mzansi Fo Sho!


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