Posts Tagged ‘soweto’

The Greatest Shows on Earth. In Jozi.

February 19, 2011

“Wow, Wow, WOW!”…

… were the first words that political liberalist, activist for Africa, and eternal rock legend, Bono, was meekly able to express upon entering the seething cauldron of 98,000 fans that is the Soccer City, the Calabash (or FNB for the more commercially correct.)

Staking my place on the field last Sunday, right in the middle of the amphitheatre that just months ago played host to the greatest gladiators of the sporting world, it was only appropriate, somewhat divine perhaps, that one of rock history’s greatest bands, and one that sang for the freedom of Madiba, be the first major musical act to play at our – Joburg’s – stadium.

‘Wow!!’ is what the incredulous Mexican players must have thought as the decidedly one sided vuvuzela-blasting rainbow-nationed tribe belted out our proud anthem before the first whistle rang to kick-start the 2010 World Cup…

‘Wow’!! is what must have gone through the minds of the New Zealand All Blacks whilst their imperious Haka battle song was being unceremoniously drowned out by the “Bokke Bokke” chanting of the 95,000 green & gold tinged fanatical Springbok fans…

But Bono, through, what must be said was, an incredible sound system, was the only one who was able to actually express the moment, summing it up perfectly, “WOW!!”
It was the one constant: utter disbelief that this Calabash-cauldron could generate such noise, such vibe, such enormous energy! I remember it all so so clearly as I was blessed to be there for all three events. Three of the greatest shows on Earth.

U2’s biggest ever stadium crowd, and close to 100,000 of us. And not in London, not in Paris, not in New York, Tokyo or Rio. But in Soweto! SO-WHERE-TO must have crossed the collective minds of these well travelled Irishmen, as they braved the golden highway from their 5 star hotel to the south western township (well the outskirts at least). And nearing go time, the climax frantically built up, fuelled by the excitable Heineken-induced (good riddance Budweiser) force of the crowd ranging from the 1980’s Joshua tree- LP-spinning golden agers, through the Zooropa-Diskman-dancing crew of the 90’s, to the Get On Your Boots smart-phone-uploading-YouTubers. From the hardcore fans that slept through the night just for a chance to touch Bono’s fingertips, to those who came along, modern passengers of the experiential age, just so they can tweet to the world to say “I was there”!

As I type this, the Cape Town concert is being streamed live on 94.7 Highveld Stereo, and right now Bono is feeling his way through Amazing Grace, and the Edge is starting to rip through the timeless riffs of the anthem “Where the Streets Have No Name”, and I feel my fingers type faster, faster, to keep up with the chords, my hair is starting to stand up on the back of my neck, this drug-like sensation is streaming through my spine all the way up to the musical nodes in my brain, and I burst into memory: total recall of the moment I was standing alone, with 98,000 others, all of us who came to experience music nirvana, and “I want to run, I want to hide” it all just exploded… a blur that seemed to last forever. But it only lasted for 5 minutes.

Stuck in a moment I couldn’t get out of… Didn’t want it to end.

Mzansi 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 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!


July 1, 2010

I have just been reading the ‘headline-grabbing’ news of the American tourist who was shot in “Sandton” as he disembarked from the Gautrain. Its seemingly all over the internet news, I read it on, and I’m sure by now this tragic news is spreading globally.  Its just what the ‘naysayers’ were waiting for. According to the Associated Press, “The victim, identified as David James Bueche, was assaulted by four men as he was looking for his accommodation in Johannesburg’s affluent Sandton area late Wednesday”.

The real story is this American tourist, disembarked at Marlboro Gautrain station, not Sandton, and walked at night, AT NIGHT, along the outskirts of Alexandra township to his backpacker lodgings. “Affluent Sandton area” I think not!

Sadly, even the South African press got it wrong – for some reason M&G wont publish my comment! haha But at least another reader corrected the M&G.

The tourist should have researched better. Especially as he is from LA, a city teeming with dangerous n’hoods. If I was visiting LA, I wouldn’t exactly get off the bus, suitcase et al, in South-central LA and ask for directions to the nearest hotel.  That’s a satirical scene best left for National Lampoons vacation…

American Tourists ek se! 🙂

For something more uplifting check out this video on youtube

Now thats Mzansi Fo Sho!

Will the Real Cinderella please stand up!

June 30, 2010

I just finished watching a program on TV called the ‘Blou train to Soweto’; a highlights package looking back at the recent and historical Blue Bulls triumph in the prestigious Super 14 tri-nation rugby tournament.

The show examined the Bulls rugby pedigree, from being the leading team in South Africa during the heydays of Apartheid: their approach to rugby a symbol of all the enduring qualities of the Afrikaans culture it represented – passion, discipline, strength and pride, to how the Blue Bulls suffered during the radical age of professionalism, ironically, coinciding with the drastic change in the South African political environment. The show explored how the Bulls have risen, from winning only about three games in three seasons at the turn of the millennium to winning three Super 14 trophies in four seasons in what is probably the most gruelling tournament in the rugby world, if not the sporting world – four months pounding your body against the best rugby players from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, the best rugby playing nations in the world. The only thing tougher than the Super 14 is supporting Liverpool FC!!

But the focus of the show, and definitely the highlight, was probably the most significant crowning achievement in modern South African history: The Bulls hosting and playing the Super 14 semi-finals and finals in Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Interestingly enough the recent growth in the Bulls success has allowed them to become the fastest growing sports brand in South Africa, across all races! I have written about my personal experience at the game, but in the midst’s of the world’s greatest sporting event, the Soccer World Cup being played out in my back yard, my sense of patriotism has been heightened, like many others, in recent weeks and the country’s positivity is at an all time high. Watching this highlights program, a couple of weeks after the event, about how the Bulls brought the so called ‘hardliner’ Afrikaner rugby supporter to Soweto, a land they previously dare not dream to venture, and how the people of Soweto, for so many years fearful and angry at all that the Bulls represented, and how everyone just… well… got along so fabulously, was nothing short of spine-tingling.

Preceding the release of the movie Invictus, I read the book on which it was based, ‘Playing the Enemy’. The movie does not do the book justice, no matter how good Morgan Freeman’s accent was! Reading the book I was astonished as to what this country actually went through in the ten years leading up to the climax of story, the 1995 World Cup Rugby final. Being a mlungu/white boy growing up in a bomb-sheltered like environment in the protected suburbs of Joburg, too young and mostly too naive to know what was actually going on in this country, the book was a shock for me detailing how close South Africa actually came to civil war between the Afrikaners and the ANC, how ghastly the marginalisation of the blacks/Indians and coloureds actually was in those last years, and how miraculous the transition was in the dramatic and rapid change in power in the early 90’s led by not only the virtues of only one blessed man, Mandela, but by the willingness of both blacks and whites alike to broadly accept change and to make it work – a phenomenon of human spirit. I believe many white people of my generation are still unaware of the actual detail of Apartheid, we all just knew what it stood for, not what it meant to the degraded population of this country. My curiosity perked, I began exploring further into the history of South Africa, learning about the effects of colonisation in South Africa, from both a black and white perspective (we only learnt about the white side in school, even then it was watered down propaganda). I was amazed at the ill-treatment of the African population through hundreds of years of South Africa’s history, unfortunate victims of religious ideals, fear, power grabbing and of course money and greed! This was a story played out all over the world, not only in South Africa, when peoples more equipped advance to the detriment of others.

Which brings me back to the rugby: the current World Cup Soccer has proved to the world, especially the pessimists and naysayers, that South Africa is willing and definitely able, given the right incentives, to rise to the occasion to successfully host a world class event, the biggest in the world.

However, re-watching the rugby through this program, illustrated for me that this event did something that much more important for our country. It allowed ourselves to look within and believe in ourselves that all that Mandela, and the class of ’94, worked for was not in vain, and that the future is bright for this once pariah state. As Naas Botha, the rugby legend commented on the show, this seemingly insignificant event on the face of it could do more for South Africa than the magnificent World Cup 1995 victory, which was, up until very recently, probably the best symbol of the potential for unification and progress in this country.

South Africa is the REAL Cinderella-story, and sport is her unifying glass slippers. Maybe just last year she was stuck slaving away in the kitchen, but with the Super 14 being the before-party and the FIFA World Cup being the ‘Ball’,  the belle is knocking Prince Charming off his feet. The only difference is that this time Cinderella won’t turn into a pumpkin, because come midnight, the party is HOPEFULLY just beginning…

To quote someone interviewed on TV at the Super 14 final in Soweto: “This is South Africa. Anything is possible!”

Mzansi Fo Sho!!

The essence of the Soweto Super 14 final captured on camera

June 14, 2010

This excellent video clip was filmed by my mate at the Super 14 final  a couple of weeks ago.

Super 14 Final Orlando Stadium Soweto Blue Bulls vs Stormers:

“Pretoria and the marching Blue Bulls supporters invade Orlando Stadium in Soweto for the S14 final 2010 only 1 week before the Soccer World Cup kicks off in South Africa.”

The absolutely brilliant part with the national anthem intertwined with daily township existence is a sombre reminder that the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-not’ is still very vast. A legacy of  South Africa’s dark history and, I guess, recently of developing economies.

That said, for a few hours on this Super Soweto Saturday, worlds collided in only a positive way, sparking off a wave of New South African nationalism and pride not seen since the early days of mid-90’s democracy. Effectively kick-starting the momentum of GEES for the 2010 World Cup…

Watch this video, you will enjoy it!!

Mzansi Fo Sho!

Ps. For something completely different, check out this link for his wedding video speech. Something unique!!

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