Have four years really gone by since the last World Cup?
I was lucky enough to be at the last tournament, as I was living in the host country at the time. From 11 June to 11 July, South Africa was the host of one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
But, before the World Cup began there, I remember reading many of the more negative forecasts of the event to come. In summation, these suggested that South Africa simply wouldn’t be able to pull it off.
Sure, there were some snags: we wouldn’t be able to finish most of the public transport infrastructure in time, we didn’t get the number of visitors we expected, there was a real concern of crime…
Despite these, and despite the fact that I’m not even really a big fan of any spectator sport, I look back on this period as one of my favourite Cape Town moments.
Early on in the tournament, a group of friends and I decided to head into town to join in on the festivities. A little late to the mark, we had not managed to secure tickets to the day’s match at Cape Town Stadium, but that didn’t deter us – and thousands of others – to be part of the action.
Beyond supporting the national team, I had randomly chosen a team to support during the World Cup, which was Germany. They were playing against Argentina that day in town, while my sister’s team, Spain, was playing in Johannesburg against Paraguay.
A few wardrobe adjustments later, we were ready to hit the town. If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it properly, I say.
Parking at the far end of town, we made our way to the start of the official Fan Walk, which culminated at the stadium. For such a busy city, with our infamous combi taxis hurtling along streets and people crossing at any given time, an organised walk, consisting of thousands and thousands of spirited human beings, was no small feat.
But it worked, and it was incredible.
Making our way across major thoroughfares and pedestrian streets, we slowly but surely crossed Cape Town city centre. Everyone there was excited and happy; there was no chaos or panic. The shops lining the Fan Walk blasted the theme songs of the World Cup, and we all sang along, while others danced their way down the Fan Walk. (And yes, plural when it comes to the theme song, as none of us could be sure whether the official one was Shakira’s Waka Waka or K’naan’s Wave Your Flag. So we played both – on repeat.)
The air was filled with noise and the smell of boerewors rolls and frying onions, which were being sold at stalls all along the Walk. Everyone suddenly seemed to own a vuvuzela, the cacophonous bray of which could be heard almost constantly. The sun was out and we were a brightly coloured throng, dressed according to the flags of so many different countries. Even though our national team wasn’t playing, the majority of the walkers were sporting South African colours.
I certainly can’t speak for every South African there, but there seemed to be an overwhelming – and extremely contagious – sense of pride. Yes, we were hosting a global event, but we were also doing a great job at it.
Throughout the tournament, the host cities were full of people who wanted to spectate and celebrate. The Fan Walks were lined with people, the free Fan Parks – with their massive screens – were full of spectators and the stadiums were packed to capacity. As much as we were celebrating soccer, we were also celebrating our country and the host cities.
At the end of our own Fan Walk that day, we watched ticket-holders veer to the stadium while we made our way to the V&A Waterfront, where we watched the soccer action on any available screen that we could locate.
|So very gangster.|
Luckily, both of our favourite teams did well that day, so we had massive smiles all the way home.
Looking back, I remember that the 2010 World Cup made Cape Town feel alive, and the city felt electric with the endless activity. It was a month of fun and triumph, and I was truly sad when it all came to an end with one last firework display.
Brazil, you have so much to look forward to.