The email accompanying the ticket for the public training session stated that we had to be in our seats by 2:30pm so I got there thirty minutes early to find a queue of only 20 or so people. I thought that it was a poor turnout considering that the whole country seemed to have been hit by Bafana fever but, no worries, the masses will turn up. Just give it time. Fans trickled in but there was no great rush. 2:30 came and went and there was only three hundred or so in the one stand. It wasn't well advertised (I heard about it by chance) and it was during work hours so perhaps Bafana fans can be forgiven. By 3pm, there were a few more fans but people were growing impatient at the non-arrival of the Bafana squad. The corner flags were then put into place. Surely this meant that they were almost here? Nope. They forced us to wait for another hour before they decided to grace us with their presence.
Meanwhile, what did arrive was the media circus. All of a sudden, camera crews and journalists were in the stand, quick as a rash. On the prowl for a story, an interesting story or just any story, their ears pricked up everytime they heard a vuvuzela. Like moths to light, they descended on the individual to capture the 'local flavour' of South African football supporters, cameras and microphones shoved in his face. He lapped it up but there was fan envy. Another vuvuzela was blown and in meerkat-like fashion, the journalists poked their heads up to see where this fascinating sound was coming from. You could see it in their faces; "This person intrigues us. We must interview him".
Out came the run-of-the-mill questions, which were met with the same, tired answers:
"So who do you think will win the World Cup?"
"Bafana Bafana!!" This was followed by repeated blasts on vuvuzelas while the journalist vigorously nodded his head in agreement; a big smile appeared on his face as if he'd just discovered some major news story.
"What does it mean to you as a South African to have the World Cup in your country?"
"It means everything to us and to the whole of Africa (although I wonder if people in north Africa feel the same way)! WE ARE READY!!! And then the cacophony of vuvuzelas kicked back in. What did they expect that he was going to say? "This tournament has taken much needed money away from those who need it most. The World Cup is just a symbol of the greed of the rich man"? Not in that crowd.
Bafana sauntered onto the pitch at 4pm, clearly oblivious that they had kept us waiting. The crowd went briefly went wild, especially when Matthew Booth came on to shouts of BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTH! After a few minutes, the media circus resumed. Cameramen were getting groups of fans organised to sing and dance at exactly the right moment after an interview but were getting visibly frustrated as they found that they could not reign in the celebratory mood of the fans.
I had sat back and just took this all in. A Brazilian journo came up the guy next to me and asked similar facile questions. He then turned to me in the hope of doing the same but decided not to once he realise that I wasn't a local. So my 'dreams' of being on Brazilian television were dashed.
Through all this Bafana were training but it just didn't seem as interesting.
Many, many, many, many, many thanks to Dan Hammett for getting me that ticket!
I've got a golden ticket...
Journalists on the prowl for a 'story'
Midfielder MacBeth Sibaya
Bafana pretending to train