If the ticketing process on the day was fairly smooth and unproblematic, the journey to the stadium for the opening games made up for it with its chaos and mayhem. As with the 2010 World Cup, park and ride, and park and walk schemes had been created to help facilitate the smooth arrival and departure of thousands of football fans although this wasn't announced when I tried to find out details only two weeks before the tournament.
|The national stadium at night|
That was the theory. My experience of it was didn’t fit the model.
Having been to many of the 2009 Confederations Cup and seven World Cup matches, I had developed an understanding of how these systems worked and the best ones to use. As with 2010, Jo’burg had multiple park and ride venues dotted around the city, where fans could park their cars and take the Rea Vaya bus transit system (initially introduced in time for the World Cup) to the FNB National Stadium. Alternatively, fans could park their cars at Park Station in the centre of Johannesburg and take the train. The other option was the park and walk, in which large car parking areas around the stadium were used and fans could walk the rest of the way to the uniquely designed ground, sandwiched between Jo’burg and Soweto. I had used this method on several occasions before and found it to be the most convenient way, especially when you knew the shortcut to avoid the highway.
It had started off so well. I bought the park and walk ticket from a Computicket outlet, a national chain of ticket sellers of various sporting and other cultural events. I had identified which area I wanted and handed over my R50.
I should have checked the ticket.
My girlfriend and I drove down to the stadium and I was growing in my smugness of bypassing the traffic queues. We’d driven through multiple police roadblocks designed to only allow ticket holders through and numerous policemen had seen our parking ticket. The problem was that it wasn’t for the area that I had asked for but for the “Cemetery”. I’d never seen or heard of a cemetery near the stadium, and it appeared that the stewards and police hadn’t either. We were told to drive on and turn right. So we did. Then we were told to drive on some more and turn right again. So we did. Eventually we were told later on that we had passed it despite no signs for it and we were clearly not the only ones; many drivers displayed confused looks. Eventually we found what allegedly was the cemetery, although there was not a gravestone in sight.
Yet, while this anecdote is a negative one, I refuse to believe that this was the only experience that match-goers had. Buses full of supporters arrived in the stadium precinct like clockwork, while fans were calmly pouring out of the adjacent train station. I’ll reserve judgement until I have a wider experience of this throughout the tournament.
Still, I wasn’t going to let this spoil my anticipation. Getting closer to the stadium, the wall of vuvuzela noise grew to deafening levels. Love it or hate it, the build-up to the opener between the hosts, South Africa, and Cape Verde was electric. The match had been sold out (although in reality, there were plenty of empty seats dotted around but more on that in a future post) and when the national anthems were played, I had goosebumps. Never had I heard Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika belted out with so much force and passion, and the subsequent rendition of Shosholoza (an old mine labourers song which is the only song at a national football match that most South Africans appear to know the words) was phenomenal.
|There was passion at the beginning of the game but it soon died as Bafana's inability to score became apparent|
And that was the best it got. For those of you who watched the match, you’ll know that it was a score-bore. Bafana Bafana were clueless and uninspiring. The minnows from Cape Verde at the very least deserved the draw, if not more. Whether this was Bafana’s true ability in stark reality or just a case of opening day jitters remains to be seen.
At least getting home was far easier (apart from when I got lost but I only have myself to blame)…