For the past 3 weeks I’ve been fending off Paraguay queries daily. From people speaking to me in Spanish assuming I’m Paraguayan to people asking me “Why are you supporting Paraguay”. An answer I’m not even sure of myself.
My first memory of Paraguay is of them playing England in Mexico 86. After that, fast forward to Chilavert in the mid 90’s and his incredible goalscoring record. Onward to 2006 and they cropped up again, drawn in England’s group for the World Cup in Germany. The following year I was in Bogota just prior to the Copa America and Colombia were playing Paraguay in a friendly. I went along giving me my first taste of Paraguayan football. Then in 2008 whilst looking for a vintage Adidas tracky I came across a 70’s Paraguayan top in Brazil. I bought it and it turned out it was previously owned and worn prior to matches by Julio Romero, Paraguay’s most famous player; and voted in FIFA’s top 125 living footballers. I wore the top out in Wigan for the first time and was sat down in the Anvil having a quiet pint, when an old bloke approached me and pointed to the TV screen.
“Bet you’re looking forward to the game. Are you from Paraguay?”
I glanced up to the TV and couldn’t believe it. Paraguay were just about to kick off against Argentina.
Paraguay were trying to tell me something. So when deciding who to follow in the World Cup, there was only one choice. A month or so before it started, there was the added bonus of Latics signing Alcaraz.
But now my Paraguayan affair comes to an end.
The round of 16 match in Pretoria would be the last time this world cup we’d see them. After hours of scouring the net I’d managed to find someone who was looking to swap quarter final tickets and someone for semis. So after a trip to Pricewaterhousecoopers in Johannesburg and a journey to the airport to meet a Canadian guy just arriving I now had quarter and semi final tickets for Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, the cities I’d already had accommodation booked in.
We were to miss out on the Durban game but we’d found cheap digs in Pretoria so we headed up there after Swaziland. All the accommodation was booked up or really expensive but after a while of scouring various sites we found a room for £35 a night. We emailed the owner to check if this price was right as it was way way below everything else. She replied that it was so we booked it and drove over. The owner was all smiles with us, she seemed quite nice if a bit Stepford wife ish but she pleasantly showed us to our rooms, we dumped out bags and then set off for the game.
The locals had adopted Japan for this game so we were in the minority as Paraguay supporters. The game itself wasn’t the most exciting of the world cup, not helped by our low down seats in the corner. They were to prove to our benefit at the end though as we had a perfect close up view of the penalty shoot out.
Two nights later we were to set off to Port Elizabeth via a night in Bloemfontein for the quarter final match between Brazil and Holland. not before we checked out though and went to settle our bill.
“I’m sorry, but there was a mistake when you booked. you were given the wrong price. It should have been 800 rands a night, not 350.”
“But we emailed to ask if the price was correct and you said yes. We also have a contract from SAbookonline that gives us a full invoice receipt of what we have to pay.”
“Well it was a mistake so this is the full amount that you have to pay”
A brief discussion took place where things went backwards and forwards, with us claiming very reasonably that we should only pay the amount that we was agreed by email and by official invoice from the booking agents. All of a sudden, the woman snapped and turned into the most horrible person I have ever had the misfortune to deal with.
“You are disgusting people. You knew full well that there was a mistake with the price on the website. You booked it as soon as you saw the mistake to take advantage of me. You come to Africa because you think it is cheap. Do you expect to get accommodation for so cheap in your own country? No because you come here and think we are all stupid African people that you can take advantage of”
We stood there in shock at her tirade. We tried to explain again how completely ridiculous and unreasonable she was being and to get our point across but then she snapped again.
“Just get out of here, I never want to see you again. Get in your car and drive away. I don’t care about your money. What you have taken from me will be taken from you DOUBLE in return. You won’t get away with treating me like this. god will have his vengeance”
And with that, it was clear we were never gonna get any kind of reasonable conversation with her on he subject so we stormed out of the room and drove right off.
Our opinions on Pretoria had already been pretty low but this had lowered them even more. Before Apartheid ended Pretoria was totally off limits to Blacks and where was all the really rich Whites lived, most of them here were in agreement with and part of the Apartheid system. The Blacks despised the city. Nowadays some Blacks, mainly government officials live t
here but it’s the only city in South Africa where they are in the minority, and significantly at that. And the feeling you get from a lot of the Whites are that they have not changed their opinions since the Apartheid days. And it wasn’t just the Blacks they looked down upon. Us scruffy bastards were getting funny looks and snide comments a lot of places we went to. Aesthetically it’s South Africa’s nicest city by far, with every street totally clean and tree lined. The people though ensured it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever go back.
So now we’re down in Port Elizabeth, kind of like an upmarket African Blackpool. Off to Addo Elephant Reserve now before getting back early afternoon for the Holland Brazil game. Here’s hoping for a Dutch win.
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