“GET OUT GET OUT! Get out of my room! You told me you was a clean prostitute but you’re nothing more than a dirty whore! Get out, you disgust me, get out of the hostel now”
I woke up to this at 6am on my last night in Cape Town. The Scottish bloke then stumbled back down to his room, constantly bumping into each side of the corridor as he ventured back.
I, on the the other hand could not get back to sleep. I lay awake wondering how he had come to the conclusion she was a dirty hooker rather than a clean lady of the night. Had he whipped out an Instant Aids test kit? “Just a wee minute lassie, before we get down to business can I just take a quick blood sample?”
I went down for breakfast later and was soon followed by the chubby Scot.
“I had an awful night last night. I was mugged twice on the way back to the hostel”.
“Got lucky with a lady though hey?” I replied. His face went bright red and he scurried off. I was later to overhear him on the phone to him mum asking her to wire him £1500.
We left Cape Town in the afternoon and set off for Kimberley, capital of the Northern Cape. Kimberley is situated around the half way point from Cape Town to Johannesburg so we figured it’d be a good stop off point to break up the journey. It sounded like a nice place. The area we’d booked to stay was called Belgravia and the city was once the centre of South Africa’s diamond mining trade. I had visions of huge diamond barons houses, with wide tree lined streets. The reality as always was about as far from this as you can imagine. If you could imagine Scholes precinct enlarged to the size of Liverpool and then transported back in time to the American Wild West you’d be somewhere near what Kimberley resembled. Graffiti covered saloons with swing doors on every street corner, boarded up shops, screaming preachers, clapped out bangers backfiring, the works.
Each World Cup team had been given a city to be based in for the duration of the World Cup. Uruguay had drawn the short straw and had been allocated Kimberley. Whereas everyone else in South Africa despised Uruguay after the Ghana game, the residents of Kimberley loved them and would pour scorn on the rest of their countrymen for treating the Uruguayans with such contemp. Incidentally, the day after the Uruguay Ghana quarter final, I witnessed something online that will have Suarez in tears if he finds out and could possibly destroy his career. I was having a quick browse of various Latics messageboards for the latest news, and one site which shall remain nameless featured an extremely irate poster.
“WHAT SUAREZ DID LAST NIGHT SICKENED ME. I AM SO DISGUSTED WITH HIM THAT I TOOK HIM OUT OF MY CHAMP MANAGER TEAM STRAIGHT AWAY”
We were struggling to find somewhere to eat but finally came across a cafe and ordered a cheese sandwich, the only thing on the menu that looked edible. The ‘sandwich’ proved to be a tiny sweet waffle with a processed cheese slice in the middle. Just what I was looking for after not having eaten for almost 24 hours due to the coach journey the previous day.
We were getting desperate but a quick search of the net found there was one place in Kimberley that served “great food”. The George and Dragon. The menu looked promising. I ordered venison pie.
“It will take 30 minutes to make this I’m afraid”
“Not a problem!” I replied. This sounded even more promising. Cooking it properly in the oven rather than warming it up in the microwave I thought to myself. An hour later it arrived. I stared at the plate in disbelief. A plate with nothing more than a pastie in the middle of it. A soggy meat pastie warmed up in the microwave.
There have been points on previous trips when things have suddenly taken a turn for the worse and I’ve immediately wanted to be back at home more than anything else in the world. In Iran it was the moment my hotel was stormed by the police and I was arrested. In Turkmenistan it was the time I was almost sexually molested in the middle of the desert by my guide. In South Africa it was the time I was brought a wet pastie on a plate.
I didn’t think I’d be glad to be back in Johannesburg but after Kimberley, the bohemian Jo’burg district of Melville with scores of bars and restaurants was a dream respite.
The following day was the day we’d been waiting the entire trip for. The World Cup final. A month in the country, over 5000 miles travelled by road, eight matches attended, six stadiums visited and way too much money spent.
Just like players need to be in peak condition for big matches, I also prefer to be feeling tip top to appreciate big games so I’d kept the drinking to a minimum the night before. A hangover would have been preferable to the way I was feeling by the time I set out for the match though. I had a bad case of the shits, a stitch so bad that it was giving me difficulty walking and hiccups that I couldn’t shake off. Is there a more pathetic combination of ailments anyone could possibly wish to have? I mean, a stitch for fucks sake. I didn’t even know you could still get stitches. I thought they disappeared with shell suits and white dog shit in the 90’s.
By the time we reached Soccer City, I was feeling much better. The hiccupping fits had stopped and the shits had agree
d to call a ceasefire. The stitch was not relenting but this on its own I could just about handle. Some of the previous games I’d been to had been a bit of a let down atmosphere wise. I was worried this might be the same. A World Cup final has always seemed an almost mystical event. The pinnacle of the worlds greatest tournament. Something I watched in awe as a kid and still looked at in a similar way the older I got. I never imagined I’d ever get the chance to attend one. But now I was, I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype I’d built around it all these years. I needn’t have worried. From the moment I saw the stadium appear on the horizon to the minute I left the ground, it was an incredible experience. It’s hard to put it into words but the actual game almost didn’t even matter. Just the entire occasion of being in the stadium, letting it all sink in. You knew you were part of something special. There was no need to worry about it passing me by, it was here. I was at a World Cup final. It was just as you’d dream a World Cup final would feel like and more.
It’s lucky the atmosphere and whole event was so great and the match came secondary because the only good view I got of the match was on the TV back at my hotel room after the game. We were second row, just to the side of the goal where Spain scored. Not the greatest of views but right next to the pitch and almost part of the action. ‘Not the greatest of views’ turned into ‘Not a fucking view at all’ when a camera man came and set a ridiculous sized video camera right in front of us. People around us were going mental. It blocked off the entire goal and 6 yard box at the opposite end of the pitch. A Fifa employee told us ‘tough shit’. It was especially big because it was a ‘special 3D video camera’. Oh the irony that people back in England can look like nobheads in stupid glasses watching the game in ‘glorious 3D’ whilst I’m sat in the stadium unable to watch the game in Real-D because of it.
It didn’t spoil things too much though thankfully, although the amount of straining my neck did to see the game did give me mild whiplash. After the game, as Spain stood lifting the world cup, I sat wondering if the song they were playing was the Police Academy theme tune. It damn well sounded like it. They’d played it when the players walked onto the pitch and just before the cup was lifted. It would fit really as Fifa seems to be run quite similarly to Police Academy. I’ve never exactly been Fifa’s biggest fan but I could write a thesis on what is wrong with them after this World Cup. I bumped into a lad at the final we’d met on the coach to Rustenburg. He told us he’d been on one of the planes to Durban that wasn’t allowed to land because the airport was full of Fifa’s private jets. A German guy next to him had ten tickets on him that he was supposed to give to people on arrival in Durban. He went ballistic when they told him they couldn’t land as you can imagine and ended up getting arrested. I’m just glad to see that the Fifa fan stores all around the country are completely full of unsold crappy official merchandise. £10 ‘official Fifa wristbands’ and £15 keyrings.
The tournament as a whole I think has been a bit of a letdown. Some pretty average matches, players not performing and most importantly no really big memorable games. It’s been one hell of an experience though, great fun following Paraguay, not so great fun dealing with traipsing up and down the country but all worth it in the end and a great finish to it attending the final.
Ideally I’d have flown home the day after the final but prices were extortionate so we were forced to hang around for a few days. Monday was spent around a Lion Park, where we were allowed into an enclosure with some younger Lions. A bout of winding one of them up led to it snapping and gripping my arm between it’s teeth. A very painful experience. My only regret is that it didn’t leave a huge scar. I’d wear a t shirt constantly.
“Shit! What’s that’s huge scar on your arm?!”
“No big deal, just from when I was attacked by a lion”.
So now I wait for a flight to Cairo leaving tonight. All being well I should be back in Wigan about 11pm Friday. I can’t wait for a pint of Guinness.
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