Saturday, June 26, 2010

Muddied Oafs at the Goal

Well my little durians, I’m now in Cape Town enjoying the World Cup and the whole South African experience. It certainly makes a nice change from Jakarta’s terminal urban purgatory. The South African winter is fresh but often sunny and bright and the city itself is quite spectacular.

The flight down was uneventful aside from a transfer in Dubai, which is more like an interstellar spacestation than an airport, its vast network of hi-tech concourses, shopping levels and departure lounges succeeding admirably in confusing the hell out of me.

Then it was a nine hours to Cape Town, a hook up with my friends at the airport, straight out for a drive through the beautiful city to the stunning stadium and then straight into the match... mainlining pure adrenaline I was.

Alas the match in question was England versus Algeria, which ended in a 0-0 draw and which was a match so utterly lacking in what makes football fun to watch that it already seems to have passed into footballing folklore as one of the most bowel shatteringly tedious in history. The adrenaline levels took a slight dip at this point.

I was damned, however, if I was going to let England manager and chief organ grinder, Fabio Capello, and his simian charges ruin my holiday, and so the next day we headed down through beautiful countryside, coast and mountains, to the Cape of Good Hope to straddle the Atlantic and Indian oceans. And who did we see down at the Cape enjoying the sights with all of the other tourists? It was none other than Fabio himself, out for a spot of sightseeing! Alas, we were too surprised at seeing him in the flesh to push the dear fellow over the edge of the path to a watery death.

A couple of days later it was time to go and watch Portugal demolish North Korea 7-0. This was a lot more fun than the England game. I'll take seven goals over zero any day of the week, although it was not perhaps the most evenly matched contest. There's a huge ethnic Portuguese community in Cape Town and they were out in numbers.

Our attempts to get hold of a North Korean scarf or flag around the stadium proved in vain alas. We were really keen though to show our solidarity with the Democratic People's Republic and throw our support behind the small block of 100 or so supporters who, according to some reports, were actually Chinese actors who were being paid a couple of thousand dollars a day.

I wonder how the match will be reported back in the Democratic People's Republic itself. Possibly they'll broadcast that their brave boys won 7-0, instead of losing by the same scoreline. That should confuse matters sufficiently. This is, after all, a country whose Supreme Leader was once reported in the North Korean media to have played a round of golf in 18 shots (which was followed by the birds on the course singing the national anthem in Korean).

The following day, my colleagues and I headed to the centre of town and the famous Fan Park in order to watch what turned out to be South Africa's final game against a French side who had so far proved every bit as dismal as the English. In fact, there had been rumours that the French side was on strike and I had visions of them walking around the pitch reading newspapers whilst Bafana Bafana won the game 200-0.

In the event, Bafana Bafana whipped the French 2-1 and the Fan Park went wild. It was a bittersweet victory however as it the team was out of the tournament having failed to garner enough points during this group stage. It was party time in Cape Town though and the Windhoek lager flowed freely.

The next day, after a glorious sunny walk around the coast, we retired to another local hostelry for another England performance. Yes, masochistic glutton for punishment that I am, it was time to watch the boys again. Watching my national team was becoming like rubbernecking at a car accident.

It was time for action after all the endless press conferences, soul-searching and general rending of garments. After the USA game, the time for talking was over. After the Algeria game, the time for talking about how the time for talking was over, was over. This time however, the lads actually managed to pull off a 1-0 victory, securing a place in the last 16 against arch nemesis Germany. Oh God.

I'll be back in the Big Durian next week folks for more tales of Indonesian urban woe and I hope I haven't missed too much in my absence. A few quick logons to the Globe website would suggest not as we’re clearly at the media saturation apex of the great Peter Porn curve. Hopefully, the gentlemen and the two ladies in question will be immersed in vat of boiling tar on national TV during the RCTI World Cup final halftime show and Indonesia can then fully devote its energies towards hosting the 2022 tournament, or failing that, the 2822 tournament.