Saturday, June 19, 2010

Morning Before Rustenburg

Well I'm up early today to try to get some media-surfing and blogging done before the bus trip to Rustenburg for Australia's do-or-die against Ghana. There's no solid confidence in the camp, but more of a determined patriotism.

We're leaving at 10.30am for a 1.30pm game. That sounds fine because it supposedly takes about two hours. However, our experience is that 10.30 means 11.00 at the earliest, that bus drivers get lost as often as not, and that with only one road in and out of Rustenburg, the traffic may be crap. So there was an attempted organised effort to insist on a 9.30am departure. Total Sports Travel said no. If we are late for this game there will be a revolt. There is already pretty broad discontentment with the travel company, for all sorts of reasons, some of them reasonable.

But last night they did pretty well with the official function. Ok, Kevin Muscat is not the greatest of drawcards but even he came across ok, happily vocalising his discontent with the way Pim is running our national team. We did properly get wined and dined, and there was entertainment. Bad (but still kind of cool) African music, dancing (though pathetically, only one girl of all of us got up and danced) and we had our hands washed and our faces painted by pretty black girls. The food was really good, diverse and abundant - heaps of meats and fish and pretty much everything else you could easily name. There would have been more entertainment but we had to watch England destroy Algeria, which they completely failed to do.

All three games yesterday were surprises actually. Weird shit is happening at this Cup, which can only give us a bit of hope for Australia today.

But there's so much happening, and so much in my head that I think might be good things to write down, that I better tell a story at least before I hit "Publish."

A couple nights ago I had been surfing the net for World Cup news, with the rare treat of a late night with internet access, when I began to realise what was missing around the camp. Because the big screen is on pretty much 24/7, with games, replays, analysis and news, there's no stereo and hence pretty much no music. It was about 1.00 in the morning I guess, when thinking this I wandered outside for a cup of tea and a smoke by the smouldering fire. The only party left were the bar workers, very drunk, but playing music - not very loudly - with a phone.

So there was music, and it was really wonderful. Basically the guy put on Bob Marley's "Lets Get Together" over and over again, and it was good to sit with these guys, the colour of the night, smoking and chatting, alternately listening to them speak together in their own language.

I asked them if they felt all us white guys felt like brothers, and they were adamant that they did, that the past was behind, and that we were all just f***ing people on the same planet. They also feel strongly that the World Cup is very good for their country. Their faces lit up and their slurred accent became understandable when they spoke of it, even though their team had just been flogged.

Much earlier, before the day's games, I was sitting watching Jacob and others (about 10 a side) playing The Game in the park across the road from our compound (it does feel a bit compound-like). Jacob had come over to join just myself and another Ozzie, Matthew, who looks strikingly like a young Nicholas Cage. As we took refuge from the cold air in the sun, a very businesslike bloke, a 'coloured', came over to chat. His name was Peter and he was beaming with joy.

Peter explained that he had never seen a group of white people playing in the park before, nor 'coloureds' like himself. He thought it was wonderful. He thought that if people just started doing it, others would join - that there was still a barrier of fear. I glanced around at the barbed wire and electric fences on every property in sight, and wondered what the barrier was made of. But the point is he thought it was football that could help break down the barriers between the people in his own community.

Well, duh!

Like the black barworkers, Peter also felt that the World Cup was excellent for South Africa. It was warming that a group of Australian soccer fans might have played its own, small role in the process of reconciliation in this country. I kept watching the game and felt I could see the incongruency - the sense, from a certain point of view, that they shouldn't be there. The powerful thing perhaps is that the crew had no idea at all that they shouldn't be there. It's a park.

Then Peter started talking about God a bit and soon after I politely, with proper candour, mentioned that there was no point preaching to me he made his polite farewells and left.

Go the Socceroos! I will love you no matter what.



Anonymous David Davis said...

This is great Hamish. You have given me some weekend reading as I can now backtrack on your blog

June 19, 2010 2:47 pm  

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