Saturday, June 12, 2010

Soccer City

My sincere apologies for not posting for three days. I've already written about four posts in my head, but I have to catch up quickly, so I've discarded most of the material. The Total Sports Village, where I'm staying, is still being constructed around me really, but finally we have a wireless connection.

Whenever anything goes wrong here, it occurs with a grin and a, "welcome to South Africa."

There is no security at the airport - none. They looked at passports and waved us through. Many people have remarked on this.

But skipping a lot until yesterday morning, when we checked the place out a bit, kicked a ball around (though I retired when a few blokes who were bloody good started; Jacob later referred to it as 'like a jam') and generally dagged around. A number of people were off to the opening ceremony and the following game between South Africa and Mexico.

Two minutes before the bus was to leave Mike, the manager here, came outside and asked, "Anyone want two tickets to the opening?"
I glanced at Jacob and saw the excitement in his eyes. "Bloody oath, but how much?" I retorted.
"Well they cost US$750 each, but the guy just needs to get rid of them."
"I'll give you $500 Australian."
"Each?"
"No, I can't afford it. I'll offer $500 for both. But it's cool. I really can't afford it."
"Hang on... Look can you go a bit higher?"
"$600 Ozzie for both, but no worries otherwise."

The short of it is that Jacob and I were off to the Opening at Soccer City. F**k!!!!!!!!!!!

The drive there was all part of the show, and I took many pictures, but am so far struggling to publish them. I'm on to it.

Johannesburg is a party. Much colour and madness. But it also showed how not ready the country was for this event. For a trip of about 10kms, we had given ourselves three hours. It was not enough, and the 12 of us piled out of the bus, armed with the driver's mobile number, and walked the last one or two miles, along with the teeming, dancing thousands.

But the colour, and excitement and noise was already intoxicating. It didn't ebb, but only got more intense. [As I write, sitting here in the common room with the scren, Argentina just scored their first goal against Nigeria].

Going into Soccer City, where again there was virtually no security check, was entering a new space. New to me and Jacob. The colour and noise and dancing was apparently endless. 85,000 in attendance.

I simply cannot succeed in describing the experience. Some people said the opening ceremony was a bit crappy, and I can in retrospect see their point, but I simply didn't notice. In fact I was constantly distracted by the show which was us. Banter with the Mexicans, South Africans and a few Americans, around us, was easy and free and laughing. We took photos for each other and joked like old family.

Someone asked me a few years ago what the highest moment of my life was. At the time I thought about it and answered, "Australia's goal against Uruguay in front of 50,000 at Suncorp Stadium. That feeling of collective unleash of tension into absolute joy is unbeatable."

South Africa's goal against Mexico killed that experience, and relegated it to about a 4.5 on a brand new scale for me.

Quite simply, and Jacob said the same (over and over, as did I) that was the most extraordinary experience of my life bar none. In the way that Peter Brook's Mahabarata fulfilled my quest for perfect theatre way back in the 80s (I saw the 9 hour epic in Adelaide), my soccer passion feels fulfilled. If I die tomorrow, I haven't got any unfinished business on that front anyway.

As I say I can't explain it. I simply can't. It's the 85,000 people, it's a brilliant game (it really was very open and creative from both sides, and I'm sure this crowd lifted the locals), it's the stadium design I think, and it's the two particular cultures involved. But I can't do it. Everything vibrated with rhythm. My plastic beer bottle in my hand felt like a vibrator, but pulsing with the movements of noise. The air itself seemed to resonate. The crowds danced and sang and hooted those horrible plastic horns (in rhythmic unison, as they synchronised a movement of them from in front of them to up above their heads). The seething masses around us moved in waves and pulses.

There was an organism (which the stadium design suggests as well), and I was a cellular component of its life. The object - stadium, players and fans - was one and it was alive.

No I'm not on drugs. This was much, much better than that.

Back with more soon.

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6 Comments:

Blogger dawn said...

OMG that is absolutely brilliant! Keep it coming Hamish, I love the way you capture the experience. Right now I'm watching my birthland hold on against England after Green's calamitous mistake. Less than 24 hours now to Australia's first game, and I can't wait to read what you write next!
Dawn

June 13, 2010 5:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, l didnt even know it had started, well done, Hamish!

June 13, 2010 8:32 am  
OpenID katherinelyallwatson said...

This is fantastic Hamish. I feel like I was right there with you and Jacob and the other 84,998 dancing, singing people! Thank you.

June 13, 2010 4:37 pm  
Blogger blahblah said...

I'm so pleased you got to the opening. I thought it was brilliant, in design, colour, vibrance and simplicity. I watched the game! And quite a lot of soccer since, believe it or not. I agree with you that it's the movement and colour and bursting enthusiasm with life that's worked for me. I wish I were there!

Love Momma and Grandma (transcribed by Margo - I say, "WOW"!)

Margo to Dawn - what didn't he take you too!

June 13, 2010 7:21 pm  
Blogger blahblah said...

I'm so pleased you got to the opening. I thought it was brilliant, in design, colour, vibrance and simplicity. I watched the game! And quite a lot of soccer since, believe it or not. I agree with you that it's the movement and colour and bursting enthusiasm with life that's worked for me. I wish I were there!

Love Momma and Grandma (transcribed by Margo - I say, "WOW"!)

Margo to Dawn - what didn't he take you too!

June 13, 2010 7:22 pm  
Blogger Jackie said...

As a South African about to make the move to Brisbane I cant wait to read more on your blog. Your descriptions are just perfect, and I cant help but giggle at the traffic woes.

I hope you're getting out and about and seeing what else JHB has to offer!!!

June 14, 2010 10:07 am  

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