Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup in Bloem


World Cup. I had heard of it, of course, but I never really took much interest. I am not that taken up by sports in general, much less by a sport I never played as a boy. At least I understand and appreciate the nuances of baseball, hockey, and American football. Nonetheless, avoiding World Cup Fever around here has been impossible. And since Kathy had her heart set on going to one of the games, especially since some were being played in Bloemfontein, only an hour or two away (depending on the border crossing), we got tickets for the Cameroon-Japan game and went with our friend Ulker, a doctor from Turkmenistan.

Along the route to Bloem, we encountered a refreshingly honest label:

Next to the stadium where the game was played is a mall, where I, of course, had to stop at a coffee shop which actually serves soy latt├ęs. Ulker and Kathy are wearing their Cameroon jerseys, and I am wearing the Bafana Bafana scarf that Kathy got for me. I know Bafana Bafana did not make it to the second round, but I think they did well, especially in their last game, and should feel good about their World Cup performance. After all, they did as well or better than some much more highly ranked teams!

And here they are, beverages in hand, just about to enter the crazy land of World Cup 2010 (Can you feel it? It is here!):

Are seats were not too bad, eh?

And who's that cutie with the balloon? Oh, and in case some of you who watched the games on television thought that the vuvuzelas could not possibly be that loud, well...

Of course, Kathy had to get some up close shots of Samuel Eto'o - and the rest of the Cameroon squad - warming up before the game:

But for me, the people most worth watching were the fans. They created an atmosphere that was at least as much carnival as sporting event, and - contrary to the impression I had of football fans from tales in the media - they genuinely seemed to be enjoying the spirit of the moment without any animosity towards supporters of the opposing team. In fact, I saw multiple instances of supporters of Cameroon and Japan posing for pictures with one another. Really fun and friendly!

And here are those Japanese fans in action:

And what's that?!? A traditional Basotho hat!

So admittedly I would not have gone on my own. Call it football or call it soccer, I was not interested. But Kathy made me go, and I am glad that I did. Cameroon lost, but we had such fun... and we have continued to have a blast following the entire World Cup on television (it is on five or six channels here) - especially Ghana, who got robbed but should be so proud. Also, I have really enjoyed the announcers, whose oh-so-British editorializing puts American sports commentators to shame.

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