A letter from Johannesburg
Holland 2-0 Denmark (15:06:10)
Stuart Mair is at the World Cup with Fatboy Slim and friends. Here he continues his exclusive World Cup Tour Diary from South Africa having landed in Johannesburg:
James Corden, poor punditry, empty seats, ITV missing England goals, ITV, negative tactics, endless moaning about the vuvuzela, dull games and a ball that is too round (too round). They were the early thoughts of the World Cup I'd left behind in Blighty. It was a relief to finally get here and see and feel the World Cup through South African eyes.
First thing to say is that our hotel is superb. Based in Boksburg, it's in the middle of what's known as the International Football Village (IFV) and it has giant screens, African markets, a Brazilian beach bar, loads of live music and - don't tell Sepp Blatter this - a Bavarian Beerhouse. Nod to Robbie Earle and his scantily clad Dutch girls.
My first impression of Jo'burg is that it is just packed jam full of football maniacs of every nationality, size, age, sexual orientation and it's ready for a FANtastic celebration of a wonderful sport. My second impression is that about 98% of them are brandishing vuvuzelas and I cannot hear myself think, but, more of them later.
Our first game was Holland v Denmark at the Soccer City Stadium. As we arrived on the shuttle bus there was a collective gasp from the rest of the squad. We're seasoned football fans who have travelled to many parts of the globe following the beautiful game but we were struck by the sheer magnitude of this - the biggest calabash cooking pot in town.
Inside the stadium it was clear that the match was not the sole property of the Danish Vikings and the orange army of Dutch. We sat next to Argentinians who are giving presents to the French who were hugging Spaniards who were making a South African laugh. I cant begin to describe the joy of all those that were there, they just wanted to celebrate and it was wonderful.
Before the match I was offered a number of vuvuzelas painted in the colours of every team aside from one - I guess they figured the North Korean ones wouldn't sell. Remarkably, the same chap that will sell you a vuvuzela will also sell you ear protectors, albeit in the shape of mini vuvuzela. Its like buying cancer insurance with a packet of cigarettes.
You couldn't get within a country mile of a hot dog stall before the game or at half time which was a shame because everything else was great. Access in and out was easy, the stadium had broad sweeping concourses and our seats - in the middle of the second tier - afforded great views in amongst the hardcore of the Danish and Dutch support.
The vuvuzela is of course the source of much debate and some people want to see them banned. Our parties view is that it is part of the African football experience. You give South Africa the World Cup then let them party on their own terms. After the game we went back and watched Italy v Paraguay in the IFV - as you do.
Today I went and spent some time in Soweto which offered a chance to reflect on where this country has had to drag itself from and the sacrifices its made to become a modern democracy and stage this type of world event. Norman and I went to Nelson Mandela's house where he lived before and after his incarceration. I say after, but really it was only 12 days as he found it hard to live there for all the people singing non-stop outside his house despite him asking them to stop. Desmond Tutu was a neighbour incidentally.
Tonight we are going to Brazil v North Korea at Ellis Park Stadium. I'm all for supporting the Koreans, that's if I can get hold of an limited edition vuvuzela in their colours. I am sorry for the lack of photo's so far on my trip to planet football. There are a few technical issues this end which I hope to resolve as soon as possible. Speak soon....
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