Sunday, 20 June 2010

Tim Stewart's World Cup Journal

Huzzah! Huzzah! The hype and hoopla..

EFW have been given access to this fantastic journal of a fan out at the World Cup. Ipswich Town supporter Tim Stewart has been to 88 (eighty-eight) countries and has written countless articles which normally trouser him a deserved buck or three. For a princely sum of nought pence, Tim has been good enough to let us publish these tip-top musings from RSA. Forget our usual irreverent nonsense. This is a bit of class. Read on and enjoy:

Part 1:

Not strictly at the World Cup yet as the 64-match-tastic Greatest Show on Earth doesn't start until June 11 but I did meet Ruth [girlfriend] under a giant football at JoBurg airport. And the radio stations have a 'Feel it, it is here' jingle every few minutes.

The locals, who have paid about ten times less to FIFA for their tickets, are most excited about it all. Bafana Bafana has just thumped the might of Thailand and Guatemala in warm-up games, so they are now expecting to win the whole thing.

Drove out of JoBurg five hours to the Drakensberg mountains region by Blyde River Canyon, supposedly the world's third deepest after the Grand and one in Namibia I forget. There are great panoramas with names like Wonderview and God's Window.

We went into Kruger for a day and after five days without seeing a cheetah on safari in Kenya's Masai Mara, one walked right in front of the car in the first hour. Ate in the world's worst cafeteria but it was surrounded by giraffes, which made up for the food.

The currency has been a total pain. I came loaded down with 200 rand notes to avoid using cashpoints - only to find they were being taken out of circulation because of counterfeits. The highest valid currency in a country which is by no means cheap is now 100 rand -a tenner. After changing all my money to avoid a trip to the Federal Reserve Bank in Pretoria, I had so many notes that in all the confusion I initially walked out of the bank a thousand pounds light after their machines/staff ballsed up. You don't really want to be counting large wadges of banknotes in public there.

Now in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Strangely, with Ruth as a travelling companion I seem to be on a 'boutique' backpacking trip. Out go dingy dorms in hostels; in come self-billed hip and chic boutique hotels. Our latest is an Arabian-themed villa. Maputo is green and pleasant with a surprising number of nice-looking bars and restaurants for an African city.

We're heading up the coast next for Indian Ocean beaches before the orgy of football kicks off. I'm hoping to make the South Africa-Mexico opener at Soccer City, Soweto before England-USA in Rustenberg the next day. I have eight nights in JoBurg with most of the big teams playing at one of the two JoBurg venues in the first week. Particularly looking forward to supporting North Korea from their end against Brazil. Speaking of which, among roads named after Communist leaders here in Maputo, I am now in Kim Jong Il Street. Then I fly with the brilliantly-named Mango airline to Cape Town for England's second game and am out here until at least the quarter-finals, longer if Capello-inspired miracles occur.

Feel it. It is here,

Tim

Part 2

Greetings all. I can confirm I am still alive and well despite JoBurg and the South African World Cup Organising Committee's best efforts.

Total and utter shambles. No, not England's opening performance but the tournament planning and complete lack of any integrated public transport system. I spent 18 hours in travel time on official matchday transport for just two games - one 20km away in the suburb of Soweto and the other 120km away in Rustenburg. That is the equivalent of flying back to London and then halfway out to JoBurg again.

Matchday 1: South Africa-Mexico.

I set off from Sandton, an affluent suburb of JoBurg at 10am. There were no signs for Soccer City or any stewards/info/anything else World Cup-related despite it being the terminus for anyone arriving in JoBurg from the airport. I eventually found a shuttle bus supposed to take 30mins to the official stadium park and ride bus/Metrorail train. The freeway was totally gridlocked and we spent three hours on it. The Metrorail train did not move for an hour and then stopped for another 30 mins just outside Soccer City. Arrived at 3pm - five hours after setting off, missing the entire opening ceremony along with tens of thousands of others.The opening game had an attendance of only 85,000 when capacity was 97,000.

On the plus side, I got a face value ticket off a Mexican and there was a great party atmosphere with vuvuzela hooting and waving for 20 minutes until Mexico equalised.

On the way back, I tried the park and ride bus, which dropped me off in the city centre at night. All the South Africans got into their cars in the underground car park. I would have been left without buses, taxis or street lighting but begged a lift half an hour to Sandton with a local.

Matchday 2: England-USA

After the previous day's fiasco, I swerved my pre-booked matchday bus transfer from JoBurg to Rustenberg 120km away. It turned out that the bus took four and a half hours arriving only five minutes before kick-off after a passenger mutiny because the driver got hopelessly lost. I got a lift to the Fanfest with a Brit and then hitched a lift to the stadium with the police because I couldn't find the park-and-ride.

The tournament organisers achieved the near-impossible by failing sell out a 42,000 capacity England -USA match that could probably have sold out tenfold alone in the UK had they allocated more than 4,000 tickets to England fans officially. Around 30,000 of the 38,000 there were England fans and South African-based Brits and we looked on course for a comfortable, controlled win until our circus clown goalkeeper committed the howler of the tournament so far. I would have watched the replays on the giant screen except that it was blank all game.

Afterwards 38,000 fans looked at their park-and-ride tickets and realised they had one of five named park-and-rides but no directions or maps on their tickets or outside the stadium along with police, security and stewards who could not help. It meant I could not find my way back to the Brit's car despite an hour's walk around the entire stadium. At midnight, I found the bus I had pre-booked for JoBurg that was still missing half its passengers, who were wandering around lost too. We eventually set off on the single road out of Rustenburg while thousands of park-and-riders were queued up with some even having barbecues in the early hours with no exit in sight. We got back to Sandton at 3.30am and were dropped off, again with no linking buses, taxis or anything else. I had to get some South African girls to give me the numbers of reliable taxi drivers they use when out clubbing and got back to my digs at 4.30am.

Added to the above, not a single taxi driver in JoBurg has thus far found his way to my shambolic accommodation directly at night and they are all charging fourfold normal fares, as are all the hotels and guesthouses. My backpacker place has power cuts every ten minutes, haphazard water, is freezing cold at night and the internet is now working for the first time in a week. The chancer owners left me stranded for three hours outside a Gautrain station without public transport on the edge of Alexandra, South Africa's biggest township, when I first arrived. The much-vaunted new Gautrain was supposed to link JoBurg and Pretoria but only four of its many stations opened the week of the tournament and the train doors and lighting still fail on every trip.

So far, my World Cup experience is a case study in logistical nightmares and sleep deprivation. I've missed all the other games while travelling.

Other venues - Ellis Park, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban - are supposedly better as the stadia are nearer town avoiding the obligatory park-and-ride meltdowns.

The FIFA ticket centres have no screens saying which matches are still available and so you can queue for ages to be told within seconds you have wasted your time - and then find out there are tickets for the biggest games the next day, an unprecedented scenario.

Mozambique was equally haphazard overlanding but they hadn't submitted a FIFA transport blueprint and it was nearly 30C there with beautiful beaches.

JoBurg is a pretty hideous sprawl with many suburbs effectively off limits, very little street life and a maze of indoor malls.

This tournament is making the African Cup of Nations in Ghana look like a success of military precision - and that's saying something.

Hoping things will improve organisationally as they surely can't get any worse. England need to get their act together fast too as the Germans looked ominously good tonight if we balls up and have to play them next round.

Thanks to all that have voiced concern as to my whereabouts/well-being. The above will hopefully, at least, reduce jealousy levels among those not coming out here.

The live football is fun. Everything else leaves a lot to be desired so far.

Bafana Tim

Part 3

Greetings all, I'm a much happier bunny after putting the early transport horror shows behind me and taking in the Holland, Brazil and Argentina games in the past few days. Factor into that seeing real-life North Koreans and partying in Soweto and all is looking up.

I have started to find breaking all farcical local rules and ignoring all authority quite liberating on matchdays. The organisers are so nonplussed at Europeans misbehaving when they make ridiculous demands that they don't know what to say and let you go/do whatever you want in the end.

It's hard to see what Brazil and North Korea have in common and it was quite a strange clash to watch. I found myself rooting for the plucky underdog Communists but wondering whether I should be supporting the chosen representatives of such a repressive regime. Very briefly - as my chief concern was the minus three degree temperature at Ellis Park that night that made concentrating rather tricky. It seemed to put the Brazilians off their fantasy beach football too and it was pretty hilarious when Kim Jong Il's XI notched.

No such problems in attacking play for the Argies who had me most excited at Soccer City today with Messi, Tevez and co dazzling with their dribbling.

Spent my only live football-free day for a while on the Mandela tourist trail - the Apartheid Museum, his old house and Soweto. Avoided the tourist circus bus scene though by hiring a personalised guide with some Yanks and insisting we went to a proper shebeen - unlicensed, illegal garage bar - for the second South African game and the Soweto Fan Fest. We spent a half in each with beer served by girls from inside a cage in the bar. They must have been dangerous women.

You can get into any game here for around 500 rand buying fans' spare tickets - that's 45 quid and a great improvement on previous tournaments.

I do think FIFA should parachute in its own people to oversee/troubleshoot local organisation and ensure quality control and consistency between tournament venues though. Brazil will doubtless be equally chaotic otherwise.

Awaiting 3am flight to Cape Town that made perfect sense when I booked it but not so much now in time for England-Algeria match.

A Brit Ruth and I met at Inhambane airport in Mozambique briefly is heroically meeting me at 5am and putting me up in an eight bedroom mansion. Can't wait after a week in the JoBurg Hostel of Doom.

The draw is opening up beautifully for England if they win their group. Let's hope they take advantage for once.

Bafana Tim

Part 4

Greetings all,

Woke up this morning and looked out of the window to see schools of dolphins leaping out of the ocean. They were far livelier than the England players last night.

Utter tripe from a bunch of clueless chokers who were just as bad as Eriksson's World Cup team and bereft of Beckham's set pieces to bail them out this time around. Capello's formations and team selections at this tournament are no better than McClaren's either.

Much of the booing at the end came from disgruntled South Africans and foreign fans at the game but you also have to feel for Brits who have spent thousands of pounds to travel to Africa to watch yet another appallingly lame performance. 'All this way for nothing' was one chant that seemed best to sum it up. I'm just glad I've been watching the likes of Brazil and Argentina too as dutifully following the national team seems to be more a curse than a blessing.

Cape Town has a giant vuvuzela sculpture in town that is supposed to sound monster hootage when a goal is scored at the stadium. It was silent last night and may be a jinx as the opening game in the city was France's goalless draw with Uruguay. Enterprising locals are doing a roaring trade in earplugs outside all the grounds and I have also seen spectators sporting ear muffs. The vuvuzelas are being put to good use though - for quaffing yards of beer in the bars.

South African journalists are furious at calls for the noisy trumpets to be banned. They say this smacks of cultural imperialism by Europeans seeking to impose their own views on how football fans should behave. All I know is that having someone hoot in your ear with the apparent volume of a herd of bull elephants can make you most grumpy when hungover.

After six live games in eight days, I have been enjoying wandering around Cape Town doing nothing much today. The place could not be more different to JoBurg and the England fans are packing out the waterfront and Long Street nightlife district. Hoping to get on a Robben Island tour and contemplating taking in the Garden Route, Sun City and Durban at some point. Will probably lurch on to Port Elizabeth for the final England group game, sticking with the wasters to the bitter end totally against my better judgment.

There was at least one man who showed courage, determination and passion at the game last night - the England fan who stormed into the dressing room to berate the players afterwards. Give him a knighthood now.

Bafana Tim

We'll hopefully be publishing more of this gold in the coming days

- Feel free to comment below -

7 comments:

PresuminEd said...

This man Stewart is a bally genius and deserves NOT to be arrested for ticket touting or to have his money belt tickled by South African girls after his rand. Well done! Carry on!

Danny Last said...

He's 6ft 4 [fact] and we want more, Super Tim Stewart (repeat to fade)

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Not Sure said...

This is reportage of the highest order. It was just what the club footed folk of middle England want.

Danny Last said...

A couple of nice mentions of Tim's fine work and a nice nice plug for EFW back here in Blighty. Firstly, on Sean Ingle's excellent World Cup Blog on the Guardian website:

11.12am: If you're interested in finding out what it's like to be a fan travelling around South Africa, the excellent European Football Weekends blog is carrying a journal from Tim Stewart which is well worth a read.

The experience starts off badly ...

"Matchday 1: South Africa-Mexico. I set off from Sandton, an affluent suburb of JoBurg at 10am. There were no signs for Soccer City or any stewards/info/anything else World Cup-related despite it being the terminus for anyone arriving in JoBurg from the airport. I eventually found a shuttle bus supposed to take 30mins to the official stadium park and ride bus/Metrorail train. The freeway was totally gridlocked and we spent three hours on it. The Metrorail train did not move for an hour and then stopped for another 30 mins just outside Soccer City. Arrived at 3pm - five hours after setting off, missing the entire opening ceremony along with tens of thousands of others.The opening game had an attendance of only 85,000 when capacity was 97,000.

... but soon Tim finds that ...

I'm a much happier bunny after putting the early transport horror shows behind me and taking in the Holland, Brazil and Argentina games in the past few days. Factor into that seeing real-life North Koreans and partying in Soweto and all is looking up.

As I said, it's worth a read - as is the entire site.

And additionally this appeared in the Daily Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup-2010/7823385/Traffic-chaos-causes-fans-to-miss-World-Cup-opening-ceremony.html

All good stuff...

PresuminEd said...

It has been pointed out to me that my silly comment above could lead to terrible misunderstanding for Tim Stewart. I would like to point out here that I know Tim well and all his actions at the World Cup have been perfectly legitimate. My comment was written in a light-hearted manner and not intended to be taken seriously (British humour, I'm afraid).

Chris Mills.

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