Monday, June 14, 2010

Hodge Podge...DODGE!

Rustenburg for the England v USA match

England v USA was the opening match for both teams in the tournament and also our first game.  The game was held in Rustenburg, a small town a couple of hours north of Johannesburg that is famous for it's platinum reserves (apparently something like 86% of the world's platinum comes from the area).  As a result, the Royal Bafokeng Nation who own the mining rights up there are filthy rich.  As far as we can tell, that's the only reason Rustenburg was chosen to host any World Cup matches...the king paid for the privilege.  

Getting to and from the place was a nightmare, there was nowhere near enough accommodation (more on that later), and the stadium was not exactly world cup standard, and certainly not the ideal venue to host England v USA, the two countries that brought the most fans to South Africa.

Phokeng ridiculous!
So, back to the accommodation.  We booked our accommodation for Rustenburg way back in December 2009 as soon as we knew England would be playing the US up there.  We booked a cabin at a place called the Hodge Podge Lodge.  The name should have been fair warning that this place could be a bit dodgy but it was all we could find so we went with it.  What a nightmare!  This place was miles out of town, our cabin had no lock on it whatsoever, the family that owned the place tried to rob us every chance they got by overcharging for everything, and speaking of the family...what a bunch!

In spite of all that we had an absolute blast up there.  There were hundreds of England and US fans staying at Hodge Podge and we met some great people who we would end up hanging out with again at other England matches.  We partied the whole 3 days.

For the opening ceremony and match we headed to the FIFA Fan Fest in town.  The atmosphere was unbelievable.  There were close to 25,000 fans there to watch Bafana Bafana (South Africa) take on Mexico in the opening match.  The noise from the now infamous vuvuzelas was almost unbearable but they certainly created a unique atmosphere.  When Bafana scored the whole place erupted.  There were spontaneous outbreaks of fans singing traditional African songs and dancing together.  It was amazing.  Unfortunately Mexico’s equalizer dampened the spirits somewhat but that didn’t last long.  After the final whistle the party was in full swing again with 20,000 plus people celebrating the start of the tournament.
 Enjoying the opening match with some Bafana Bafana fans

Back at the lodge we continued the party and met some of the other Hodge Podge guests.  Among them were a group of guys and girls from England who had cycled from Egypt to South Africa for the World Cup.  That’s right, Egypt to South Africa…on bicycles.  If you’re not sure how far that is feel free to have a quick look at a map and you’ll see that it’s REALLY FAR!  And there we were thinking we were all clever because we’d taken a couple of flights to a few countries around the world.

We also met a great group of English lads and some American guys who we had a lot of fun with.  The Americans had had some look-a-likes among them too…

We knew Clinton was there but "dubya" and Sampras too?!?

On match day the England v USA clash kicked-off at 8:30pm so we had time to get in the mood beforehand.  Not wanting to get too boozy we opted for a sensible start time of 11am.

Courtney singing the national anthem

England goal!

The game was great!  Courtney’s first ever, live football match and it was England v USA in the World Cup finals!  Not bad.  (Lee’s first ever match was Arsenal v Norwich at Highbury…not exactly the same).  The 1-1 final score meant that we were still on speaking terms after the 90 minutes and after a couple of hours of total chaos trying to leave the stadium area, we made our way back to Hodge Podge to continue the party. 

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