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Becker’s African Diary #15: The End of the Road in Durban

Christian and I have been South Africa for four days, although with the experiences of the past 96 hours it feels somehow like we have been here for weeks. On Sunday morning we arrived at Cape Town airport and Andreas was waiting for us. We spent the first couple of days exploring the city and with a bike ride down to Cape Point, before squeezing into the seats of a Greyhound bus for the 22 hour ride to Durban where the semi-final was waiting for us.

Travelling overland you get a sense of the scale of the country, and passing through the neat vinyards with large farmhouses, next door to the shanty towns which presumably provide the workers for the fields, you can see the disparity in wealth of this country even through the window of a Greyhound bus. I have had too many thoughts and impressions over the past four days to list here, but it is that wealth gap that strikes the hardest, and shapes my impression of everything else.

We arrived in Durban weary but excited about what was to come. On the way to the stadium – an incredible and beautiful structure – the streets were filled with fans from both teams, and it was clear that the local fans had made their choice as well, and had been shopping to make sure they looked the part. Slightly more had gone for Germany, which I am sure is the result of the team’s performances up to that point.

The game itself? A disappointment from the German perspective, not because of the result, but the fact that the young team could not raise themselves as they had done against Germany and Argentina. For the first time you could sense the tension was there, and Spain with all their wonderful players were simply calmer and less afraid. Of course, Andreas and Christian were a little sad in the end, but it did not take long before the disappointment was overcome and we all agreed that this German team had played a wonderful tournament and in a great style, making new friends along the way.

Now we are back in Cape Town and are about to begin our journey overland to Johannesburg by motorbike. It promises to be a fascinating trip, and I am really looking forward to seeing more of the country. The South Africa I have experienced so far, in this short time, is beautiful and vast, with some troubling aspects, as I mentioned before.

These are of course the legacies of Apartheid, and 15-odd years is a very short period in the life of a nation. To look back at South Africa then, and to see what has been achieved is a credit to Mandela, Tutu, the other leaders and of course the people themselves. But there is clearly still a lot to be done, and until the poverty that is a reality for so many here in the country is lessened, the social issues that threaten South Africa will not be resolved. Crime, violence directed against immigrants, health issues, education…the key to everything is poverty, the poverty of jobs, of housing, of educational opportunity…and how the government tackles this issue will shape the direction of the country in the years to come.

The end of the road for German fans was Durban. But the next adventure awaits. Andreas will be back on the blog soon to tell you all about it.

See you soon,

Paul