Andreas, not long after the final whistle…
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(Here is the diary of Andreas’s last five days in South Africa, from the response to the tight 1-0 victory over Ghana to the joy of stuffing England 4-1…)
Thursday 24th June
1 am and back in the hotel…wrecked body and soul dead…a match that got me physically exhausted as if I played myself. Tense, tight and nervous…on and off the pitch. A team that is visibly insecure, immature. Beautiful strike from otherwise disastrous Oezil. Brilliant atmosphere, sold out crowd, and the most colourful crowd of Germany supporters I have ever seen. There seemed to be more Asians and Africans in BlackRedGold than Germans. My God, what a relief. Now England. Bring them on. Bring them on. Watching Italy hopefully being eliminated tomorrow at Ellis Park – Sorry Daniele – and then off to Blomfontein…small Stadium, small city…400 km from here, and it will be a cool ride..
Friday 25th June
A Love Letter to Emma and Daniele
When I walked over to Ellis Park today for the game of Italy I, of course, hoped that at the end of the day could celebrate an early exit of the Italian team from the world Cup, like anyone who loves this beautiful game. Why? Because of Inzaghi, even if he is not here, because of the arrogance this team shows on the pitch, because they got away too often with mediocre play, because they betrayed a brave Australian team of their greatest moment with a dive 4 years ago, because they were so arrogant to send this aging, boring and uninspired team to the Cup, because, well, we are Italy. But now, at night, back in the hotel, walking back, man, thousands of sad Italian fans. Sad? An archetypical type of sadness. Without a doubt no culture on this planet celebrates sadness as beautifully as the Italians do. Single tears…shock and agony…A drama worthy of the big screen. And, oh boy, well dressed. Sad and elegant. A spectacle in itself.
As you might have understood by now, I am writing this to let you know that I share your grief, your pain and your desperation. I am Italian tonight. And seeing you guys being last in a group with New Zealand, Paraguay and Slowakia does not make me laugh at all. Really not.
Oh, and I miss you both. It would have been nice to have you here tonight…
P.S. Now you can finally get your Germany flags out of the closet.
Saturday 26th June
In Bloemfontein, and there seem to be more English and Germans then actual inhabitants. The match is tomorrow and it feels BIG. The local media is going a bit nuts, and it’s a bit embarrassing, too. Examples? One national paper had the front page reading “Germany and England ready for war.” Bloody idiots. Another one had before the Ghana game the header “Ghana prepares for German Blitzkrieg” and after, under a picture of Oezil (!!!) ”Deutschland ueber alles”. Today the Star wrote ”We are ready for Ze English”…
A bit gross, that a countries media, that is complaining since weeks about the stereotypes and prejudice they see in foreign reports about South Africa is producing crap like that. Anyhow, we might have to live with this for the century. If we win it’s “Germany looking for freedom”, I am sure..
Of course, for us Germans, being the theatre loving people we are, it is top notch entertainment to sit back in the audience, and watch the drama of a once glorious nation to put all their hopes in catching a glimpse of that lost splendour into the hands of 11, intellectually- limited individuals – is there anyone actually taking Terry REALLY seriously? – every 2 years, only to see it failing again and again with an astonishing predictability, and then defeat being blown into biblical proportions by a hysteric media. That’s Greek stuff, isn’t it? Or better, it was the first 3, 4 times…Now it’s more like Monty Python..
And actually: the truth is, we love each other. Brothers, kind of. They have, what we want – a glorious past- and we have what they desire – a functioning society. Besides that, brothers. The nasty, raucous one, always a bit too loud and drinking too much, but clearly more fun, and the other one better in school, but with a stick up his ass…
Will we win? No idea. Whatever will happen, it will be highly entertaining, and, whoever will win, Argentina will be waiting, very likely, and that was that.
I am excited. Totally. The good way. It will be grand.
Sunday 27th June
Germany 4 (Klose, Podolski, Müller ) England 1 (Upson)
Monday 28th June
Hermanus, after a 1,100 km ride from Bloemfontein.
3 Lions – 4 Goals…Nearly half of the time on the bike today I spent singing “joyful, victorious”. It was a beautiful day. A justification for the whole trip. The sun was out, the atmosphere thrilling but peaceful, the game: unforgettable. I had endorphin rushes the whole 90 minutes, was dancing on the press tribunes after, gave a live interview to the Austrian radio, was shot by South African TV when ecstatically singing the anthem. It was beyond belief.
Seeing the 2 counterattacks up close, and subconsciously knowing what is happening, and see it executed, with surgical precision…priceless. Despite the Lampard shot, which I am very, very sad about that it was denied, there was a class between the teams, and here, you might be bored by now, especially psychologically. A kind of naive youthfulness, no “cleverness”, but a lot of passion, against a team dominated by vague sense of fear. Simply put, I don’t think it has ever been more joyful to be a German football supporter then in the last 2 days.
I know I should not say that, but I am quite sure we will go out against Argentina. I am afraid to see Mertesacker against Tevez, and I assume Mister Khedira will find his limits too against little Leo. Anyhow, no one can take that day away from me. Just a game, but I have been smiling for the past 24 hours.
I felt seriously inspired by the english bloke, that marched into the locker room of the glorious three lions to tell them what everyone in the world knows, and so i walked into a FIFA dinner to chat the World Cup through…You see Mister Platini running, Andreas Moeller holding a speech – it was funny – and Seeler being sweet…A very patient guy…
I prepared a longer monologue, but actually the big heads did not seem to be very interested…
(This entry was written in Johannesburg, 20.06.2010)
After a beautiful and intense thousand kilometre ride from Port Elizabeth – which brings my covered distance to nearly 7,000km altogether – I arrived in Johannesburg. This city, Jozi to the locals, I like a lot, and it will be my home for the next week or two, and I will be spending a lot of time on the bike to get over the Serbian game. Unbelievable how we could march off the field without at least a point. Despite being down to ten you could see the quality of the team, and Mr Podolski alone could have earned us three points…well, that’s how it goes. I have no idea if we are going to make it. We should, actually, given the strength of the team, but then again it is a young starting eleven, the crowd will back Ghana, and in the end it is football…just ask England.
It is time to sit back and reflect on the tournament a bit, now that nearly half the games have been played and I have smoothly settled in and can find my way around. In general, it is a wonderful experience. The hospitality, the openness and the gentle smoothness of the South Africans justify any effort to come here and join in. Especially for the black population, carried by an unimaginable pride their “their” game, organised by “their” people brings the country into the global limelight, and their passion for the game and generous attitude makes this a moving and touching experience.
The stadiums are top notch, world-class theatres, with Durban and Soccer City being my favourites so far. The logistics surrounding the games is partly a bit chaotic and disorganised, but problems are dealt with a flexible and positive spirit, and there are no bad feelings anywhere. The mood is up, and it remains to be seen if this spirit can be preserved if what will very likely happen happens, and the hosts leave the tournament. It is obvious that Bafana Bafana were expected to carry and lift the self-esteem of an often-impoverished black population in the eyes of the world, and the feeling of being “let down” by the team was perceivable following the defeat to Uruguay.
The weather? Or better: the weathers. Uuurrggghhh…while the days are usually dry and have decent temperatures of around 15 degrees, the nights – especially around Jo’burg, where most of the games are played – hardly raise the bar above zero. In other parts of this huge and beautiful country it can be dreadfully rainy or windy. My message: bring your long johns. The sight of African fans sitting in the stadium with Norwegian woollen caps, two layers of fleece, and two funky coloured scarves is not what I expected, I have to admit…
The ticket situation is a bit weird. There is only a small black market, and although thousands of seats are usually available, it is tricky for most to clinch these seats. It looks as if these tickets are in the hands of football associations and agents and are not finding their way onto the black market, which can be seen as a good thing too.
The thing I am most unhappy about – beside those awful Vuvuzelas that kill the flow of the game, deny its climactic drama, and surely contribute to the poor performances – are the limited opportunities for the “world to meet.” In 2006 I enjoyed so much the chance to meet football fans from all necks of the woods, in the trains bringing them to Kaiserslautern, in the bars of Berlin, in the hostels and on the street…this does not happen here in the Rainbow Nation, or at least, not to the same extent.
There are tons of reasons. Firstly, there are only an estimated 5-10% of international guests in the country for the cup. These 400,000 souls disappear into the wide fields of the Free Land like a sugar cube in Lake Baikal. Also there are the huge distances. Cape Town to Durban is 1,600 km and to Jo’burg 1,300…and as there is no train network everyone flies, which takes the wonderful “we sit for 3 hours on the ICE and talk footy” off the menu. And with a relatively small tourism infrastructure, bigger hostels and guesthouses basically don’t exist, and the typical size of accommodation is 5-15 rooms in small, privately-run guesthouses, which does not make it easy to meet other travellers.
The cities, in their layout and identity, unfortunately follow the American and not the European model, and so: huge streets, hardly any proper downtown, social life in plastic malls, and a very , very limited streetlife, with Melville in Jozi and Long Road in Cape Town being the exceptions. There a very few public spaces for people to mingle, meet, communicate and fall in love with each other.
But the biggest factor in this unfortunate development comes from the tourists themselves, as many of them have a feeling of uncertainty and even fear about the security situation, and avoid taking taxis or walking at night to check out bars on clubs. Even on game days the clubs in the host cities – and I have checked them all – have very few international guests. The weather keeps them indoors as well…
So the meteor strike of millions of foreigners with the colours and feelings and funky attitudes right into the soul of the host nation – as happened in 2006 – will not happen here.
But all of this is put into perspective by something truly amazing, and something that has opened my eyes as well. In 2006 I falsely though the “world” met in Berlin. It did not. There was a whole continent missing. Not here. The illegal immigrant from Nigeria stands next to the drunken English fan and the euphoric Japanese student in the public viewing zones, and this tournament has an addictive “African” undertone, and it is a beautiful, beautiful song, mild and smooth, peaceful and touchingly human in its goodness, even to the unknown stranger…
Written on Wednesday 16th June
Packed. Full days. It has been one of those intense periods thatyou only comprehend when looking back a few days later. But alongside the many unforgettable pics in my head I actually had my first heavy downer yesterday too. What under different circumstances could have easily been one of the greatest rides ever, a 1.700 km stretch from Durban to Cape Town along the Coast of the Indian Ocean, crossing the Transkei and the Ciskei, turned into a veritable nightmare, a hard, and sometimes demotivating endurance test for gear, machine and the rider. Well, the machine and the gear held up…
Temperatures ranging between 2 and 7 degrees Celsius, an icy, skin biting rain and heavy, unpredictable strong winds took their toll. Combine that with streets full with potholes and some pretty unique riding, and you get the picture. The visibility was a few metres only, and after getting through some really critical situations i called it a day, and stopped my journey after half the distance: 800 awful kilometers in 2 days, with my fingers falling off, and no feel for the toes… altogether a pretty creepy experience. But, you know that there is justice on this planet, when you check into your guesthouse and with you 2 American guys, feeling pity and offering you a spare ticket for the Portugal vs Ivory Coast game starting an hour later…Toure, here we come…
So, the World Cup is here…and, actually, with the football world having tons of respect for the host, being impressed about the German team, disappointed about Italy and laughing about England: what more can you ask for? Durban was a great experience: an airy and elegant stadium, with the smell of the Ocean, and some serious 21st century footy. Khedira and Schweinsteiger looked brilliant together, cool and controlled, and Khedira will be the Captain of the German team very soon, I am sure. But, still, for me the most fascinating aspect is to see a Superstar in the making. Brilliant to witness, that the Bundesliga is capable of producing a player of Xavi and Iniesta talent, and Özil has had more ideas in that game then the whole Nationalmannschaft in the tournaments in Portugal and Japan together. In general, incredible to see the Coolness and mental stability of the Neuers, Müllers and Marins, especially if you see teams such as England or Italy or Argentina, with all their experience, struggling to get a game together.
Nice to wear a German sweater right now in the country. Tons of shoulder clapping and positive words…and always a surprised face when I say that I do believe that this team is not strong enough to win the title..
I have seen 3 matches so far, the Opener, Germany in Durban and the Ivory Coast yesterday, with the next one being the Germans trying to wear Vidic down and giving him a hard time. After arriving in Port Elizabeth yesterday, and after 5.500 km on the bike, I actually need a break….
The following video is from KwaZulu-Natal – it is very windy, but you get a sense of the awe-inspiring South African horizon…plus a message from Andreas to our Australian friends (waves at Andrew…)
Despite the standard of the football, I (Paul that is) am still excited by this World Cup…but what it must be like to be there, and in amongst it all I can hardly imagine…the crowds, the stadiums, the noise, the “Uwe Seelers”…it must be great. And just when we were wondering what our World Cup and Southern Africa Correspondant was up to, he sent us some pics so that we can get that little bit more jealous of his experiences…
Andreas at Soccer City in Johannesburg…
Another passion…Andreas hooks up with a motorbike parade in Durban
One of these men used to be a football player…
The man in question is Jürgen Sparwasser, former East German footballer and scorer of the legendary goal against the West Germans at the 1974 World Cup to give the German Democratic Republic a 1-0 victory in Hamburg against their neighbours. It was the only time the first teams of the two Germanys would meet in competition. You can read more about Andreas’s new buddy on wikipedia.
The madness begins…
Had a day yesterday you can only have at the World Cup. Saw 3 teams, a nation out of their heads and heard the sounds that made Jericho´s walls crumble. Decided to leave Pretoria early morning, since – sorry mates – it was boring. A city of administration buildings and embassies, wide one way streets, no proper city center, and predominantly Afrikaner, so… a Rugby place. I stayed in a neighbourhood called “Hadfield”, so I should have been warned.
Anyhow, I packed, got on my bike, and whilst about to leave the Slovak (or was it the Slovenian) team checked into the neighbouring Hotel. 20 fans were waiting, and the obligatory dancing group.
But I was off to Jo´burg, and on check in the moderator for German national broadcaster ZDF and his team came up, impressed by the Berlin number plate of my bike, before dropping the story they had in their heads when they heard lazy assed me flew the bike over. So I missed my 5 minutes of fame.
Nevermind. Instead, into the city, and…a sound…a noise…THE noise…imagine thousands of elephants at the gates of the city, blowing their trumpets for minutes. It was scary, impressive, and spooky. It turned out that at 12 noon everyone was asked to blow his Vuvuzela, and, man, what a sound. From all corners of the city, a sky filled with a deep fanfare, shooting down your spine and up…Whoohoo!
Then I was getting lost with the bike, heading into derelict areas with ten thousands of African immigrant workers living in shocking war-like conditions, stopping at a small stadium where the Serbian team did a public training and saw Vidic (I guess at least it was him), 200 fans, maybe… before heading off to Sandton, where 100.000 fans gathered to see the Bafana Bafana beng driven around in a bus.
Sheer madness. This must have been the wildest welcome a team 90th in the FIFA rankings ever received. I ended the evening with an invitation to a House Club opening by a South African mixologist, and had a Springbok pie..
Man, what a place. One thing is sure, if Cape Town is the Auntie that knits a cap for her nephew in the national colours because she has heard some sports thing is happening, Jo’burg is the nasty, racous 22 year old that does not miss an away game ever, sits in the Ultra curve,and is ready to give it all.
Any thing else then a win tomorrow against Mexico would be a disaster for the mood here..
Exciting, it is all exciting, in a childish, Christmasy way…
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The following video is Andreas finding out from those in the know exactly who will win the World Cup on the 11th July)