Sunday, June 27, 2010

Postings from Pretoria #35

27 June 2010

Hello there... Rodger French here.

World Cup Report #2

Speaking as a formerly casual but currently dedicated-if-not-obsessed follower of the 2010 World Cup, the last 15 days or so have been pretty darned interesting.

USA! USA! USA! - A.J. and I scored tickets to the USA-Algeria Group C match at Loftus Versfeld here in Pretoria, and it was thrilling. This was the first (and possibly last) futbol match of any kind I’ve ever attended and we surely got our money’s worth. Both teams played well, the refs were pretty consistent, and our seats (lower level, smack on the goal line) provided us with a splendid view of Landon Donovan’s winning stoppage time goal.

[Sidebar: The vuvuzelas weren’t as overwhelming as we anticipated, although we took earplugs with us to mitigate the buzz. I wore them but, strangely, Anne, whose ears are much more sensitive than mine, didn’t.]

USA! USA! US… oh –The Americans, unfortunately, had a less than stellar effort against Ghana, the lone African nation still in contention, in the Round of 16 (“Win or go home.”). I confess to conflicting loyalties here, since I really do like Team USA, but also have a great fondness for Ghana, our home for two years. Bottom line: The Yanks were outplayed by the Black Stars, who now carry the futbol hopes of an entire continent as they advance to meet Uruguay in the quarter finals. Viva Ghana!

Speaking of Big-Ass Continents – My dream of an all-Korea final is in tatters. Only Japan still stands.

Viva Am̩rica! РAt this writing, the following teams from the Americas (Norte y Sur) are still in contention: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Viva Mexico!

And What of Europe? – England, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, and Spain remain. Italy and France, both former World Cup champs, are outta here, eliminated, let it be noted, in highly entertaining and dramatic fashion.

Celebrity Sightings – Vice President Biden and former President Clinton have been sighted at matches, and Biden actually popped by the Embassy. The impact of these visits on our lives, however, has been pretty minimal. And since Team USA is no longer a contender, the rumored visit of President Obama will not take place, much to the enormous relief of all US and ZA security officials.

Host Country - The South African team, Bafana Bafana (“The Boys The Boys”), failed to advance past the group stage, although they acquitted themselves with honour by bouncing France out of the tournament. In other news: Several hundred World Cup-related criminal incidents have been reported - none of them too serious, thankfully; the threatened strike by workers at Eskom (the electric company) has not materialized… yet; and fewer cars on the road has made driving in Pretoria almost enjoyable, not unlike Atlanta in 1996.

So… so far, so good. We’re hoping that the rest of the World Cup goes splendidly and that any major drama remains confined to the pitch. (Good luck with that.) Speaking as a newly minted-if-not-rabid futbol fan, I am still pulling for Ghana or some team other than the usual suspects to win the damn thing. Viva futbol!



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