Since the World Cup in Germany in 2006 concluded, I have had South Africa on my radar as the place I want to be in 2010.
Since graduating from UC San Diego, in my free time that I haven’t been interning, I have refereed over 250 youth and adult soccer games in an attempt to save up enough to fund my the expenses that a return to South Africa and the events of a World Cup would entail.
The football calendar in 2009-2010 has been packed with major tournaments taking place all over the African continent. First, the U-20 World Cup in Egpyt followed by the U-17 World Cup in Nigeria produced exciting football and two new world champions in Ghana and Switzerland respectfully. The African Cup of Nations picked up in Angola at the beginning of the 2010 calender year, starting off with the attack on the Togolese football team, who inexplicably traveled by coach, were attack in the enclave of Cabinda, where a civil war as not concluded. Why Angola thought that Cabinda was sutiable for matches, and why CAF allowed this site selection still has not been explained. The tournament ended with Egypt cementing their status as a legendary team with a third consecutive championship (oddly though, this team has yet to qualify for the two World Cup during is era of dominance).
When FIFA told me that my application for tickets came through with all 5 games that I requested, the pieces started to fall in piece.
Now the plane tickets are booked, the task of planning out the trip pre- and post- World Cup begins. As the three weeks that I have tickets for during the tournament writes its own itinerary, the 2 weeks before and after have to be planned to make sure that our time is best spent getting to where we want to be.
The first match starts in Rustenburg on 12 June, where the US will play England in their opening match of Group C. Then it is on to Johannesburg for the match against Slovenia 6 days later. We head down the N1 to Bloemfontein for South Africa’s final group match against France on the 22nd, then straight back up the N1 to Pretoria where the US will play Algeria 24 hours later. Finally, we have tickets to the Second Round game back in Bloemfontein on the 27th, where if the US finishes second in their group, they will meet the winner from Group D (Like Germany, but could be Serbia, Australia, or Ghana). If the US finishes top of the group, or does not advance, obviously that game would not mean as much, but considering my previous ties to England and Slovenia where I spent significant time growing up, it would not be a loss to go to that match to cheer them on instead.
Time is fast approaching to arrange for accommodation and travel during the tournament. It will be curious to see if it is as tourist filled and as crazy as some predict or whether it will be a bust as some naysayers are predicting. I have been surprised to read how many people who won tickets in the lottery subsequently will not go to SA due to cost of travel. Alisa and I have no intention at staying at hotels during our time in SA if it can be avoided, thus hopefully escaping the heightened prices that established places will be set to charge unknowing visitors. However, planning in advanvce at the places that we frequented on our previous jaunts around Southern Africa has proved best when done weeks in advance, not many months. Thus our planning does not have the same urgency as one who needs to book nice hotel reservations months in advance. Though, we do need to sit and plan where we want to be and how to get from place to place.