Unable to find Wifi, face paint, or pick up our World Cup tickets in Hartsbeesport Alex and I quickly decided to change our plans and drive an hour north to Rustenburg.
Our FIFA information stated the Waterfall Mall had a ticket pick up station, so we headed directly there. Wondering through the mall we stopped at several stores including an Adidas to see if they had any Bafana Bafana jackets because Alex is getting nasty stares for wearing his Springbok fleece. No one had anything. The lady at the Adidas store said that they were expecting to get some either Monday or Tuesday, but it all depended on how the team did in the opening match today. It was disappointing to think they didn’t have enough faith in their team or in the spirit of the World Cup to think that even if Bafana Bafana lost people would still want SA apparel.
After receiving blank stares from several people when we asked where the FIFA ticket pick up station was we finally found a very helpful young lady and the Vodaphone information desk who explained it was at the other end of the mall past the KFC. Well we picked the wrong side of the mall to park because what she neglected to say is that it was not just at the other end of the mall, but outside and around to the backside of the building. As we walked across the gravel parking lot I started to get excited that it was finally happening. We were really going to the World Cup! At the top of the stairs before entering the building two men ran metal detector wands across our bodies and searched our bags for contraband. Other then Alex’s mini flashlight setting off the metal detector wand they found nothing to prevent us from entering, so we proceeded through. At one end of the building there were counters with FIFA representatives assisting ticket holders and at the other side a line of kiosks that no one was using. Alex asked if he could use the kiosk because but we were told they were not working. This was unfortunate as we had planned to video the entire process of getting our tickets. Surrounded by England supporters we were glad to be sporting our Bafana Bafana jerseys instead of USA. When we were finally called up to the counter and proceeded with the ticket process it was not as exciting as I had hoped. There is something different between watching someone else print out your tickets and doing it yourself; it just takes some of the thrill out of the experience. Before handing over our tickets the FIFA representative made sure that we understood that we should guard our tickets with our lives because once we had them in our possession there was no way to replace them if they got lost or stolen. Heeding his warning we carefully packed our precious cargo into a secure pocket of Alex book bag and found our way back to the car.
Driving into Rustenburg we saw large yellow signs indicating the location of the stadium but nothing for the FIFA Fan Park where we planned to go watch the ZA vs Mexico game on the giant jumbo tron. Luckily while standing in line to pick up our tickets two South African girls explained to us where the park and ride location for the Fan Park was located, so we hopped in the car and headed off in search of the parking lot. Arriving at the “parking lot” (a giant field surrounded by a fence) we were a little discouraged by the minimal number of cars. Were people here not utilizing the fan parks? Were they all staying home to watch the game? We found out later that there was a second parking area that was full to capacity.
The traffic directors in the parking lot were not communicating well with one another resulting in confusion about how we should park our car, but once it was settled we immediately got in a bus and were on our way. As we drove through the streets of Rustenburg the Bafana Bafana spirit was all around us- cars displaying ZA flags in the window and on the side mirrors, people with painted faces and crazy hats, and the sound of the vuvuzela. You couldn’t look anywhere without seeing green and yellow. Because so many of the places had sold out of Bafana Bafana apparel many of the girls were sporting Brazil shirts in order to represent the green and yellow.
Entering the Fan Park (FREE of Charge) men and women divide into separate lines for pat down searches and bag checks. Once in the park Alex and I scoped out the situation. At the front of the park there was a stage where a DJ was getting the crowded pumped up for the game and several dance performances took place. To the right of that was the large jumbo tron. In the middle was where everyone stood to watch the game. Making up the back of the park was the Coca-Cola drink stations and a few food stands, no outside food or drink was allowed in the park.
The vibe of the park was so up lifting. Everyone was smiling, dancing and blowing their vuvuzelas. The South Africans had so much faith in Bafana Bafana winning the game, it was fantastic to see and hear. Unfortunately with no goals in the first half the enthusiasms was beginning to wear off. Some people actually pulled out their chairs and blankets and sat down during the beginning of the second half.
At the 57 minute when South Africa scored not only the first goal of the game but the first goal of the 2010 World Cup, the crowd went wild!! No one was sitting anymore. People were jumping up and down and hugging strangers. The vuvuzelas where not only being used to make noise but people were waving them up and down, creating a rainbow of colors above the crowd. A group of young people near us started to do a stomp dance and soon 10 or 15 people were all following the made up steps using their vuvuzela as pointers. The energy and life was back in the SA people. Everyone was confident that SA might actually defeat Mexico.
Unfortunately the hope of so many South Africans was quickly squashed when Mexico scored the final goal of the game bringing the score to 1-1. One of the South African men in front of us that had been part of the stomp dance group took of his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes. Although he was the only person I saw actually cry I know many more were tearing up on the inside.
Despite the draw with Mexico most people left the fan park happy with Bafana Bafana’s performance. I left the fan park thrilled for the South African people and glad that we changed our plans at the last minute and went to Rustenburg because watching the game at a sports bar in white Hartsbeesport would not have been as exciting or inspiring.