US – Slovenia Recap

June 18

Woke up to no power, no hot water and a very cold, non-insulated room. Not happy. It wouldn’t bother me if we were paying typical ZA pricing but World Cup pricing is beyond a rip off and should at least guarantee some hot water in WINTER. When your room in a village in Ghana is nicer then the place you are paying high nightly rates for, that is a problem. The morning was only made worse by our cold eggs and beans for breakfast.

We had an hour or so to kill before the park and rides opened for the game, so we quickly packed up and headed off to the Rosebank Mall to walk around and warm up our chilled bodies. I took advantage of our sun drenched parking spot to paint a flag and USA on my face.

Arriving at the ConHill Park & Ride we pulled up, just like we did in Rustenburg, expecting to show our match tickets and drive in. The security guard at the gate told us that we needed a separate payed ticket just for parking and directed us up the hill to the Joburg theater. After circling around and finding absolutely no where to park to run and find the special parking tickets, we headed back to the park and ride for more detailed instructions. Alex pulled into an alley across from the P&R, so I had to figure out how to maneuver my way across 6 lanes of traffic. While attempting to watch for a clearing in both directions a guy comes up with the common South African phrase “Howzit my friend?”. I know that most people do genuinely care to say hello but there are certain situations where that phrase tugs at me the wrong way because I know it is going to come with strings attached. Can I have the shirt you are wearing? Or let me help you find something even if you don’t want my help and then I will expect you to pay me for my services. Well this was one of those moments. I just wanted to get safely across the street on my own. Which I did, but with the guy following behind me. Once across I went up to a different security guard to ask for more descriptive directions, luckily right as I was explaining what I needed to find a BMW pulled up and the woman upon hearing my story said they had an extra ticket and would be glad to sell it to me for equal price. She assured me that she didn’t want to make money off the ticket she just wanted to get her money back. Upon hearing this exchange the guy who followed me across the street asked if I was sure I wanted to pay to park in here, that leaving it across the street in the alley where Alex was currently sitting was safer. Yes, I told him, wanting the ticket. No way would I ever fall for or believe that leaving our car in an alley alone was safer then parking it among several hundred cars in a FIFA run P&R.

Ticket problem situated, thanks to the very helpful people in the BMW. We parked and walked to the bus pick up. Our journey to the stadium was rather entertaining. A couple of guys in the front started a USA chant which almost everyone on the bus participated in. To be fair they proceeded with a Slovenia chant. “When I say Slo you say venia” well at one point the guy yelled SLO and no one responded the bus erupted in laughter. The USA supporters, myself included, were still floating in the clouds that this would be an easy win, if only we knew then what we do now it might not have been so funny.

Unlike the England game red, white and blue dominated the crowd. USA supporters were in a genuinely good mood believing that the team would score several goals to improve their chances of moving past the group phase. Despite USA enthusiasm I think the Slovenians were even more ecstatic. Win or lose their team qualified for the first time in 8 years for the World Cup and they were going to enjoy every minute of it.

Our seats were three rows from the front at field level and near the corner of the stadium, so we captured some great corner kicks. I’m not sure why but we keep getting seats with a small pocket of American surrounded on all sides by the opposing team. For the England game it was a little scary, but for this game it only added to the excitement and anxiety. There were no major issues with the crowd, except for the FIFA volunteers and a man with devil horns and old fashion airplane goggles continually standing in places that blocked our view of the far side of the field. Several times security came to remove the man, but he always found his way back down. It was frustrating to say the least to have the continual disruption when we payed more money for our seats and he payed less to then put a damper on our experience. However, it was just as much securities fault for not just removing him from the stadium after the second or third or fourth time.

The first half of the game was truly disappointing and only made worse by the continuous chanting from the Slovens that surrounded us. I went in to the match with so much faith in our team after watching them tie with England only to see them be dominated by a country that is approximately the size of New Jersey. My walk to the bathroom during half time required me to pass through the sea of Slovenians were I was continually reminded by two fingers in a peace sign symbol that they scored two goals. One guy told me “it’s ok, sometimes these things just happen”. I have never felt so heated by a comment at a sporting event. I wanted to tell him that “No these things don’t just happen, people make it happen. If we lose to your team the US is out of the World Cup!”

The second half was a combination of pride, disappointment and frustration. When the US team came back to tie 2-2 the crowd went wild. People were jumping up and down, hugging strangers, you could see stars and stripes blowing high in the air above the crowd and the sound of the vuvzela was mixing with the chants of USA, USA. Our disappointment came in the 87th minute when #10 Landon Donovan was allotted a free kick, which he brilliantly crossed into the six yard box to be slotted home by Maurice Edu to provide the US with a one goal lead over the Slovenes or so we thought. Celebration with more enthusiasm then the previous two goals erupted throughout the stands as US supporters whole heartily believed they had taken the lead, but soon enthusiasm was replaced by pure confusion. From our end of the field it was difficult to tell what exactly was going on. We heard through the crowd as it was “telephoned” down from that side of the stadium that the whistle had been blown because it was offside. Eventually we found out that it had nothing to do with an offside decision, but with a foul that occurred during the kick, but we didn’t find out more information about the situation until after the game.

As the game came to a close I wanted to celebrate our come back, but at the same time I felt like the US team should never have been in that position in the first place, so cheering didn’t seem like the appropriate reaction. Instead I took a deep breath and was satisfied with the fact that we didn’t lose to Slovenia and were still in the World Cup. If we had I lost I would have cried and I don’t cry over sports.

The return trip to the park and ride was significantly more organized then Rustenburg. To begin with we walked a block to the bus instead of 3 km and they had a line of 5 or 6 busses, just for our P&R, waiting for people as the game ended. As we made our way through the line to the front we were asked if standing was fine otherwise we would need to wait for another bus. We got on the bus. Apparently South Africans/other internationals have never lived in DC where finding a place to stand on public transportation during rush hours is considered lucky. In comparison to DC Metro being the only ones standing on the bus was an easy ride.

Dreading our return to Gemini Backpackers we went to Nino’s at The Zone to watch the England vs. Algeria game and have dinner.

Tomorrow we are going to watch the Springbok’s play Italy in Witbank and returning to Elna’s, thank goodness!

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2 thoughts on “US – Slovenia Recap

  1. hey Alex… can I get your shirt? haha. At least they pulled it back after halftime

  2. Actually an Argentinian offered to trade it for a Messi kit c.’06, but no deal. Its the only one I brought and every black South African has asked me to leave it for them when I go home…

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