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Before Kick Off


South Africa is so excited it can’t spell. SOCCA FEVA has gripped the nation.

Of course it’s been going on for a while – the initial euphoria of selection for the World Cup quickly became an almost religious reverence for ‘2010’, a date when all things would change for South Africa. Forever. The showers of gold have not yet materialized, but nonetheless, the next few weeks are likely to be a little different from usual…

The solid gold World Cup trophy has been on a tour of the country, including a venue in Khayelitsha where, incidentally, Alfie’s nanny Thandi helped to make the curtains for the display, thereby making me feel intimately connected to Sepp Blatter.

I’ve even been watching the football. South Africa’s team, Bafana Bafana, are not exactly considered tigers of the world stage but currently remain unbeaten for their last 11 matches.  Last week they beat Colombia 2-1, and last night thrashed Guatemala 5-0. It’s extremely exciting, and if the enthusiasm, fancy dress and noise of their fans help, then Bafana Bafana should do well.

Then there’s the visitors, of which at least 370 000 are expected to descend on Cape Town – less than at first predicted, but it seems numbers have been affected by Europe suffering one of its coldest winters for decades. Apparently now that the sun has come out, nobody wants to leave. But winter days here can average around 18˚C, so my advice is to pack a bit of sunscreen as well as a coat and scarf. As a wise man once said, there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

Incidentally Nandos has caused a satisfying amount of outrage with a series of great adverts urging South Africans not to disappoint tourists’ expectations but for women to go around bare-breasted, men to line up a few more wives and everyone to carry things on their heads. Check them out on YouTube.

Then there’s the physical stuff like the stadiums (yes I know, stadia, but come on) which have been built and tried and tested and frankly look amazing. Transport hubs have been upgraded and created and whole new systems introduced. New bridges have been built, hotels have sprung up and there’s a fabulous ‘Fan Walk’ from the city centre out to the stadium in Greenpoint.

Auditions have been held for buskers, from imbongis (folk poets/ praise singers) to jugglers, magicians, rappers, rock bands, opera singers, drummers and dancers.  Buildings have had facelifts, roadsides have been primped and flowerbeds tweaked across town, security has been beefed up, information centres established and lots of acronyms made up for things that people didn’t understand in the first place.

There’s a 31 day party planned in the International Convention Centre as Cool Britannia take over the whole venue from noon each day to the early hours of the morning, bringing in the likes of Fatboy Slim and Dizzee Rascal to perform to thousands each night. There’s Fan Parks dotted across the city offering huge screens, live music from top SA bands and DJs, laser light displays, food stalls and yes, plenty of booze.

There are more themed spectator zones in the Waterfront – indoor, outdoor and even on the roof. There’s also a 50m high fully-illuminated observation wheel going up, recently pinched from the Champs Elysees in Paris.

I still know nothing about football, but I’m desperately excited about all the trimmings, and I’m planning to explore every aspect. But other than that everything will of course carry on as normal. Just… um … apologies in advance if I don’t answer emails straight away or if my voice is a little hoarse on the phone.

Now where’s my vuvuzela?



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