On Monday I met Martin, he works at the cell phone store where I got my phone turned on. As he was sorting out my phone, we talked a bit, and he told me to call him later in the week for a tour of Soweto. I called him on Thursday evening and we agreed to meet up on Friday morning at his job. For those who might not know, Soweto is short for South West Townships. From the beginning of Joburg, the white population needed black labor, but didn’t want black neighbors. Well before the Apartheid government they tried to push blacks outside the city to their own areas. This includes Indians and anyone else with darker skin. Over a decade after apartheid began, the white population still wasn’t satisfied with the current level of segregation, so the government acquired a large piece of land well outside of the city (to the southwest). They tore down whole neighborhoods inside the city and forced people to move to Soweto. The living conditions were terrible in every possible way imaginable. It is still an area with lots of poverty and challenges. It is mostly proper homes at this point, although there are still a fair amount of shacks made of tin. There is lots more background information to be given about Soweto, but I’ll go on to my experiences.
Martin met me at 11am with his girlfriend Bernadette. We started off toward the public taxis, our first stop was the mall in Soweto. The mall was up to any US standard, unfortunately with American fast food chains as well. The large presence of American businesses is frustrating. SA needs foreign investment to build, I guess I just hope that SA and other countries end up with their fair market share as they develop. We got some biltong, which is dried meet, they dry every type of meat, right now I’m eating dried sausage. I got a South African flag painted on my face, so it was off to his Father’s house to grab the car. We talked to a few people on the way, ran a couple errands once we had the car, met up with his crew, got some beer and food, and we were about 10 minutes late arriving at the fan park we were watch the game at. While we were hanging out around Soweto, everyone was extremely friendly. I took this picture of Sbu in front of his house, he gave me a beer and shared his chicken with me. We got our food across the street from Sbu, many families sell food out of their homes.
I got to talk a lot with Martin and his friends about their lives, ambitions and such. In some ways SA and the US are much different. There is definitely better access to everything in the US, but challenges and concerns are very similar. His friends were great, I enjoyed being them. I am very grateful to them for allowing me to tag along on a day that was so meaningful to them.
The actually match was great fun. There were more people than could physically fit in the fan park. There was no space to move. Most of the crowd was blowing vuvuzelas in different rhythms, small pockets were chanting different things, but if you weren’t in the pocket chanting you couldn’t hear it. It was obvious something different was happening because they would wave the vuvuzelas in the air instead of blowing. When the goal was scored, it was a beautiful explosion, jumping and yelling and blowing and everything else. I was preoccupied with items on the ground, I was worried I might land a beer bottle or other recently dropped garbage as I was jumping and twist my ankle. I survived. In the end everyone felt good with a draw to begin. Both sides earned their point. It was a bit disappointing because most of Mexico’s chances including the goal, were pretty simple mental errors. I guess their nerves affected a bit. I was surprised at how much Mexico exposed themselves to counter-attacks over and over again. So again, in the end it was fair. But the country was robbed of a moment it would have cherished forever. I do not know if a victory in another match could equal what this may have been. Everyone had waited years for their boys to represent on their home, the whole country was ready to explode. It feels like some of that has been released, any victory will be huge, but I don’t think it will match what almost was.
I said goodbye to the Chandlers this morning. I will always be extremely grateful to them, not only for taking care of me, but just as much so for allowing me to get to know them and just the encouragement I received from being part of their family for a week.
Today has been a failure so far. I went to a fan park in joburg to watch the S Korea Greece match, but the fan park was closed for the first match, they were repairing something. So I started to walked up to the other fan park by park station. I figured I’d stop into Park Station and check out some travel schemes for tomorrow. I ended up running into some other Americans, who were puzzled by the Nigeria jersey I was wearing, and the fact that I was up in the air about going to Rustenburg. I went back and forth for a bit, and I did want to see Rustenburg, so I figured this was a good opportunity. So I am currently sitting on a bus in traffic approaching the stadium. We went through some beautiful countryside to get here, but I have been thrown back in with a bunch of egocentric westerners. This bus has been on African time, which is fair, cause we are in Africa, but these two great world powers are not so understanding. Once again, I don’t think the British and US fans are open to being changed by Africa, I sense they are looking for ways to change it. But we should be fine. I hope I can find a place to stay, and then figure out how to get out of here tomorrow. This is the only host city without train service. Ima try to close my eyes for a couple minutes before game time, until tomorrow.
The rest of the bus ride was quite interesting. There was almost mutiny, I think there would have been if anyone else knew how to drive the bus. The bus driver made a couple wrong turns, it turned out he really didn’t know where the stadium was. He also tried to make a stop with us a running very late, I’m not sure why, but he was gently encouraged to continue. The passengers were pretty rude to the bus driver, but at the same time, he was pretty bad and we made not have made the game without their intervention.
The England-US match was pretty average from an entertainment standpoint, England played good football at times, but there wasn’t much imagination from other side. The US are fortunate to come away with a point. I’m not much of a fan, I don’t like when the other fans yell mean things. I have to post what I have, I will try and clean this up and post the pictures soon tomorrow.