South Africa-bound

Posted: June 15, 2010 in football, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Tickets? Check. Passport? Check. Bullet-proof vest? Well hopefully not … On Thursday I set out for South Africa for the World Cup and it’s hard not to feel like a kid at Christmas.

This will be my fourth mundial having previously been to USA 94, France 98 and Germany 06 but the anticipation never wanes. And experiencing the event in Africa for the first time makes it extra special.

I’ll be traveling with the usual trio of footy-mad mates and we’re lucky enough to have 10 matches lined up in 14 days, kicking off with the mouth-watering prospect of Brazil v Ivory Coast in Soccer City on June 20. We’ll also see Germany v Ghana, Spain v Chile amongst others and, if the group seedings go to plan, England in the round of 16 in Rustenburg and a possible Argentina v Germany quarter-final in Cape Town. I can’t wait – although we will have to spend three days getting there first via New York and Barcelona (don’t ask – it was the only way we could get there for under $1500).

It’s not just the soccer I’m looking forward to, there’s an emotional element too. Apartheid was the most important political and ethical cause for many Brits of my generation and during the 1970s and 1980s I went on many anti-apartheid and Free Mandela marches and concerts across London. When I came to Bermuda in the early 1980s I was surprised that even among black Bermudians there seemed to be very little awareness of the South African struggle. Had the expats in the media not raised red flags about the the likes of rebel rugby player Peter Winterbottom coming to play here, I think it would have passed unnoticed by many locals.

So to finally go to a free South Africa, having lived to see Nelson Mandela not only freed but to have become president and one of the world’s most loved and respected figures, is going to be very special. Yes, the country still clearly has problems but I am excited to have the chance to experience it first-hand at last and share in the exuberance with which South Africans of all races seem to have embraced the World Cup.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about the trip given the high level of crime and violence. However I am reassured by the experiences of friends who have visited in recent months and raved about a trouble-free trip of a lifetime. I’m also counting on the caution and risk averseness that comes with being a middle-aged father of three to keep me out of trouble!

Whatever happens, it promises to be quite an adventure. I’ll be sharing some of the experiences online as I go of course. You can follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/gib.chris

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