21st-22nd June, Durban, Sea, Sun and Socc....Football!
So this is the third time I have written the blog due to writing to much and not keeping an eye on the amount of time left at the internet cafe so apologies if it reads at all laboured! We touched down in Durban mid-morning feeling absolutely terrible. The previous night we had been in Soccer City being treated to a footballing show curtousey of the Samba boys Brazil. The game was epic but the attempt to sleep at the airport, fly and then get to our hostel was quite an effort! We were happy to be leaving J'burg and seeing other areas of South Africa!
When we arrived we were instantly more impressed with Durban than our previous destination. The airport was newly built and their was a shuttle service wwhich for a modest price dropped us off at the doorstep of our home for the next 4-5 nights - Banana BAckpackers. In fact on the shuttle we met a guy from Chicago and in the 30 minute trip he managed to ask out and get shut down by the first female he saw - those americans have got some balls! Anywho Banana was a definate upgrade from Rosebank with two tv rooms one of which was open to the elements, and all the normal facilities one would expect to find.
Unfortunately we were early for check in so we dropped our bags off at reception and went to explore. We were staying just outside the city centre which was a mere 5-10 minute walk (depending on whether Silver was with us!) to the beach. In fact the beach was actually the home of the official fanfest meaning you could watch the games on the beach with a drink or some food from the tents which was awesome. The city of Durban itself was a winner for me. It's tagline for the city is the warmest place to be at the world cup and certainly throughout the duration of our stay this was definately true. The city seemed atleast for the world cup to be focused around the beachfront and this was where most the football fans and touritsts could be found. I felt more at ease in Durban and I think the other two were the same, it was easier to relax and enjoy yourself compared to the nightmare that was J'burg. So on our initial wander we eventually found ourselves at the beach where we proceeded to sit, enjoy the weather and in my case fall fast asleep. Infact if it wasn't for the other two waking me up latter in the day I'm pretty sure I'd have slept through all the way til the following morning!
Nap over it was time to check in, put down our bags and have a nap - we were exhausted. Our naptime meant we unfortunately missed Portugal a.k.a the Cristiano Ronaldo show stuff North Korea 7-0 - damit! We did manage to rise from our slumber for long enough to see Spain turn their tournament around, but soon afterwards we admitted defeat and settled in for the night.
The following day was a massive day. The hosts of the tournament SOuth Africa had a last gasp game against the dissapointing outfit of the french who in the build up were in utter turmoil after an ill-timed revolution. Furthermore we were due to see our first game in the beautiful Durban stadium - Nigeria vs South Korea. We decided we would watch the Bafana Bafana game from the beachside fanfest, and afterwards take the 30 minute walk up the promenade to the stadium! It seemed we were not the only ones who had this plan the whole beachfront was packed with supporters yielding Korean, Nigerian and South Africa flags and of course their vuvuzelas. We were all cheering South Africa and Korea in the later game we would be seeing! Silver actually had the Korea flag painted on his face for the game. The Bafana Bafana game was a good game to watch and the local fans went crazy when they took the lead, and even crazier when they extended it! We actally saw a French supporter in full jersey flags and facepaint remove his France shirt at half time to reveal a South African shirt underneath and he proceeded to cheer for Bafana in the second half - yes the French were that bad! Despite churning out a 2-1 win against ze French South Africa went out at the hands of Uruguay and MExico (two of my more favoured sides). The home supporters spirits however were not dampened the respectable showing against the previous tournament finalists providing the fuel to keep the South African football passion burning until the end of the tournamnt.
With the first game over we moved with the crowd towards the stadium. Durban's stadium was a lovely sight and was close to rivalling Soccer City as my favourite stadium of the tournament! The arch was a nice touch and despite the rather strange gap between the stadium's stands at the one end the accoustics were very good. Our seats for the game were a little high but almost bang on the halfway line. The game was one of my favourite games I went to. We all were supporting the Koreans who secured a place in the round of 16 after earning the 2-2 draw in the game. We became rather fond of the Korean right back who although being at fault for the first goal worked tirelessly down his flank - in doing so earning the nickname of Mulenga from one of our group (no prizes for guessing who!)! Furthermore we took quite a lot of pleasure in basking in the lazyness of Nigeria's strike force which contained a 4-something Kanu who when in possession of the ball looked ok but his best days were a long long way behind him, and the more impressively lazy Yakubu. When you're the lazier player upfront and your strike partner is KAnu you've got problems. Yakubu barely ran all game - apart from when he saw Obefembi MArtins warmup! His game consisted of missing a 5 yard open goal, and stroking in an equalizing penalty - very dissapointing Yak maybe your wallets slowing you down? The highlight though of the whole occassion was the Korean fans - they were unbelievable. From the first to the last whislte they sang, danced , waved their flags, and banged their drums. In terms of culture you can't get much more of a polar opposite matchup than Nigeria and Korea to me. The Nigerian fans amused us to with over the top gestures to substitute a player after a poor touch after 5 minutes of the game kicking off. One Nigerian man sat to our right actually began preaching for the best part of 15 minutes when the game was tied at 1-1, as soon as he took his seat again the Koreans got a freekick which they scored off much to the mans dissapointment!
After the game we made our way back to the hostek where we began chatting to a few fans who also went to the game. In particular we chatted to three Korean fans named Tom (originally from UK but now teaches English in Korea), Sunhee (Korean girl studying in London), and Haena (A Korean girl living in Turkey with an American accent due to schooling in Germany!?!?). We talked about the game for a while before Tom told us about his favourite perk of being a English teacher in Korea...apparently they get o give the kids English names. He told us how he had named some of his students after ninja turtles - he had a guy named shredder in his class! This almost tempts me into doing a TEFL, almost! Tom made his way to bed earlier than the rest. We ended up going to bed at 3.40am after lengthy chats with Sunhee and Haena. Both the girls were really nice and friendly and wanted to watch the England game which was taking place the following evening and we invited both of them to join us at the fanpark. Haena infact was travelling with an American friend from school named Tim as he wanted to go to the World Cup to, but he barely said a word to us the whole time we were at the hostel - apparently he didn't like meeting new people. As the American game ran simulataneously with the England game we offered for her to join the three of us plus Sunhee the following day if she wished. Satisfied after watching our first game in Durban we retired to bed nervous of England's massive game against SLovenia!
DC, Silver, Scott x