I am breaking my resolve not to blog or write any columns about the FIFA World Cup once it actually started. The only column I’d written thus far was published a few weeks ago and it was about the world cup songs. I had decided not to write about soccer here for the same reasons I don’t like to write about it at all: I can be completely irrational when it comes to a few things, and soccer is one of them. Maybe I am too vain to leave traces of my utter madness in cyberspace, even though I know that rationality is over-rated, etc, etc. And you cannot really be lukewarm about soccer – you either walk away or feel too much.
It is no secret that football fans – or soccer supporters, if you’re South African – are a fickle and temperamental bunch. This is clear from the responses to losing teams generally. More recently, Bafana supporters were seen leaving before the end of the SA team’s match against Uruguay and English fans booed their team after a draw with Algeria, in what was the dullest match played thus far, in my book.
I went to the World Cup Opening match with my mother, who is the biggest and most consistent supporter I have ever known, my partner, who is another serious soccer fan, and our child, who loves balls and teams in yellow (and reads these as Bafana Bafana even when they are Sundowns, Chiefs or Brazil) and blows a vuvuzela better than many adults.
I was as sick as the proverbial dog, but pumped full of antibiotics which I usually avoid like the plague, was quite prepared to risk collapsing as soon as the game was over. It was worth all the money and the legal drugs and more. I enjoyed myself thoroughly: loved the game, felt the whole gamut of feelings that come with watching a soccer game where the stakes are high, was impressed by how many Mexican fans turned up even though it was obviously yellow Bafana terrain, and loved the stadium. I may have soccer loving DNA (courtesy of my mother), but I generally am not a big fan of stadiums because they usually come with significant hassle. Soccer City was pretty impressive: beautiful, masterfully designed so that all amenities were easily accessible and to avoid bottle necks (during half time, exits, especially in the women’s loos, at the boerewors and other food and drinks stalls), etc. I also really liked the fact that the opening game was in Orlando for a whole range of other obvious reasons as well.
Yes, I would have been much happier if my team had actually won, rather than drawing with Mexico. There were obvious missed opportunities. Teko Modise, no matter how many groupies he has that are willing to defend him, could have played a much better game. I know he has apologised for not playing well against Uruguay, but he was not exactly in top form against Mexico either. (Okay, it happens!) Steven Pienaar could have had a lot more support from team mates, although the guy next to me had no patience for Pienaar, so I know that we may watch the same game, but we actually don’t always share the irritations. And I am not going to make excuses for him in the Uruguay match, where he seemed to disappear.
Still on the Opening Match 2010 I am now even more partial to Siphiwe Tshabalala and Itumeleng Khune than I already was (they also play for my other team – Kaizer Chiefs).
And, yes, I despaired after the second match with Uruguay. I am not entirely over my despair, but supporters really did not have to leave the match before it was officially over. I think it is important to support your team regardless of the performance. I think this even though I “stop” watching Chiefs when they are on a bad perfomance streak. I have also been known to “stop” watching Bafana games for months at a time.
So, I am going to resist my boycotts and continue watching more soccer than is good for anybody over the next few weeks. I have got it so bad that I am even watching re-runs of matches I have already seen.
And I am still going to wear my Bafana shirts and root for them against France. Hey, Western European teams are not doing to great in this tournament, so a suporter can hope. Sometimes I think that the reason Bafana lose when they do is a shortage of confidence that leads to fewer chances, less aggression, playing defensive games (that sometimes concede too many goals in any event, and so are not very effective defensive games). In the game against France, I am hoping for none of this lacklustre defensive game nonsense and a team that plays like it has nothing to lose and all the world to gain. And goals! I am not interested in that self-comforting “the boys played well” post-game talk without goals. For one thing, it is loser talk. Playing well is all well and fine, but this supporter wants goals from her team.