Saturday 26th of June 2010, 11.25h
This morning as I look at my World Cup Calendar I can now see the group stage points filled in and the next fixtures for Round 16. I have been watching most of the World Cup games avidly so far which has been the reason why there have been no posts on the blog for the past two weeks. During these past two weeks I have also been to two different stadiums to watch both my countries play live at the World Cup. It is the first time I have ever been to a World Cup game and possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Spain 0 – 1 Switzerland – 16/06/2010, Durban
The road trip to Durban on Monday the 14th of June never materialised. Patricia and I were expecting the tickets for the game to arrive from Switzerland on Monday morning. The morning and afternoon of the 14th of June passed and we still had no sign of the tickets. We decided to change our plan and book a flight for Wednesday morning, the day of the game, hoping the tickets would arrive some time on Tuesday. We were quite worried that we would not be in the stadium for the game. To our immense joy, the tickets arrived early Tuesday morning and so the adventure was still alive.
We woke up at 4am on Wednesday morning and got a taxi to Cape Town airport. I have never had to get a plane just to go and see a football match. The whole experience was amazing. Being at the airport at 6am and crossing paths with Honduras and Chile fans, also on their way to a football match singing their songs as loud as they could was all part of the pre-match excitement. The pre-match nerves started to kick-in very early on in the day.
Patricia is the person with whom I have gotten on best with in the volunteer house. Her being Swiss and me being Spanish ensured there was good banter between us before the match and also made people we met laugh when we told them we were going to the game together, like for example the taxi driver on the way to the airport. Would we come back on good terms?, he asked. With Spain being favourites I made my feelings clear, Spain would walk away with a 5-0 victory. Being the underdog, Patricia kept silent and nearly had the last laugh (I say nearly because although Switzerland won the game against Spain, they got knocked out of the World Cup last night as they were unable to beat Honduras).
Seven hours after having left Cape Town airport we found ourselves outside Durban football stadium, very anxious for the game to begin and enjoying the pre-match atmosphere. We came across two Swiss guys who told us they had left Switzerland on the 1st of March and had driven by car all the way to South Africa for the World Cup, an unbelievable story! They would be sitting a few rows in front of us, which led Patricia to inform me that she thought we would be sitting in the Swiss section of the stadium, surrounded by Swiss fans. She was right.
As we wondered around the stadium before kick-off something which amazed me was seeing so many Spain fans. I could clearly see that these Spain fans were not Spanish, they all seemed to be Indian, wearing Spain shirts, waving Spain flags, blowing Vuvuzelas with the words Spain on them and had their faces covered in Spain colours. At the time I didn’t really understand what was going on. I have since found out that Durban is home to a big Indian community and the Indians seem to support the team that is favourite to win, which led them all to being Spanish for the day.
We made our way into the stadium about an hour and a half before kick-off. The stadium in Durban is amazing, nothing like what I have seen before. Obviously it is a new stadium built for the World Cup. The massive arch that stands at the top of the stadium really does make it look spectacular. As the fans started to enter the stadium, Patricia and I were being surrounded by Swiss fans and the odd Indian with his Spain flag. There was a little section in the stadium of “real” Spain fans but the rest of the stadium was overtaken by the South African Indians. That night after the game I met two Spanish guys from Barcelona (Catalans and Real Madrid fans!) who were in South Africa just for the World Cup. They had told me that Marca, a Spanish newspaper, had reported there would be about 5,000 Spanish people in the stadium. They were sat in the Spain section of the stadium and said there were only about 500 Spanish people in the stadium, a very poor turnout by the Spaniards for their first game at the World Cup in which they are favourites to win.
I was well into my pre-match nerves as we stood in the stadium watching the players warm up. The game started. I could still see empty seats, something which really did irritate me knowing what a big football following there is in South Africa by the citizens who do not have the funds to be able to go and watch a World Cup game.
Spain started the game dictating play as we all expected. Every time Spain missed a chance I would shout in anger towards the players. Some of the Swiss fans sat next to me looked at me bemused, probably thinking to themselves what I was doing in this section of the stadium. I was so nervous I decided I would take pictures of the match in action once Spain had scored their first goal. That moment never arrived and I have no pictures of the game in action. That will teach me for next time!
Spain lost the game1-0 to a pretty lucky goal scored by the Swiss after having dominated the entire game. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was so upset. I have watched thousands of games over the years and have always hated watching my team lose. Only three months earlier I was at the Nou Camp when my Arsenal team got ridiculed 4-1 by the mighty Barcelona. This time I was watching most of the Barcelona players that beat Arsenal that night play for Spain and this time I was cheering them on, only to have gotten the same gut-wrenching feeling of watching my team lose. The pain is worse when you watch the game through your own eyes rather than through a TV screen. The moment Switzerland scored their goal, as I looked around the stadium I witnessed the so called Spain fans, the Indians, waving their Spain fans celebrating. It is quite funny now I think back but I certainly wasn’t amused at the time. I was also deeply hurt by the Spain players at the end of the game. All those fans that traveled so far just to watch Spain play at the World Cup, albeit 500 Spaniards, and the players didn’t have the dignity to applaud the fans as they walked off the field, defeated by the Swiss.
As much as I hate losing, and being surrounded by the opposing team fans celebrating, I couldn’t help but feel a little joy in watching Patricia celebrate. She was just as nervous as me throughout the game, suffering probably even more as Spain were toying with Switzerland just unable to get a breakthrough. When Switzerland scored she celebrated it about 10 seconds after the goal had gone in probably thinking it was going to be chalked off for one reason or another. The only time I heard her speak throughout the game was on 90 minutes when the fourth referee showed that there would be 5 minutes of injury time. She shoved me pointing to the sideline and said “5 minutes?”. I just nodded, desperate for my team to find a goal from somewhere. The final whistle went and she started jumping and shouting. I was gutted that my team and country let me down. Patricia saw I was upset. She asked if I wanted us to leave the stadium but I couldn’t take that moment away from her. I watched as the Swiss were going mad that they had beaten Spain for the very first time in their history. We ended up being some of the last fans to leave the stadium.
Patricia and I spent the next day wondering around the beach front in Durban, watched Argentina spank South Korea 4-1 in the Durban Fanzone and then made our way back to Cape Town.
England 0 – 0 Algeria – 18/06/2010, Cape Town
The next day it was England’s turn. I was still upset about the Spain game but I tried my utmost to lift my spirits and cheer on the three lions. Once again I went to the stadium early to get a feel of the pre-match atmosphere. The main port of Cape Town is called the Waterfront and is an area where the wealthier people normally hang out. The Waterfront consists of a big shopping centre and some bars surrounding it. On Friday the 16th of June, the Waterfront was taken over by English fans, it was like a siege. Contrary to the Spanish fans, the English fans had traveled to South Africa in numbers, as they always do.
Everywhere you looked you would see somebody wearing an England shirt with a beer in hand. The Algerians were non-existent. Watching the England fans I started to get a feeling of having seen all of this before, just in a different part of the world. England fans drinking and singing songs. There were a lot of fans singing songs that I really do not condone. These kind of people (and their culture) are a small reason why I cannot see myself living in England ever again. It is all good and fun to sing songs about your team or country but all the singing seemed to be directed towards the German people and the two World Wars the Allies won, without a German person even being present. I didn’t like what I was seeing so I got some food and made my way to the stadium early.
I got to the stadium a couple of hours before the game and then started to get the buzz once again. The Green Point stadium in Cape Town is also spectacular. Everything just looked so new and swanky, everything was made for a great spectacle. The game ended 0-0. There is not much I can say about the 90 minutes of play as I don’t think I have ever been so subdued. It was probably the worst game I have ever seen in my life. I cannot believe that those England players put on an England shirt to represent their country at the World Cup (I tell you it is every little boys dream) and perform the way they did. It looked like they really didn’t give a damn about the match. Once again I was left disappointed. In the two games I went to watch both my countries play, I didn’t even get to see them score one goal in 180 minutes of football. As the final whistle went I was part of the 60 odd thousand England fans booing the England players down the tunnel. Once again, no applause from the England players in appreciation to the effort the fans made to be there in South Africa. Utterly disappointing.
After the game ended I had to make my way back home. After looking for a taxi and not getting any luck I ended up walking all the way home from the centre of Cape Town, a 45 minute walk. It was a little bit scary considering Cape Town is one of the most dangerous cities in the world and I was wondering the streets alone at midnight. It also gave me a chance to contemplate the debate about my nationality.
Before going to both these games I wondered to myself if my life long saga of being Spanish , English or Maltese would be solved with the emotions I would feel towards my countries playing in their respective match. I have never been to an international match before and thought that this experience might make me sway one way or another. It didn’t. When I meet new people and they ask me where I am from I sometimes feel a little stupid having to explain the whole story as to me being Spanish (mother), Maltese (father) and English (place of birth and mother language). I have always and will always support Spain over England in football, just as Arsenal is in my heart as my club team, that will never change.
I don’t have that unity to one country like for example the South Africans. You see them when they sing their national anthem and you get a sense of unity that it gives you goosebumps. In South Africa I feel more Spanish than English but when in Spain I also feel like an outcast. It is something I have installed in my head now that it will always be this way and it won’t change. In a way, although I wish I had this sense of unity towards one country, I am proud to have such a diverse culture that makes me the person I am.
I got home safe and sound.