Spain – Champions of the World

Wednesday 14th of July 2010, 21.41h

It is very difficult to express my happiness in words. Watching my country win the World Cup for the first time in it’s history is amazing, but being in the stadium to watch it with my own eyes is unbelievably mesmerizing. I only knew I would be going to the World Cup final three days before the game and ever since I got back from Johannesburg it has felt like a dream I have just woken up to.

The day after Spain defeated Germany in the semi-final I woke up with the idea of me trying to get a ticket to the game, knowing it would be practically impossible. The World Cup final had been sold out for months. It was my day-off work so I spent the morning surfing the Internet trying to see if there was anything available. There were some tickets for sale, for about 750 pounds. The problem was that the ticket was either in USA or England and thus would never have arrived to me on time before the game. I half-heartedly made my way to the Fifa Ticket Centre in Cape Town city centre to see if they had any tickets available there, knowing my chances of being at the game were very slim. At the Fifa Ticket Centre I found a Uruguayan selling a ticket. I was very fortunate to have been there at that time. I managed to negotiate a price with him and convinced him to sell me the ticket (there were other people there also interested in buying the same ticket). Unbelievably, I found myself on the bus, on my way home, with a World Cup final ticket in my pocket.

The next day I had to make plans of getting to Johannesburg for the game. I wanted Johannesburg to be an adventurous celebration. I am on a limited budget here and already had to dig very deep into my savings to ensure I could get a ticket to the game. The cheapest way for me to get to Joburg was on a 19 hour bus journey. I hadn’t booked any accommodation contemplating not needing it if Spain won as I would be celebrating all night long. I would then be back on the bus on Monday morning making my way back to Cape Town.

The day before the game, Saturday the 10th of July, I embarked on a 19 hour bus journey from Cape Town to Johannesburg, with arrival time expected to be 6am on the day of the game. The bus journey was long and tiring. The bus was not very comfortable and all the films they kept putting on froze half way through. On the bus I managed to meet a Chilean guy called Raul. He was very friendly and helpful. He had already spent some time in Johannesburg as he was following the Chile football team throughout the World Cup. I told him my plans of going to the game and not booking any accommodation. He managed to change my mind. He told me there were lots of places in Johannesburg that were no-go areas, too dangerous, and let alone being by myself. He advised me on getting some accommodation at the University of Johannesburg as he was told it was quite cheap and had been set up specifically for the tourists here for the World Cup.

The bus arrived in Johannesburg on time. It was still dark. My new Chilean friend was supposed to be going to the airport to continue his travels but wanted to wait till it was daylight to get the bus he needed to the airport. I had no clue where I was going so I decided to wait with him for a couple of hours in Park Station till the sun came out, I had time to kill. In the meantime, he gave me some more advice on the city and how I could find the university, although he wasn’t completely sure as he had never been there.

During those two hours of waiting for the sun to come out I was quite taken back by what I was seeing. Before coming to South Africa I was already aware that Johannesburg was quite a dangerous city. Gee, the girl who lives in the volunteer house with us, originally from Joburg had warned me about this and gave her brother’s number, who lives there, in case I needed it. The area surrounding Park Station is said to be a pretty “dangerous” part of Johannesburg. There were a lot of intimidating looking people walking around. Raul and I seemed to be the only white people in the station. I do not have a single bad word to say about the people there as nothing happened, and it is not their fault I felt so uncomfortable. It was more me thinking that it was somewhere I shouldn’t have been, I felt like I was trespassing an area where I didn’t belong. However, I ensured I put on a brave face and continued my adventure. If I was going to get mugged or beaten up than so be it, but I wouldn’t let the colour of my skin get in the way of me needing to get somewhere and needing to stop and ask people for advice along the way. Deep down I thought that South Africa has come a long way since Apartheid and if something was to happen to me it wouldn’t just be because I looked like an outcast.

The sunlight came out. It was time to say goodbye to my new friend and make my way towards the University of Johannesburg. Raul pointed out the direction I needed to go to get on the mini-bus, that he thought would take me to the university, but I still had to ask around. As I walked in that direction I saw a half-abandoned car park with a couple of min-buses inside. I heard some people talking. I walked into the dark car park and the first thing I saw was a man holding a newspaper with what seemed to be human manure on it. The place obviously didn’t smell great and I really don’t know what that guy was doing with that in his hand. I asked for the bus that went to the university but got no response. I then realised they were tramps. As I carried on walking down the road I saw a policeman buying sweets from a little stall. I told him what I was looking for and he told me to carry on walking down the road and I would find a bus station. After asking a couple more people on the way I finally found a bus station with a mini-bus that was apparently going to a campus of Johannesburg University, although I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure it was the one I was looking for. I decided to take a chance and get on that bus. Just as I got onto the mini-bus I looked out of the window and saw a man get into another mini-bus with a saw in his hand. I really did wonder what he was going to use that for. I told the driver to let me know when we would be at the university so that I could get off. I made it to the university safe and sound. I must say the people on the street were very helpful, although the experience was a little scary.

After half an hour of wondering the university campus, which seemed to be deserted, I finally found the place where they were providing accommodation for the people going to the football match. The accommodation was very basic but it was all I needed. The university would be providing transport to the stadium at 13h and they would be bringing us back after the game. I found myself having to kill another 3 hours before we would make our way to Soccer City. I got some lunch and kept on pinching myself to see if I really was going to Spain’s first ever World Cup final!

It was time for us to make our way to the stadium. There were seven other guys also staying at the university and going by bus to the game. I got talking to four English guys and and an Irish man. The other two were Dutch. The English guys were what I call mad football fans. They go to all their club games every season. They went to the previous World Cup final in Germany, between France and Italy, and they have been to all the World Cups since 1994. The Irish guy was even more impressive, he had been to all the World Cups since 1990. I was in awe. They had reserved their tickets to this final two years ago. I was amazed to be hearing some of their stories. They were also impressed with some of my statistics. I told them that if Spain won the World Cup they would be the first country in the history of the World Cup to have won the World Cup after having lost their first game. This World Cup would also be the first one that a European country would win outside of the Europe.

We got to the car park and started making our way towards the stadium. It was a good 20 minute walk. Everywhere I looked I could see orange. It was still very early in the day but there was not a Spanish fan in sight, apart from me obviously, wearing my Spain shirt and with my flag tied around my neck. This led to a lot of dutch fans giving me high-fives as I walked past them and looking at me as if to say “where are your fellow countrymen?”. We got to the stadium where there were even more Dutch fans and the odd Spain fan. I couldn’t tell if they were South African Spain fans or actually Spanish. The atmosphere outside the stadium was awesome, although very Dutch. After about an hour of soaking up the Dutch party I made my way into the stadium desperate to see what it looked like inside and where I would be sitting. I got to my seat and was utterly disappointed. I was sitting behind one of the goals, on the second row. I couldn’t have been closer to the players if I had wished. However, when seated in my seat, the cameras that face the pitch blocked a big chunk of my view of the pitch. When standing I had a better view as I could just about see over the cameras, but I knew I couldn’t spend the entire game on my feet. I was quite pissed-off. I had paid a lot of money to get my ticket and make it all the way to the stadium, only to find my view of the match would be restricted. I made my way around the stadium talking to the stewards and some people who worked for Fifa, explained my situation to each one and asked what could be done. Nothing. I really do hate Fifa. They are such a money-orientated organisation. They use the emotions of the game to make as much money as possible from us fans, not giving a damn about anything else. When I read some of the interviews with Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, he comes across as such a hypocrite. I wasn’t going to let this dampen my mood. I was at the World Cup final and I would make sure it would be an unforgettable day.

Time soon flew by and the Closing Ceremony was about to begin. It was spectacular. Everything was just so impressive, the jets taking off just above the stadium, the children dancing on the pitch, the lighting, Shakira and then finally Nelson Mandela making a surprise appearance. The Closing Ceremony didn’t last very long and by the time I knew it the players were on the pitch doing their routine warm-up.

By this time the stadium was full. The TV presenter who works for Tele 5, Iker Casillas’ girlfriend, was on the pitch right in front of me talking into one of the cameras that was blocking my view. There was a small section of Spain fans sat not too far from me. A few hours earlier, just as I got into the stadium I met a Spanish woman from Mallorca. About 15 minutes before Kick-Off, to my surprise, I found this woman grabbing me by the arm and taking me over towards the section of Spain fans where she was sat. She knew I was watching the game alone and said that she wanted me to meet the other Spain fans in the section where she was sitting as she didn’t want me to be alone! There I met Spaniards from all over, Valencia, Jaen, Malaga…We were all singing songs together towards the Cuatro TV channel (the two guys who normally do the news) as they were also on the pitch doing their pre-match commentary.

The game was about to begin and I was forced to go back to my seat to watch the game. The match started with Spain attacking the goal I was behind. The Dutch enforced some very rough tactics which led to a few yellow cards being dished out in the opening 20 minutes. Spain were dictating play as they have done so far in every game they have played in at this World Cup. There were a couple of chances, most notably a Sergio Ramos header, but the half ended goalless. The game was still very much in the balance. Although Spain were dominating, it would take just one counter attack from the Dutch to score the opener and Spain would be on the back foot, just as they were against Switzerland.

Throughout the first half, at every opportunity, I looked behind me to see if I could see any empty seats, with the idea of swapping seats after the first half to ensure I wasn’t having to stand up every two seconds or dodging the cameras in front of me. I spotted an empty seat and quickly made my way there to be ready for the second half to begin. I now had a better view of the game.

The second half started pretty slowly. The longer the game went on the more dangerous the game became for Spain. They seemed to be getting in comfort mode which the Dutch took advantage of. I can’t remember the minute but Robben had a one-on-one chance that Casillas managed somehow to save just in front of my eyes. It was a heart in mouth moment. Holland seemed to be getting more into the game as the half progressed. David Villa did have an unbelievable chance that I do not know how the defender managed to clear off the line. There are things that you see when you are at the stadium that the TV cameras might not show. As the Dutch were getting into the game, and Spain were deserting their nice two touch football, it was Xavi who was waving his hands like a lunatic, getting the players to get back to the game they normally play. For me, he really was the brain behind this magnificent team and although Villa was the goalscorer, Xavi was the main man for Spain. As the 90 minutes were coming to an end penalties came to my mind. I really didn’t want the game to be decided on penalties but thought that if the game did go to penalties, and the penalties would be taken on my side of the pitch, I couldn’t be closer to watching history in the making. I was so close to the pitch I would probably have been able to catch the ball had a player failed to hit the target from the penalty spot!!! The final whistle went with the deadlock still to be broken.

For the entire second half I had a fat Indian guy sat behind me who kept on complaining every time I stood up when there was a goalscoring opportunity. First of all, I had no choice but to stand up as the guy in front of me kept on standing up. Secondly, we were at a football match, the bloody World Cup final. We were not at the cinema or theatre. It is the most natural thing to stand up when your team is about to score. After what I had to put up with for the entire first half, having to dodge cameras, I wasn’t going to back down. I made my feelings clear to him and told him what I thought. He didn’t look impressed. This is something that I have found quite evident throughout the World Cup here in South Africa. There are a lot of people who go to the games but don’t really have that love for the game, or even understand it. Don’t get me wrong, there is a massive following of football here in South Africa, I know because I work in the community, but a lot of the people you find at the stadium have probably never been to a football game before this World Cup, and are there because they have the funds to be there, which in my eyes has been a big shame.

It was time for extra-time to begin. Spain, attacking the goal I was behind, started to dominate again. Cesc was introduced to the game and I think he made Spain’s game a lot more fluent. At this stage I was so so cold and nervous. When I get nervous all the tension goes to my neck, I could really feel the pain. Spain had two really good chances in the first half of extra time. One fell to my favourite player, Cesc. He was set free in front of goal but Stekelenburg somehow managed to save the one-on-one, just as Casillas had done a few moments earlier. Half-time soon came.

There was a South African blonde woman sat next to me. She was frantically taking pictures with a big camera for the whole time I was sat next to her. I think she was there for work. At half-time she asked me if there would be another 15 minutes left to play. I nodded. Surely there are are football loving fans who work as photographers and would do anything to be at the World Cup final taking pictures…

The second half is quite a distant memory. All I remember is the red card, which I couldn’t tell if it was really a red card or second yellow card offense (no replays), and the best moment of the entire day, the 116th minute. Andres Iniesta smashing in the ball on the half volley.

As soon as that goal went in I jumped out off my seat and ran towards the pitch. There was just a big bar, the stewards, all the cameras and a goal post between me and Iker Casillas, who was down on his knees. I was just shouting towards the pitch “somos campeones”, “campeones del mundo” waving my flag in the air. I looked behind me to see people looking towards the pitch and at me. I looked up at the tier above me, where the main section of Spain fans were situated, they were all going berserk. I couldn’t believe it, there was no way Holland would get back into the game with four minutes left and down to ten men. We were the champions of the world! As I made my way back to my seat for the final minutes of the game I was surprised to see people taking pictures of me, in my mad state! A lot of South Africans were supporting Spain on the day, well they were wearing the Spain colours and it was a day out for them, but when Spain scored the goal you could see it didn’t really mean much to them. For me, the moment Spain scored the world stopped. Nothing else existed. It was just me raging in happiness towards the pitch.

The final whistle went. I made my way towards the Spaniards I had been chanting with just before kick-off and we continued our singing and dancing (or just jumping). I hugged everyone I saw in a red shirt. The players on the pitch were all going just as mad, jumping around congratulating each other. By the time I knew it the players were lifting the trophy, which looked so shiny. The players then paraded the Cup half-way round the stadium and went up into the section were all their family members were situated, not too far from me. It was very touching to see how they were embracing their family members. I am sure they have been through a lot of tough times with their family en route to becoming professional footballers. When you win the biggest accolade there is in world football you do really want to share that moment with your loved ones. In that moment I wished I was back in Spain celebrating this victory with my loved ones, although one cannot have everything in life. I was lucky enough to be at the stadium watching a historic moment with my own eyes, so I could live with it!

After the celebrations, the players left the field and I had to make my way back to the bus that was waiting for me to take me back to the university. As much as I would have loved to celebrate all night long in Johannesburg, there wasn’t anywhere I could go. All the Spanish were making their way back to their hotels too. I met up with all the guys back on the bus and they were so happy for me. They saw how elated I was. I hardly had any voice left. We got to the university and I made my way back to my room, feeling on top of the world.

The next day I woke up with a hangover, but a nice one. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I still couldn’t believe the magnitude of what I had witnessed. I had to make my way back to Park Station to get on the bus for another 19 hour journey. The bus ride back to Cape Town was very uncomfortable, but I really didn’t care. My mind was still in Soccer City. I got home at 6am, went back to bed to see if if I would finally wake up from this dream.

11 Comments

Filed under Africa

11 responses to “Spain – Champions of the World

  1. Patricia

    Hi Dani,
    Wow, wow, wow. What shall I say… As I already told you, I like your notes. Always interesting & exciting to read. I’m very happy you got a ticket and saw your team winning. Glad you didn’t have to use Gee’s brothers number… Is Joburg very different to CT? People? Landscape (what you’ve seen in this short time)? Looking forward to seeing pictures.
    Enjoy the kids&CT. Please say hello to everyone. Miss you.
    Patricia

  2. I was waiting for this really long post🙂

    Your neck suffer too much with football, haha!

    Take really care of yourself, squeeze your time left there! Can’t wait to see you to hear all your amazing stories!

  3. flights to rhodes

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  4. marichu

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY BEAUTIFUL DANIEL HAPPY BIRTDAY TO YOU!!!!!
    Twenty six years ago I was the happiest woman on this planet, as soon as I saw you I thought “I´ll never walk alone”.
    My darling I hope you have a fantastic day and a year full of Health, Happiness and above all Love. We will celebrate in style when we will all be together in Malta.
    LOVE YOU ZILLIONS
    MAMAxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  5. Edu

    Happy birthday Palomares!!!

    Enjoy your last days of your adventure in Africa. See you soon mate!!

    P.S: I was with Maria in London yesterday. We went to a fancy restaurant where you use the table as a computer to make your order of food and drinks🙂 Ask her to take you there! (It’s called Inamo)

  6. The coolest restaurant ever, haha, (and expensive, eh, Edu!)

    Couldn’t hear you very well on the phone but I’m thrilled I could talk to you today. I’ll see you in exactly 10 days!

    Per molts d’anys!

    Miss you.

  7. Ruth Brown

    Happy Birthday Dan 26 ehh can’t believe it!!! looking forward to seeing you soon, please let us know at what time you will be arriving as uncle Mark is coming to pick you up. Love you loads XXXX

  8. Thank you for the birthday wishes guys.

    Aunite, no need for uncle to pick me up, I will be going straight from the airport to watch Arsenal play at the stadium with a friend. I will give you a call when I am back in England. Looking forward to seeing you. Love you lots.

  9. Anais

    Hi dan I don’t know if u got my facebook MSG from me and Paula but just wanted to wish u a happy bday again through here just incase u don’t look on ur facebook.hope I
    U had a great day. See u in barca in a few wks love u

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