The Highlight Reel: Ill wind blows into Soweto
Friday 11 June 2010
Soccer City, the showpiece stadium, the star of Soweto, the ingenious arena built to resemble an African cooking pot or
Kalabash, is beginning to acquire another very African characteristic. After two days of strong winds in Johannesburg the venue for today's opening match looks like a dustbowl. Like everything else in the windswept approach to Soweto township, it's been coated in a thick layer of red dust. An attribute that will be immediately recognisable to any fan tuning in from Somalia to Namibia.
Crime and punishment
As plenty of British reporters in South Africa can tell you, the British press is not too popular here. Fleet Street's alarming reports of violent crime and rampant robbery have left many people in the host nation feeling unfairly maligned. But don't you dare walk anywhere after dark. In the next breath a guesthouse owner who was berating the media then marched a reporter down to his basement to show him a bullet hole in the window to the garage. "This is South Africa," he said without an ounce of irony as he explained that five years ago he had shot at burglars trying to steal his car. He was told not to give up on the English papers – he should try the Sunday Telegraph.
Springboks stress superiority
Not content with an open-top bus tour in Jo'burg before a ball has been kicked, South Africa are planning to exact revenge on France before their World Cup match is even played. The Springboks – the nation's currently unstoppable rugby union team – are playing Les Bleus tomorrow. Expect the French line-up to be left in tatters as South Africa's other world champions make their point forcefully. Their footballing compatriots could struggle to match them though.
Fifa bigwigs master brief
To those of you who think that Fifa are a bunch of fat cats who know nothing about the game, you may have a point. At the Fifa Congress yesterday, held in Johannesburg's most luxurious facility, delegates were asked the question: "Did Italy win the last World Cup?" Hardly Mastermind. Officials were left in no doubt that the "no" button on the handsets works as six delegates pressed it. They were just testing that it worked Fifa minions hurried to reassure the journalists present. Of course they were.
Testing times for students
Got exams during the World Cup? Don't worry George Turnbull, of exams watchdog the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, is here to help. The exams "doctor" says: "The two don't mix really but football games could be part of (a) revision programme." The key is in managing revision timetables. "Ease in an extra half-hour of work a day at least, by getting up earlier or taking less time over lunch," he adds. He does admit that it may be necessary to record games to make this work but counsels against studying in the room next door to the television. "For those sitting examinations now, football is not the only game in town and certainly should not be the one you're concentrating on now," he added. Whatever, George...
Feeling the chill
For the first time in three decades many of the people watching the World Cup on television are going to be a lot warmer than those playing in it. Jo'burg temperatures will be bordering on freezing by half-time in today's opening match as the finals are played in the southern winter. Despite the winter denialism that exists in the commercial capital, where heating is seen as a sign of weakness, night-time temperatures plummet by up to 16 degrees from the lunchtime peak. So Nelson Mandela, about to turn 92, is unlikely to hang around for the final whistle but the fractionally younger and less popular Robert Mugabe, 86, will be there until the bitter end.
Vuvuzelas out in force
Nevermind the Mexican wave, feel the force of the vuvuzela nation. An anxious host nation desperate to avoid the ignominy of becoming the first host team to flunk the group stages has been drumming up the support it hopes will lift their team. Tens of thousands of supporters turned out in Cape Town yesterday in the second day's worth of pre-emptive celebrations. Foreign supporters have been welcome to join in. But the welcome in South Africa only goes so far.
Instructions are being passed by SMS among Bafana Bafana fans going to the game – "no Mexican wave at the match" – this is serious after all.
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