For the very first time in my life, I went to a stadium to watch a football match. But not just any stadium, and not just any match. I watched Spain beat Honduras at Ellis Park, sitting second row from the field, with family and friends and 54,000 other people.
I cannot express how my chest filled with something between excitement and child-like joy as I walked up the tunnel, as I emerged amongst thousands of fans and looked at the field. It looked so different from there, like it never would on television. The air was warm with the cheers of fans clad in many team colours. There were Bafana jackets, Brazilian flags and a giant, giant replica of the world cup trophy floating about.
But let me add to this the exciting trip there in a taxi, with six vuvuzelas and horns, Spanish scarves and a few tequilas enjoyed before we left from Espresso. The traffic was far more bearable, because alongside us were other fans, and so many happy people enjoying the thrill of the game and the excitement to come. And once you’ve been a game, you realise how wonderful the vuvuzelas really are, and how no game feels right without them for their power to communicate and to start up chants.
Sure, there were no vegetarian meals to be had, and the women’s bathrooms were a little manky, but it pales in comparison to the smoothness and thrill of the evening. We were in the stadium within the work of minutes, and I felt safe. There were policemen everywhere, but many of them were up for a fist bump or a high five, and didn’t mind the fans who blew vuvuzelas at them. The stewards were organised, the crowds well behaved and the energy unlike anything I’ve encountered before.
So, I remain in awe of the power of the game to unite, to entertain and remain, and immensely grateful that I got to experience something so special and fleeting. It’ll never be the same, no game ever is, but the experience was worth its brevity, and perhaps is worth even more for that.