Even more notes on South Africa

WEDNESDAY 23rd June ~ 7.50am. That was the time I received a text from Simon announcing his arrival from Johannesburg into a bar at the Boardwalk, Port Elizabeth’s white-collar beachfront playground. By the time I could fashion a coherent response, he was enjoying his third pint of the day while I, a “lightweight” apparently, was yet to have breakfast.

Mark and I headed down to the casino and soon found ourselves – like England – drinking in the last-chance saloon. As travel-weary fans ran up bar tabs on plush furnishings next to the slots and tables, entrepreneurial spirits drifted between standing traffic outside, peddling St George flags and fresh copies of the Daily Mirror. After a few quick pints, there was a rumour Nicky Campbell was in the area, so we didn’t stick around.

Pockets of English meandered in the sunshine along Summerstrand while Slovenians mobbed boisterously together. But England enjoyed the lion’s share of the support here today, where chants inside the ground disrupted the B flat of the vuvuzelas with some ease.

As if to make the English feel at home, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium has an empty, red-seated Wembley-style “ring of indifference” of its very own, and it was with fitting disregard in the early stages of this contest that England treated the ball.

It’s not in young James’ honour that the ground here resides on Milner Avenue, I’m sure – but it might as well be. From precisely where Aaron Lennon had spent three hours flattering to deceive, Milner swung in a cracker of a cross for the game’s only goal.

In the end, England’s sour-faced Cockney and Scouse millionaires ran down the clock while Fabio Capello stood in that different-bloke-in-a-different-suit-wearing-different-specs-in-charge-of-the-same-old-shite way of his, and as Slovenian players bunched in the centre circle, their fans pogoed in anticipation of a favourable result elsewhere before stopping and heading grumpily for the exits.

With the host nation’s warning of the perils of four points apparently unheeded by Slovenia, England had somehow progressed on their World Cup path of most resistance which, on all available evidence, hasn’t long left to run.

Yet more notes on South Africa on TBG.

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