No more notes on South Africa

SATURDAY 26th June ~ With half as many fans making twice as much noise, but with twice as much possession making half as many chances, South Korea didn’t have it all their own way in Port Elizabeth.

Uruguay carried the menace in this game. From front to back they’re pure evil, with Diego Forlan the devil incarnate. Always sickeningly in space, the ball whirls dervishly from his feet, always to a teammate, usually Luis Suarez, whose two goals proved decisive.

If there’s a more wretched beer in the world than Budweiser I’d go to the foot of our stairs. Even in this land of many cooking lagers, its omnipresence here is offensive to most of the senses. But it just about washed down an intriguing half time snack of mash & gravy which, in its clear plastic pot, looked – and tasted – every bit like a warm savoury mousse.

Shortly after the interval, with the suited occupants of the stadium’s black seats conspicuous by their absence (the mash & gravy must be to die for up there), it started to rain. Big rain. Big African rain. The vast stadium roof, designed to keep out the elements, did a great job of inviting them in.

Even 33 rows back we weren’t safe from the torrent of half-charlie-sized wet marbles. While everyone except the block of flag-waving Uruguayans headed for cover in a ground where there was little to be had, up in the cheap seats the high and dry honked their vuvuzelas like a chorus of laughing geese.

It was with some sadness that I left my final game of a short stay in South Africa. Like most teenagers, this country is experiencing everything in life all at the same time.

On the other side of town, fencing rings the seemingly-deserted white gated communities. Keep on going, into local townships where the tarmac stops, and streets burst into life with diski-playing kids and bustling shops based in roadside shipping containers.

Extremes exist even with the townships. In New Brighton’s Red Location, so-called because of its rusting tin shack dwellings, there sits a museum where coach tours can experience local life in close proxity to an air-conditioned restaurant.

First and Third World economies sit side by side in South Africa, and joining them this summer was the firstest of First World events. The world had come to Africa, and Africa had insisted it honk and dance whether it wanted to or not. But when it looks back on football’s summer of 2010, it’ll realise that it’s much better off for it.

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