Notes from the festival

2010-07-10 11:09

So the great football festival passed in a whiz of frenzy, much

like the buzz of a tacky, ­open-top party bus which is observed from the


Before the festival started, I remember talking to a few friends

about it. I have always inadvertently associated with cynical types who do not

care much for team sports, let alone being bothered to one day say “I was


But the question came up, nonetheless: “Is anyone going to any


As is common in such circles, there is intra-group dissent, as if

contrarian outbursts are not limited to what outsiders say.

So I said, yes, I

would be going to a few matches. All of a sudden there was a hush in the room as

everyone retracted to their cigarettes.

So off I went to the Calabash on June 23, opting to park and walk.

There was a festive atmosphere on the road as clownish street hawkers tried to

sell their rubbish while over-eager fans blew vuvuzelas from their cars.

And there it was, the Calabash – not awe-inspiring like a mountain,

but suitably marvellous – like an inviting, brand-new pair of shoes. Swerving

through the crowds, I felt nothing like a soccer tourist – suckers for

amplifying their banality.

Since getting to the stadium, I had noticed only women honking on

vuvuzelas. Was this a kind of penis envy?

Football is more dramatic on TV, with its killer camera angles,

theatrical commentary and intense replays.

Watching it live makes one appreciate it as a spectacle which

involves a few men running around in conditioned desperation.

I made my way back to the parking lot, but was unable to find my


“Try the fourth tree on your right,” a group of drunk Americans shouted at

me, ­laughing. Very funny – but in a few decades I will be more adept at living

in a ­post-nuclear dust bowl while stuck in an eternal search for the nearest


My next live football experience was in Pretoria.

To get there I

used the dedicated soccer train ­running from Joburg, thinking this would be a

good opportunity to behold the landscape.

To your right the wonderful East Rand,

a cluster of bland industrial towns, and to your left an equal share of brown

and grey ugliness reserved especially for inland colonies. I was in for a

nauseating evening.

After the game it was back into the Twilight Zone.

The train looped

around Oakmoor Station a thousand times while I had the pleasure of sitting

beside a drunk Englishman harping on about how much ­potential South Africa has

– as if his opinion was a revelation.

The best thing about my next trip to the Calabash was the Christian

evangelicals at work on the way.

It was the perfect place for them to ambush

fans and induce guilt in a way I am sure they did not even anticipate. Enjoy

your Roman spectacle, you filthy sinners.

On my way out of my last match at Ellis Park, I was stuck in a

massive queue with a few Germans behind me. One of them said to his buddy in

that sarcastic tone Germans seem to adopt when speaking English: “It’s been the

same story in ­every fucking city.”

Then he said something in ­German peppered

with the word “schwarzes” (blacks).

I doubt he was commenting on ­Germany’s new

away kit.

It’s all over now and Europeans should be happy.

They get to go

back to their land of milk and honey, having once again conquered Den Dunklen

­Kontinent, and we’re still stuck in our Twilight Zone, left with only a mild

hangover, memories of idiotic tourists and a grin that says: “I saw you on that

tacky party bus, and I would be embarrassed if I were you.”

» Patel is a City Press sub-editor

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