Hosts now 'united in misery'

All but eliminated, South Africans are urged to support the tournament.

Posted: June 18, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - The "morning after" carried much less buoyancy than all the mornings before.

On Wednesday night, South Africans went from proud hosts and expectant hometown fans to discouraged locals. Earlier in the day, Bafana Bafana, as South Africa's national team is known, lost, and lost badly, 3-0, to an average Uruguay squad, all but eliminating the host country from this World Cup.

On Thursday morning's radio programs, hosts were urging fans to continue supporting the World Cup, despite the home team's loss and the national disappointment.

"We were all united in our passion," explained the radio host. "Now we are all united in our misery."

Seats still available. Entering this World Cup, FIFA had a "zero tolerance" policy regarding scalpers. You were not supposed to scalp, be scalped, or pay exorbitant, above-value prices for tickets. On Thursday, there were at least a dozen scalpers on the long walk from the park-and-ride to Soccer City, where Argentina played South Korea. More than half those scalpers were holding aloft their merchandise.

In Thursday's edition of the Sowetan, the local Johannesburg paper, there was this behind-the-scenes interaction: "A police constable on duty outside the stadium's main gate said he didn't know if the practice of scalping was illegal or not. 'I really don't know,' the constable said, as a scalper a few meters from him sold six tickets for R100 each to a group of Chilean supporters."

Wait . . . R100 each? That's about $15, which sounds like the scalper was the one getting scalped.

Park and walk. Traffic was so horrific getting to Thursday's match between Argentina and South Korea at Soccer City stadium that a few cars were abandoned on the shoulder of the exit off the N1 highway. Soccer City is located off side roads, leaving the traffic inching toward the stadium three hours before kickoff. As the exits toward the stadium became jammed, the idea of parking your car on the highway became not ridiculous, but industrious.

Horn of plenty. Even with Bafana Bafana buried at the bottom of Group A, the vuvuzela remained alive and active, much to the dismay of players and coaches everywhere. Having realized the cult-hero status of the vuvuzela, makeshift vendors spread their wares on the long walks into the stadium. The most common item is a vuvuzela decorated with the colors of whichever national team is playing.

"It is impossible to communicate," said Argentina superstar Lionel Messi, speaking, of course, about the vuvuzela. "It is like being deaf."

Despite being unable to communicate and being temporarily deaf, Messi managed to orchestrate all four of his country's goals over South Korea.

You gotta believe. Uruguay, emboldened by a resounding 3-0 victory over the host country, has now proclaimed itself fit for World Cup glory. No matter that Bafana Bafana would not have qualified for the World Cup if it hadn't been hosting, Uruguay's coach, Oscar Tabarez, said, "We are convinced that we can win the World Cup. There might be teams that are better than us . . ."

Yes, there might be: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, England . . .

Love for Germans. The big question from FIFA on Thursday was whether Germany was now considered the "team to beat." Germany made Australia look like a rec-league team, winning the match, 4-0, and missing a dozen more chances.

Here was the best comment supporting FIFA's "question of the day": "Yes, they are the only team to have 'got it together' and they look sublime."


Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.

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