Monday, June 21, 2010

see the champions, take the field now...

I awoke to the sounds of a bustling house at 7:30am. I had not finished enjoying my sleep. My hostess, however, thought otherwise. Naniwe marched in the room and announced it was time to get up. She would drop me off in town on her way to church. Ghana was to play Serbia that afternoon in Pretoria, and I was going to try and get a last minute ticket. Smarty pants that I was, I had not checked online before leaving Ghana to see if there were any left. I had assumed the lottery system was over, as I had heard getting tickets was virtually impossible to any match.
It was the first day that I had been left on my own to explore the city, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The details of my procuring a ticket are quite extensive and entertaining, however I will spare you the novel. After walking back and forth across town, playing hide and seek with the taxis, asking for many directions, waiting in line for several hours at the ticketing office, and getting lost in the mall, I finally came emerged with a ticket in my hand at 3:15pm. The game was to start at 4:00pm across town. The only tickets that had been left were the premiere tickets. I had not had time to buy any Ghana gear to wear to the match, so I had to buy the first thing I found once I finally reached the stadium. I was then personally escorted to the suite from which I would watch the match. I could hardly catch my breath from my whirlwind morning, and my luck at getting such a ticket before the national anthems and kick off. The view was incredible, and this stadium much more impressive than the last. I was once again caught up in the electricity of the fan excitement. I had free beverages, snacks, and a great view for Ghana’s victory over Serbia. I met several other Americans, South Africans, and Uruguayans enjoying the match. In fact, one of the Uruguay fans decided I should be his wife and proposed to me. I was quite literally swept off my feet before I could answer. He picked me up and started to walk me out of the suite. He finally put me down amidst the laughter of all those in the suite. Turns out Ghanaians aren't the only ones for impromptu proposals. It was quite funny.

The game was very entertaining, and of course the goal by Gyan the highlight of the day. The fans went nuts (myself included)! Everyone in the suite congratulated me for the goal and after the game as they knew I lived in Ghana. I don't know quite how to describe the thrill of it all. I left feeling like I was walking on air.

Afterward I wanted to go to the Fifa Fan Fest site where 30,000 fans gathered to watch the matches on big screens. Unfortunately no one could direct me to any public transportation for how to get to the place, which was situated just outside of city. My pursuit of the place seemed to reflect that of my pursuit of tickets in the morning. I was directed to join a park and ride shuttle in pursuit of a taxi. Once at the parking lot there was no taxis. I was told to get back on the bus and have the driver take me to particular station. The Fifa bus driver gave me a personal ride to the station, where he would not leave me saying it was not safe. He took me instead to a police station around the corner to request help. No one in the police station seemed to think I could find a public bus or taxi (or safe one at least) at that time of night (7:00pm though dark as midnight). There was apparently no one headed that way on the squardron either that could give me a lift as the officer had hoped. He told me that the Hatfield square (where I had watched the first few matches on the big screen) was only a few kilometers away and that I should call my hostess for a ride. I did not want to bother her, as we had already arranged my pick up after the Germany vs. Australia match later that night. I decided to walk what was supposed to be a couple of kilometers. Turns out a couple actually means 6. I was trying to hurry in order to see the kick off of the match at the square. The 3 miles seemed to stretch on and on as I walked as fast as I could across town. For those of you worried about my safety--don't. It was no Egypt. If I had just walked from the stadium after the game, I would have been there in 15 minutes. But, naturally trying to go to Fan Fest lead me on the wild goose chase back to where I started. I missed kick off, but was able to watch the rest of the match from a restaurant table at the square. I ate fajitas (YUM!) while watching Germany thrash Australia. Watching in the middle of the square packed with international football fans is definately an unforgettable experience--especially after all the work in getting there!

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