Three-fourths of the people watching were U.S. born and raised (not a surprising find for this type of event), with the remaining supporting the English. The atmosphere was mostly friendly, with plenty of singing and yelling (mostly the English doing the singing, the U.S. folks yelling), and the game ended in a stressful, nerve-racking draw. Not a game for the faint of heart if you are a true fan of either team.
We hit the refurbished waterfront on Sunday, where we found lots of shops and friendly people to welcome us. Got directions from the cashier at the local market; she told us to go past the third “robot” (traffic light) and go right to find our destination. We saw a large group of schoolchildren at the aquarium, and in typical fashion, they marched in an organized mob from one display to another, giggling and screaming at the oddities they had never seen.
Many of the highway underpasses around town have fences with razor wire blocking off their spaces as traffic is re-routed and the main thoroughfare is once again shut down hours before the next match.
Walking down the streets, at the stadium or viewing a match in a pub, it is often difficult to hear one another over the ever-sounding vuvuzelas. FIFA is considering banning the horn from future matches if they are played during national anthems or thrown onto the field; I predict an unenforceable ban.
Being somewhat of a veteran World Cup attendee (this is my fourth Cup), I must add that the organization of entering and exiting the stadium has much to be desired; coming or going, the stadium crowd is just one loud “bang” away from a panicky, stampeding horde.
We’ve vowed an earlier and safer route to and from the stadium to see Italy vs. Paraguay. Ironically, hundreds of security personnel protesting wage discrepancies walked away from their posts just before match time, creating more long and slow lines. We arrived two hours early (which proved to be a smart move) and were greeted by more schoolchildren chanting “ayoba, ayoba”; another small treat that makes long lines worth the wait.
For the followers, Italy and Paraguay tied 1-1; an upset in any circle. One unanticipated find at the stadium was the abundant and free availability of condoms. Both the men’s and women’s restrooms contained bins with a hefty supply. The fight against aids in Africa is blatant and communicated everywhere.
Barring high seas and heavy rain, we’ll head off to Robben Island in the morning.