World Cup Report: Johannesburg Before the Finals

Today in the Sunday Times of Johannesburg there’s an advertisement displaying the beautiful South African flag taking up the whole page. Over it is written, “Today This is the Greatest Country in the World.” South Africa has done a remarkable job of hosting the Cup. The games have been organized and run with almost flawless execution and the people of the country have been extraordinarily open and gracious. Hosting the Cup has meant a great deal to South Africans both because it has brought them center stage in the world and because there a great deal of love for football here in this country. Hours away from the game the atmosphere in Johannesburg is electric. Some thoughts on what the atmosphere for the finals may be like and some pictures below.

Spanish National Team Making It's Way Through Johannesburg

Coming back to my hotel in Johannesburg last night I found the street completely jammed with traffic. I got out of the taxi at the corner a few blocks away and started walking. As I got closer I heard a series of shrieks and cheers running down the block, growing louder and louder. When I got close to where I was staying I saw a crowd bulging into the street. It turns out that the Spanish National Team had checked into the hotel directly across the street from where I was staying and were exiting the hotel to get on their team bus. Needless to say I joined the throngs of people crowded around the outside of their hotel and tried to get some photos.

Crowd Waiting for the Spanish NT in Johannesburg

Spanish NT Waiting to Leave Hotel

Iniesta Under Reflected Lights

The Cool Kids Always Ride the Back of the Bus - Ask Puyol

Xabi Alonso Watching the Crowd

Javi Martinez Waiting and Xabi Alonso Waving to the Crowd

Spanish Bus After the NT Returned to the Hotel

There’s a great deal of admiration and respect for the Spanish National Team in South Africa. I was in Cape Town for the Netherlands-Uruguay semis and the following night I watched the Spain-Germany match on the big screen set up in front of the City Hall there. Because the Netherlands-Uruguay semi was the final match played in the Cape Town, many of the visitors had left earlier that day for Durban for the second semi. Many of the people watching the Spain-Germany at the Cape Town Fanfest were in turn locals and it gave the event a very different feel from when I’d watched the Brazil-Netherlands and Ghana-Uruguay matches in Cape Town before. There are many people of German ancestry in South Africa, but despite that most of the crowd assembled was rooting for Spain. Part of this may have been due to the fact that many people Cape Town locals had also gone to Durban to watch Germany. But at it’s heart, people here seem drawn to Spain because of the way they play the beautiful game. Spain isn’t a team that people here know and have followed like they have with say with Brazil or Argentina. Despite that, Spain’s style of play has won them a number of supporters in South Africa.

South African Supporters of Spain

This may be particularly relevant for today’s Finals because it seems as if Spain itself has travelled relatively few supporters to this World Cup. The ones here are of course passionate, but compared to other European countries, Brazil and even Argentina there seem to have been fewer visitors from Spain. This is an anecdotal observation as I don’t have data to back it up and it may be off, but several people I’ve met who have been here for the entire Cup have made note of this. I’d imagine that the economic situation in Spain has made it difficult for people to come. Also, huge numbers of Spaniards may turn out for the finals. That said, Spain’s level of support at Soccer City tonight could be a factor tonight, especially because of the who Spain is playing.

Dutch Family Celebrating the Oranje's Win Over Brazil

As I said, there’s significant admiration for Spain in South Africa. However, there is enormous support and passion for the Dutch and much of South Afica has turned Orange, particularly since the quarterfinals. At times it’s felt as if Amsterdam had temporarily moved to the South Africa for the month.

Greenpoint Stadium Turning Orange: The Netherlands vs. Uruguay Semi-Finals

The Oranje at Greenpoint: The Netherlands vs. Uruguay

The Dutch travelled an enormous number of supporters to South Africa, particularly given the size of the country. Some reports suggest that over 500,000 people from the Netherlands have come to South Africa this month. If true that would mean that nearly 1 out of every 30 people in the Netherlands has come to the World Cup. Several communities in South Africa derive their roots and language from the Netherlands and as such still feel connected to the Netherlands avidly support the Dutch. Finally, as with Spanish team, people here in South Africa have appreciated the Dutch style of play over the years.

Spain vs. the Netherlands has generated tremendous excitement here in South Africa. Both teams are widely admired for their style of play. But the support for the Dutch is particularly passionate and that may factor in tonight. But overall, the atmosphere at the stadium tonight is going to be very special. South Africa has executed the Cup wonderfully and this evening will be the culmination of those efforts. The big question still unsettled here is whether or not Nelson Mandela will attend the match. Given the tragic death of his grand daughter earlier this month, people would of course more than understand him not making it. However, were he to attend it would make the event that much more fitting and people around the country are hoping he’ll be able to make it. If he does watch for a jolt of energy to surge through the stadium.

Mandela's Old House in Soweto Restored as a Museum
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  1. Blow-Grenade
    July 11, 2010

    I guess you will be watching the game live Euler. Enjoy!!!

  2. fcbfan
    July 11, 2010

    Euler, thanks! … and I’m jealous.

  3. Tajh
    July 11, 2010

    Reports coming out that Pedro might start the final!!!!!…Says that del bosque is going with the same lineup as against Germany!!!

    • Tajh
      July 11, 2010

      BTW guys no live blog for the final???

  4. fcbfan
    July 11, 2010

    FIFA confirmed spain same lineup vs Germany!

  5. torres for villa?, why not got a defender or dmid, beef up the offense
    red hitinga, good professional final, saved gosl scoting cgsnce fot gostfsce,

  6. Vj
    July 11, 2010

    World CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  7. Kari
    July 11, 2010

    ANDRESITO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WORLD PLAYER OF THE YEAR!!!!!!!!


  8. Kari
    July 11, 2010

    I feel like crying and I’m not even Spanish.

    So happy for our boys, especially Andres. Can there be a more deserving player?

  9. Joachim
    July 11, 2010

    Congratulations to Spain. Good team. Could have gone anyway. Holland is a very very good team that people do not credit them for. Although the ref was bad as usual for both sides, it was close and a minor detail decided the game. It should have been a corner for Holland but the counter attack of Spain resulted in the goal.’s I guess it’s destiny (Paulo the octopus already foretold it).

    Anyway, congratulations and at least Spain won in Barcelona style (Holland 70’s style haha). As a small country I think we do pretty damn well on the world football stage.

    Enjoy the victory!

    • Kari
      July 11, 2010

      Thanks Joachim. Classy. Very classy.

      Tough luck for the Dutch. Robben was in alone twice, and admittedly for the second, Puyi was lucky not to be sent off (I was so shocked when Robben stayed on his feet. I guess he’ll never do that again…). You guys were very dangerous, right until the end.


  10. Tajh
    July 11, 2010

    hey did any1 of your guys saw Jimmy jump @ the begging of the match trying to touch the trophy??

  11. y2k156
    July 11, 2010

    I am really happy for Spain.

    The victory does leave a bad taste in mouth regarding the referring though. Webb is and has been aweful. Fifa just proved again that they are out of touch stupid buggers who don’t really care about the game. Holland should have had a corner few moments before Iniesta scored.

    Am happy for spain but do think that they did win unfairly. Feel really sorry about Holland though they have MVB in their ranks.

    • Tim
      July 11, 2010

      I don’t see how you can say it was unfair. De Jong should have been off in the first half after that horrible kick on Alonso. Netherlands came out to just foul foul foul and Spain fought through it.

    • Kari
      July 11, 2010

      Criticize the ref all you want but in the end his job was that of damage limitation.

      As someone from the Guardian said:

      “What was he supposed to do given the Dutch attitude? If a team or teams aren’t prepared to play football then it’s easy to point the finger at the ref and say he should have been stricter. But if he’d sent off players early, the game would have degenerated into a farce and he would have been accused of ruining the game.

      The villains are the Dutch who stained their own glorious heritage with a cynical performance that will stain their record for decades.”

      I wouldn’t go as far as “staining their heritage” but it was cynical from the Dutch.

    • OhYes
      July 11, 2010

      What was so blatantly bad about the refs? I mean, they missed a thing or two and honestly it wasn’t bad or anything to write home about. That corner shit happens ALL THE TIME. From our replays and overhead cameras it’s all so easy but at the right angle it’s unclear if the ball touched the player or not. Honest mistake, happens every single game. And going to a video replay after every free kick is just silly.

      The only blatant mistake was the insane karate kick that got a yellow card. That just can’t stand but whatever.

  12. Vj
    July 11, 2010

    Holland shouldn’t have played such a physical game.. Though the guard of honor at the end was classy..

    Hats off to San Iker for that save of the tournament!


  13. Kari
    July 11, 2010

    YEAH! Diego Forlan wins the Golden Ball for Player of the Tournament. 100% agreed. He was indispensable for Uruguay. Totally deserved, but I’m shocked they actually picked him.

    • Jnice
      July 11, 2010

      Iker and the rest did their jobs, too.

  14. Tajh
    July 11, 2010

    well Diego Forlan Wins the Golden Ball and Thomas Mueller Takes both Young Player Award & Golden Boot……..they are deserved winners IMO…..but Xavi/Iniesta has to be WPOTY……..

  15. July 11, 2010

    the karate kick that would’ve made ibra proud.

    i dont understand how that is not a RED card??!!
    fifa please use video technology!!

  16. flyzowee
    July 11, 2010

    La masias gotta teach the new generation of midfielders to shoot.

    Great goal by iniesta but if he had an option to square the ball to a teamate, im sure he would opt for the pass.

    Congrats evry-one
    hpe our boys stay motivated.

  17. Vj
    July 11, 2010

    Awww.. Overcome with emotion, San Iker threw caution to the wind in addition to professionalism and kissed Sara – Hopefully for thanking her for not distracting him this time..


    • Kari
      July 11, 2010

      As a commenter eloquently said:

      “Con doscojones!!! Si señor!!!”

  18. Kari
    July 11, 2010

    Interesting fact:

    Every, and I mean every , Spain goal was scored by a Barca player.

    :Cue smug look:

  19. Jnice
    July 11, 2010

    Congrats to Spain, they deserved it.

    Iniesta- Always goes down too much, but I don’t care, he’s fucking nice. Very happy for him in a season plagued with injuries. Also, his shirt for Jarque was very classy. Ramos’ for Puerta as well.

    Oh and props to Cesc, he did well when he came in. And Iker was huge.

    Good stuff from the Liga boys.

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