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WM (links)

Filed under: — adrian @ 6:15 am

The Weltmeisterschaft is over for the Germans but the Copa Mundial is still going for the Spanish. Myself, I’m hoping for a triumphant Wereldkampioenschap for the Dutch. I don’t have a big reason for supporting the Oranje other than they had the common decency to beat Uruguay after that disappointed much of Africa by putting Ghana, who in a fair world would have won, out of the tournament.

fans wearing orange before the Netherlands-Uruguay match

It seems that a lot of Cape Town and possibly South Africa is behind the Dutch as well. The easiest explanation is the shared language/ culture of a portion of the white population, but I’ve seen a lot of different people wearing orange, so maybe the explanation is a bit more complex.

Before that match I went down to the “Fan Walk” between the stadium and the Grand Parade, a large open area across from the old City Hall where a public viewing area has been set up. It was packed. Despite the fact that the stadium only holds 64,000, the City estimated that 149,000 participated in the Fan Walk with a further 200,000 in the City Bowl. And I found that the Grand Parade (the FanFest), with a capacity of 25,000, was full almost an hour and a half before the game.

photo by milan daniels

A Dutch firm designed some awesome fan T-shirts.

The Dutch are doing pretty well so far. I think they might take the cup. The answer of why they’re doing so well may be in this great long form NY Times piece about soccer development at Ajax (and other Dutch clubs) and contrasting that with how it’s done in the US. (Though, a lot of the European teams have similar development programs.)

Sign seen on a minibus taxi in Sea Point:


Yeah, there’s been some anti-FIFA sentiment. It could be that they’re so powerful that even decisions by national presidents can be effectively overturned by the organization.

Or it could be that they’re bringing in a boatload of money (while somehow maintaining untaxed status as a “non-profit”) while all that South Africa gets is a seratonin boost. And it seems that even that might not last.

Or it might be that despite clear evidence that their officiating isn’t making the right calls they’re only going to “look into” goal line technology and refuse to believe that any other technology (like offsides, other replays) is necessary.

Despite the fact that Team USA is out of the cup and have been for a while there’s been a lot of speculation that the nation might be starting to like soccer. Well-known sportswriter Bill Simmons says he’s been hearing “soccer is taking off in America” since the 1978 World Cup but now he’s ready to believe them.

When Donovan scored that Cup-saving goal against those spineless playing-for-a-tie-when-they-needed-to-win-by-two-goals Algerians, the moment resonated like no other goal in American soccer history. We didn’t have anyone telling us how we should feel, what the implications were, what the moment meant. We knew what it meant. We wanted more games. We wanted our boys to keep playing. Someone scored. We celebrated. We jumped up and down. We ran around the room. We were alive for another game. For once in a fragmented sports world, we all happened to be rooting for the same thing.

Soccer is no longer taking off. It’s here. Those celebratory YouTube videos that started popping up in the 24 hours after Donovan’s goal — all unfolding the same way, with a stationary shot of nervous fans watching the game in a bar, going quiet for a couple of seconds during the American counterattack, reacting to Dempsey’s miss (“Nooooooooo!”), holding their breath for two beats (“Wait a second …”), exploding on Donovan’s finish (“Hi-yahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”), then chanting “USA! USA! USA!” afterward — tapped into a collective American sports experience unlike anything since Lake Placid.

There’s a cool book out called Amen by Jessica Hilltout about grassroots soccer throughout Africa. The NY Times is currently featuring some the her photos from the book.

TwoShoes Design’s Soccer Crest

Umbro asked some local firms to design a new soccer crest. I like the results quite a bit, particularly the one by TwoShoes Design above. Msantsi (or Msansi sometimes) means “South” and is often used as a nickname for South Africa or South Africans.

There have been plenty of foreign journalists in South Africa reporting on the WM. Many of the stories mention the helpfulness of South Africans or the relative lack of crime (170 cases for crimes by or against tourists).

A common refrain which I’ve heard is “Where are you from? What do you think of our country?”. I think more than anything South Africans want visitors to have a good experience here and go back with a positive experience of the country. I can relate to that: I’ve asked similar questions to the visitors I’ve met and I’ve tried to do my part giving them a positive experience in whatever small ways I can.

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