Category Archives: US Soccer
Wednesday, June 23
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Tshwane/Pretoria
US vs Algeria
Our last FIFA WORLD CUP 2010 game, our 5th match was in Pretoria. After getting up and going to breakfast at Moemas, we drove the 40 min to Pretoria to the Park N Ride. The drive was pretty easy and we got to the stadium about 2-3 hours before the game. We checked out the FIFA Fan Store where we finally found USA 2010 World Cup scarfs so we purchased two for souvenirs! We walked around the outside of the stadium and checked out a guy doing dribbling tricks and took a photo with the life size display of the 2010 World Cup mascot “Zakumi”. There was a Playstation 3 display set up for fans to pass the time so I took on an Algerian fan. We finally decided to go into the stadium and check out our seats. We were in the upper level about half the way up and directly in the center of the pitch (50 yard line in Football terms). There were probably more Algerian fans than US fans with Algeria being much closer to South Africa than the US is. We may have been outnumbered but the US fan’s were just as loud during the game. As the game kicked off, you got the sense it might be a tense affair. The US needed a win to advance more than likely and it was going to be a long nerve-racking game. The fans next to us were getting the England/Slovenia score on their phone so after 20 min. we knew England was up 1-0. That meant, the US had to win the game to advance to the Knockout stages of the tournament. Every time the US looked like they were going to score, we either hit the post, or the goalkeeper for Algeria would make an incredible save. As time kept ticking in the game, it just seemed like it wasn’t going to be our day. The US continued to attack while the Algerian’s seemed to be playing for a tie which didn’t make much sense. They had to win as well to advance. What happened next will be forever etched into US Soccer fan’s lore when in the 1st min of injury time, Tim Howard saved a shot, threw the ball to midfield right into the path of Landon Donovan, who passed it forward to Jozy Altidore…Altidore then crossed it right into the path of Clint Dempsey who quickly shot at the Algerian keeper who had come out and deflected/saved the shot. As the ball started rolling back into the middle of the penalty box, it was like in slow motion as you could see the ball perfectly rolling toward Landon Donovan, who made no mistake slotting it into the back of the net for the dramatic 1-0 victory and the US fans went into a state of delirium in the stands. It’s a memory I don’t think we will ever forget. It was such a relief when we scored because for the most part we thought we had blown our chance at advancing. In my mind, the score should have been about 3-0 for the US at that point, but up until then we just had no luck on our side. As the final 2 minutes ticked away and the final whistle blew, the players ran onto the field, celebrating with the US fan’s for a good 10 minutes. We stayed in the stadium for 30 min. at least and took pictures with some fans we had sat next to for all 3 US group games. As we left the stadium, there was a huge gathering of US fans in the concourse chanting, singing, running down the corridor with US flags waving.One fan caught our eye in particular, he was a US fan dressed as a soccer cleat?!? It was a great moment for all the fans who had traveled half way around the world to support the team. It’s something I won’t forget for a long time! We drove back to Johannesburg after the game and grabbed a quick dinner from Nando’s and strolled back to the cottage to watch the Germany/Ghana and Australia/Serbia games before we called it a night.
Today was our 4th Match of the FIFA World Cup 2010. We left for the Park N Ride around 11:55pm today. The Park N Ride’s open 4 hours prior to kickoff, so we were quite early today. There was no car line like the previous day. We went to the Wits University Restaurant after parking. It is a little grill/bar hang out on campus that had TV’s, etc… After Kat got some fries, we boarded the bus to the stadium. Today’s transport seemed quicker than when going to Soccer City. Ellis Park is in more of a centrally located unlike Soccer City which is a good 15 minutes outside town near Soweto. The walk from the drop off point was much shorter than at Soccer City also. At Soccer City, they drop you off about 2-3 miles from the Stadium. Here, we were probably about 1 mile away if closer. Since we got there pretty early, we walked into the Stadium where they were showing the Germany/Serbia game on a big screen. A lot of fans had gathered in the sun to watch the game. We also checked out a little exhibition of dribbling/juggling. A few kids got up there and it seemed like they could juggle the ball all day if you gave them a chance. One US girl who looked like she probably played in college got up and juggled for a good long time and the host kept saying and “she is a woman”. I guess South African’s are surprised that woman can play soccer too? They should check the FIFA rankings, the US Women are #1 in the world! With about 1 hr and 30 min before the game was to start we went ahead and checked out our seats. We were in block 28, about 7 rows from the field. Our view was pretty much right at the goal. Fortunately for us, all the goals were down on our end!!!! There was a huge US fan presence at this game. A guy was passing out red pieces of cloth to our whole section calling them rally towels. The national anthem was amazing. It seemed like the whole stadium was singing it word for word. It was sung the loudest of any crowd I have ever heard! It was a truly amazing and priceless experience to hear it in the stadium. It was probably the first time a US game at a world cup had more US fans than the opponent. Who knew the anthem would be the highlight for the next 45 minutes. The first half was pretty rough for the US going down 2-0. All the US fans were pretty down and disappointed at half. I think I remarked it would be unbelievable to get a tie in this game and a miracle to come back and win it. Well, as you now know, the 2nd half was amazing for the US. An early Landon Donovan goal in the 48th min and the eventual equalizer in the 82nd by Michael Bradley sent the place into rapture. Our whole section went bananas. Beer “champagne” was pouring down on us…Not exactly what I had in mind to celebrate but once again…all part of the experience. A few minutes later, the US thought they had scored the go ahead goal but it was disallowed by the ref. So once again, we got doused by the beer “champagne”!!! I think I had to tell 4-5 fans the goal was called back before they stopped celebrating. The final whistle blew and a remarkable comeback for the ages had occurred. Slovenia 2 – USA 2. After the game we hung around the stadium for a while knowing the park n ride would take a while to get on the bus at the stadium. However, this time it only took us an hour to get back to the Wits campus while it typically has taken 2-3 hours from Soccer City. We decided to go back to the Local Grill for dinner and ate a quick meal of hamburgers and fries. Now that England and Algeria tied, the US only has to WIN on Wednesday to advance. Hopefully that will happen. We are now off to the safari.
On Saturday morning we woke up and had breakfast. We got ready and we headed out to collect our tickets. For this World Cup they did not send us out tickets instead we had to go to a kiosk and have them printed. Since the US match was later that night we needed to get our tickets quickly. We drove to a nearby location and the line was out in the street and did not look like it was moving to fast. By this time it was 12:30 and our ride was coming at 3 so we made the decision to head back to the airport, this turned out to be a great choice. At the airport they had separate lines for matches that were that day. We only waited about ten minutes and we printed all our tickets for the whole time we are here. While at the airport we also went to the ATM and got some lunch. It was suddenly our favorite place in Jo’burg. We headed back to our cottage for a brief rest before our ride arrived. We arranged to be driven to Rustenburg which was a fantastic idea. Our driver, Graham, owns a guest house in Jo’burg and also does tours and airport transfers. In the car was the two of us, a guy from California and some of Graham’s friends from Jo’burg. We definitely felt safe.
On the way to Rustenburg there is not much to see. However we did pass by a stop that had several shops and places to eat. There was a huge sign out front that said World Record in Progress 114 days with poisonous snakes. I am sorry that I did not get a picture of the sign, but we did not stop. While on our drive to Rustenburg we got caught in some pretty heavy traffic, Graham decided to take a detour. We saw some interesting things. Too bad I did not have my camera out. We saw villages of houses made out of scrap metal. I don’t know if I can call them houses, they were tiny more like the size of a bathroom. Graham stated that if a squatter stays on your land for 24 hours then they become permanent residents. These villages were made up of people who worked in the nearby platinum mines. We were told that 80% of platinum is in South Africa and 80% of that is near Rustenburg. When we finally arrived in Rustenburg, we had to park in a field and take a bus to the stadium. We finally arrived at the stadium around 7. We got something to drink and tried to get some food. The first concession stand only had two options a beef dog or a lamb dog. We decided to look for another concession stand. I will post the photo of the menu. Let me just say that South Africa is not concerned with efficiency or organization. We stayed in that line for 45 minutes and never got to the front, we decided to go to our seats so we would not miss any of the game. Most of you know what happened at the game. I will post some pics of the match. We had a great time.
Trying to get back to the car was a different story. The game ended at 10:30 but we did not get back to the car until 1:15. We had a pretty long day; it was about 13 hours in total. South Africa is not well equipped to handle these large crowds. We will see how it plays out at other stadiums.