So Saturday started out great. We got to the stadium quite easily from the park and ride, watched a great game, got a good result against England. We had been told to come back to the same spot where we were dropped off to get the bus back to the park and ride, so after I did the postgame press conference thing, I met up with Mravic, [The boy…] and a special guest, Mike [Gabe’s friend’s son]. Then things took a turn.
The lack of buses was one thing. The total lack of anyone who knew anything about anything was another. There were, no kidding, about 10,000 people standing on a side street in Rustenburg, wandering around hopelessly, looking for a cop or a stadium worker or a traffic control person—anything. And there were no street lights, so it was just a mass of humanity, some moving one way (back towards the stadium and civilization), some moving the other (up the side street, which seemed to be where the one or two buses we saw were coming from), but most just standing there cursing loudly. It was a lot like Cloverfield.
Early on in all this, I was standing in someone’s front yard. I had to move out of the way so a car could pull out, so I stepped into what looked like a very shallow puddle but was, in fact, some sort of muddy sinkhole. My left leg went in halfway up my shin. Luckily my initial fear—septic tank—was unfounded, but it wasn’t pretty. (Had it been septic-related, that would have been quite ironic. Brits—at least Simon, an English photographer—call Americans septics. It’s Cockney rhyming slang: septic tanks rhymes with Yanks.)
We finally stormed our way onto a bus, which just sat in traffic for ages. That gave the England fans on the bus ample chance to chant and sing (the usuals—“There were 10 German bombers in the air…,” “Come on England!”—and a few improvised on the spot—“Park and ride, my lord, park and ride” to the tune of Kumbayah). Clever. For a while.
I won’t tell you what they were chanting about Sepp Blatter, who is the head of FIFA and the driving force behind an African World Cup. Suffice to say, it wasn’t flattering, but it was hard not to empathize with the drunken, loutish hooligans. The first two games both had major, major logistical shortcomings—near tramplings, people left to fend for themselves in the middle of nowhere with no security after a night of drinking—the kind that could lead to serious problems. Doesn’t exactly leave one feeling inspired about the event.