It seems that Chief Football Commentator at The Times, Patrick Barclay, thinks that England can win the World Cup in South Africa next year. And he may well be right. They’re playing some great football and getting some great results. And, of course, the 2010 World Cup will be held in the middle of winter in South Africa…
Now the strength-sapping summer heat of Italy, France, Japan and even Germany gives way to an English footballer’s dream: the coldest World Cup since records began.
…bringing with it the probability of weather conditions which will play right into England’s hands. We like the cold; the Portuguese (if they even manage to qualify) – don’t. Shame.
Barclay’s comments on South Africa were refreshingly honest as well. After all the hysteria which has surrounded South Africa’s preparation for the World Cup, the allegations that stadiums would not be finished, that the infrastructure couldn’t cope, that a lack of security would mean that everything was shifted to Oz at the last minute; well, here is a viewpoint from someone that’s actually been here and watched football. At last!
In Germany — not to mention Japan — trains were a fine method of getting about. In South Africa, forget it. Put yourself at the mercy of the roads and inevitable match-day congestion, get organised into bus-loads with local guides (though security should be less of a worry than some suggest, only a fool would take undue risks) and allow four or five times as long as is recommended for every journey.
To be fair to the hosts, most of the traffic jams we encountered were because of road improvements designed to ensure a smoother flow next year. But do reset your watch to take account of the time-difference between aspiration and reality. Then it can be fun; I have especially fond memories of a day in Soweto, which is keen to take budget guests and will, I was assured, be safe (unlike downtown Johannesburg, which apparently is full of bloody foreigners and hence crime-ravaged).
This isn’t Japan. It certainly isn’t Germany (thank goodness – do you really think I’d be here if it was?). This is South Africa and when in Rome, do as the Romans and expect everything to take longer than it would in Berlin. Or Rome. And of course there will be match day congestion, just like there is at Bramall Lane when United are at home and just like there was before and after the rugby at Newlands on Saturday. This isn’t a problem peculiar to South Africa, nor to football.
Barclay’s piece is not sycophantic, celebratory or (in some ways) even hugely positive about South Africa. But it’s first-hand (compare and contrast Louise Taylor’s Guardian article, mentioned here) and it’s honest. Fans coming to SA next year expecting another Germany or Japan are going to be left confused and possibly even a little disappointed. Not because we aren’t going to do a great job of hosting the World Cup, but because it’s going to be hosted in South Africa and it’s going to be hosted in winter. Not for us the slide-rule punctuality of the Germans or the Japanese (if you can measure punctuality on a slide rule?), nor the wall-to-wall sunshine of a European July.
Things here are done at an African pace: vive le difference. (We can’t do much about the weather).
Better then that visitors arrive informed, with their eyes open and can get straight down to enjoying themselves instead of having to spend the first 2 weeks of their stay adjusting to how things are done here and how wet and cold it may be.
All in all, this promises to be a brilliant tournament – just read more of the Patrick Barclay stuff and less of the Daily Maily hysterical rubbish. Oh, and back England to win it. Cos I think they can.