Who do you want?

Some wonderful examples of stating the bleeding obvious as journalists desperately try to make a story out of pure speculation over the FIFA World Cup Draw in Cape Town this evening:

A favourable draw for Bafana will give the hosts a chance of making it past the early stages of the first World Cup on African soil.

Wow. Who knew? Presumably a less favourable draw would reduce that chance?
(This is just a guess).

Three possibilities loom for Bafana Bafana when the 2010 World Cup draw is made: an easy passage to the second round, a challenging yet still possible promotion to the last 16 – or the dreaded Group of Death.

In between these three possibilities lie other inter-possibilities. Like, for example, Bafana Bafana getting drawn in the Group of Traumatic Amputation, which isn’t quite as bad as the Group of Death, but which they will want to avoid more than the Group of Permanent Injury or the less difficult, but nevertheless potentially challenging Group of Unfortunate Infection.

“I just hope that we won’t end up in the toughest group,” said French federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes.

Never mind, even if you do Jean-Pierre, I’m sure you’ll handle it (in true French tradition).

US coach Bob Bradley said his team was hoping for a group in which they would have a “good opportunity to move forward.”

This is the sort of coach I like. Not one of those coaches that comes out with lines like “I really want us to fall at the first hurdle” or “I hope we lose all our games”. That’s positive thinking right there, Mr Bradley and it’s to your credit. Nice work.   

Tomorrow on 6000 miles…, we continue our exploration into the possible religious views of the Pope and the defaecation habits of ursines.

Beckham lauds SA

LA Galaxy, AC Milan and England midfielder David Beckham is here in Cape Town for the World Cup Draw tomorrow evening and took time out of his busy schedule with FIFA to give an interview to… FIFA. Unsurprisingly, (for all the reasons you are thinking of, be they contractual or otherwise) he seems happy to be here:

When I was last here with England, I had the honour of meeting Nelson Mandela. That was the highlight of my career; to meet such a great man and a strong man and such a passionate man about sport and life will always stay with me. Then I played in the game and broke my arm! South Africa is such a great country and a sporting nation that deserves this World Cup. I think it will be a very memorable and special one.

And on Cape Town’s preparations for 2010:

When you visit the country that a tournament is being held in before the event, you get a special feeling. As the time approaches, you notice that feeling intensify. As soon as I landed here in Cape Town, I noticed changes in the roads, as well as new hotels and it seemed as though the people’s excitement was tangible. There’s no better feeling than that.

And he’s right. I’m beginning to notice that projects are nearing their end. The N2 is almost quite wide again. The N1 is really wide. I was at the airport last night and was astounded at the progress that has been made. The Stadium handover is only a few days away. My study is built and has a great view from the window.
As for the vibe – I mentioned it here – you just know that there is something very special going on right now. And if this is what it’s like for some balls being taken out of goldfish bowls, then I can only begin to imagine what next June is going to be like. Aside from greyer and damper, obviously. But it will be party time in the rain, believe me.

There are those who were fine with the road closures for their private party, but who are bitching about other people having fun; complaining about the security and the hugely busy CBD, moaning about the helicopters flying over the City Bowl; but they just don’t get it. This is big. Bigger than a little awards ceremony, bigger than your beloved rugby, bigger even than the end of Apartheid, according to some people in the know. Sure, you’ve never seen anything like it and you don’t want to be part of it, but doing your best to justify that decision while those around you are being swayed by the feeling is really not pretty.

Lucky

AIDS-ribbon

I don’t want to come over all gushy and emotional here, but I have just been into town (more specifically the Waterfront and Green Point) and there is an unbelievable vibe in the Mother City right now. I feel so lucky to be here and be a part of it.

The combination of the start of summer, World AIDS Day and the FIFA World Cup draw has really got people into the party spirit and the Waterfront is absolutely pumping. It seems like everyone has a smile on their face and is happy to be here and that makes for a wonderful atmosphere.

There were dancing girls (and boys), Sugarsmax and Slikour from Skwatta Kamp, a giant Coca-Cola makaraba, a plethora of Zakumis, life-size foosball, huge footballs from World Cups since 1970 and a Sony-sponsored 5-a-side tournament. Even by Waterfront standards, that’s a lot going on.
I could hardly keep up and I had to go and hide in a local lab until the excess of adrenaline had left my body. Fortunately, it didn’t take long before the shaking subsided and the people stopped staring.

I was rushing around, but still managed a few shots here and there. You can find them all here. I have a feeling that this vibe is going to continue throughout the week – and hopefully onwards towards the World Cup. I’ll definitely be out and about snapping as and when I can, so don’t forget to come back and check regularly.

England to be based in Rustenburg?

Simon Austin on the BBC Sport website claims that “agreement has been made in principle for England to stay in Rustenburg next summer”.

Rustenburg is not a big place. I went to Rustenburg once, but it was closed. Fortunately, we continued west along the N4 and ended up in Zeerust, with its friendly drive-thru bottle store. From there we headed north until some nice Batswana* border guards with shiny R5 assault rifles politely asked us to stop and turn around. It seemed rude to disagree, though – safe in the knowledge that we were heading back towards a drive-thru bottle store – we felt the need to stop as soon as we were around the corner and down an entire bottle of Amarula. Each. 
Coming face to face with a forceful gentleman in uniform brandishing his well-polished weapon can have that effect on a man.

All of this was a whole road away from Rustenburg though. So, apart from there being a drive-thru bottle store in a town a few miles to the west, why do England want to be there?

It comes down to three things: altitude, logistics and facilities. At 3,800ft above sea level, Rustenburg is great for acclimatising to the rarified Highveld air, it’s only 30 minutes from the small (yet perfectly adequate) Pilanesberg airfield and the hotel and sports complex there (Rustenburg, not the airfield) is still being built – hence the option of some degree of customisation. 

Reports in South Africa claim Capello has already asked for an arcade room, plasma televisions bringing in British channels in each of the rooms, an electric security fence around the perimeter of the site and superb training facilities with manicured pitches.

Former Spurs and England defender Gary Mabbutt, who is advising the organising committee on their World Cup team bases, says such requirements are not unusual.
“Most teams want single rooms for their players kitted out with wi-fi, plasma TV, satellite and Playstations,” he told me.

I’m guessing that DSTV’s selection of repeated episodes of Top Gear from 2004 and repeated episodes of Top Gear from 2005 won’t be enough. Although, given the temperament of Wayne Rooney, repeated episodes of Supernanny from 2004 may be helpful. As may the Cbeebies channel.

While Rustenburg may seem to be the best option for the England team and their entourage, Austin makes a error in comparing it to Baden-Baden where the team was based for the 2006 World Cup tournament in Germany.
There is little in Rustenburg to attract England fans to stay there. Most importantly, it’s only within comfortable travelling distance of 4 of the World Cup stadiums. The major centres of Cape Town and Durban are a 2 hour flight away – and that’s from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport, which itself is a 2 hour drive from Rustenburg. It would be like staying in Sheffield, driving to Heathrow and jetting off to watch a match in Madrid. South Africa is big.
Added to that, the villages of Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and Polokwane are even less readily accessible.
(No-one is ever really sure of how best to get to Bloemfontein, or why you’d want to.)

But there’s no doubt that having one of the big teams staying at your resort means big money.
The Times reports how Val de Vie in Franschhoek is going to extraordinary lengths to attract one of the larger nations including converting its polo fields into practice soccer pitches and planting Fifa-specified turf on them.

The estate’s 2010 coordinator, Martin Botha, said they already have massage and medical treatment rooms and team-building facilities. “We’re going to change the grass to the Fifa specifications for practice fields but otherwise everything else is in place,” he says.

I’ll check out how they’re doing when I head there for The Killers concert in December.

Finally, news just in that (apparently, allegedly) Brazil are going to be basing themselves in Cape Town. However, the same “expert” that predicted this then went on to say that England are going to be based in Johannesburg, so who knows?

Meh. Until things get confirmed (and quite probably beyond that time as well) it’s back to the Amarula for me…

FIFA 2010 World Cup match schedule | Green Point Stadium Webcams | Cape Town Tourism 2010

 * Officially the demonym of the people of Botswana.