Day 164 – Footy, an afternoon of footy, then more footy

I played football this morning for the first time since… well… you know what.

Plenty of precautions. Sanitiser, temperature checks (thankfully very early on!) and track and trace all details taken and logged.

It was warm enough and I was not match-fit enough for it to be wholly comfortable, but wow – it felt good to play again. And while the heat of summer is on its way, the fitness will come back too.

Then an afternoon of football: Sheffield United women beating Millwall London City Lionesses 4-1 and Ajax Cape Town winning their first playoff league match 3-2 after a topsy-turvy second half.

And then this evening is Fantasy League Draft night. 12 players, 4 continents: the magic of camaraderie and the internet. And football.

Ajax to return to Cape Town Stadium

Favourable grass-growing conditions, plus some expert love and care by the Cape Town Stadium groundstaff means that despite previous reports to the contrary, Ajax Cape Town’s final game of the season will be staged at the Mother City’s World Cup venue:

Ajax Cape Town is returning to Cape Town Stadium for their last game of season against Maritzburg United on May 21, 2011.
The last game of the season for Ajax Cape Town is certainly going to be the most important game played in Cape Town since the semi-final of the 2010 World Cup.
Local support for Ajax Cape Town is vital to provide the final surge across the finish line. We urge the City and the people of Cape Town to get behind the Urban Warriors as they strive to bring the PSL Championship trophy home.

After a mixed response to their previous games at the venue, i, they’re putting on a Football Festival in order to pull the crowds in:

Ajax is planning a major soccer feast at the Cape Town Stadium when they play Maritzburg United.

The Urban Warriors are making 40 000 seats available to the people of Cape Town to ensure that everyone have an opportunity to witness Ajax Cape Town winning their first ABSA Premiership League title in their history.

Shooz Mekuto the Ajax PRO said, “I am very excited with the developments ahead of our last PSL fixture at the Cape Town Stadium for the current season. I am inviting all the people of Cape Town to come a watch history unfold when Ajax Cape Town lift the ABSA Premiership trophy for the first time.”

Shooz may be confident, but Maritzburg United will be no pushover in a game which Ajax have to win to be sure of claiming the title. “The Team of Choice” beat high-flying Mamelodi Sunclowns on their last outing.
Still, that’s all the more reason for locals to come out and support the Urban Warriors next Saturday. The city is making the Fan Walk and the Park & Ride facilities available to supporters and (with the right result) it should be a great day for Cape Town football.
I will, of course, be there: if you want to say hi, I’ll be the tall, good-looking bloke in red and white.

Tickets are now on sale from everyone’s favourite online outlet, Computicket and are priced at R40, R60 and R80.

I should be out in the sun…

…but there’s the small matter of a few thoughts to be documented and this tends to be the place where I do that sort of thing.

I will commence with this documentation process now.

Firstly: did I see my first fixed game of football on Friday night? We all know that cycling is a valueless laughing stock now that another (and another and another) big name is discovered to have used drugs to enhance their performance. And all the scientific evidence points towards the biggest name of all having done exactly the same – but having got away with it, at least for the moment. Athletics too, is in disarray with medals tables still being updated a week after the Commonwealth Games has finished. And even the “Gentleman’s Game”, cricket has fallen foul of recent match-fixing allegations.
So far, football has really only made itself look stupid by not adopting goalline technology, but the result of the Cape Town derby on Friday night was decided by the dodgiest 92nd minute penalty I’ve ever seen given. And that includes several at Old Trafford. And that’s saying something. None of the players, nor the 15,000 crowd, nor (apparently) the referee saw anything untoward as veteran goalkeeper Hans Vonk collected the ball and got the game going again. But the linesman on the far side decided to flag for a foul and was already in position for the resulting penalty to be taken before the ref had even blown his whistle. It looked weird.  It looked dodgy. And it was made even more iffy by the fact that it was in the 92nd minute. He probably would have given one earlier, but Santos hadn’t actually got into the box before that.

The penalty was saved by an incensed Vonk, but he couldn’t hold on to it  and the rebound was popped in for world’s most unlikely draw. After the incident and after the game, Mr Vonk could be seen telling the officials exactly wheat he thought of them. Repeatedly and in detail.

Secondly: dolphins, The Cove and the internet.
Now, I like dolphins as much as the next man (as long as the next man isn’t Alan Cooper – I don’t like them that much). But I’m also one of those enquiring people who never takes things at face value and likes to look at both sides of a story. The annual dolphin killings at Taiji in Japan is one of those stories. It’s been in the news again recently, because the time for the annual kill has come around again and much reference has been made to the overly subjective film The Cove, which was released last year, documenting the 2009 kill and telling us that the water turned red with the blood of the dolphins.
Isn’t that dramatic? What do they think the floor of a slaughterhouse looks like?

Now, environmentalists want this annual practice banned – no matter that it’s been going on for over 300 years and there are still plenty of dolphins to be caught.  And that’s ok, because everyone is entitled to their views on this and when you are a greenie, you have to protest about something – it’s what you do. And dolphins are the most awesome thing to protest about because they’re dolphins. And dolphins and pandas are top of the list when it comes to poking the human conscience. Them and puppies.

But what about humans? Because Taiji isn’t some oil-rich, gold-laden glittering city. Taiji is a small town with no industry or income other than that of the fishing (and for fishing, you can read “whaling”). So when you take away what they are their ancestors have been doing for centuries because it doesn’t fit with your Western beliefs, what’s left for those people?
Imagine Jeffery’s Bay without the surfing, imagine Boulders Beach without the penguins: there’s suddenly no support for those people; poverty ensues and the settlement – there for hundreds of years – is ruined because of the views of some activists 1000’s of miles away who refuse to look beyond the “plight of the dolphins”.

And then the people who support them without considering the reasons why they are doing it. Why?
Dolphin, panda, puppy – must protect.
It’s a trendy, ill-thought through, kneejerk, bandwagon-jumping response.
What gives you the right to decide how others should live?

I don’t like the thought of dolphins being killed either, but it’s a necessary part of  life for the people of Taiji. The dolphin catch provides food (albeit potentially unhealthy food, but beggars can’t be choosers) and income for the town.
Imagine if your only sources of food and income were taken away from you because someone in America didn’t like the way you lived your life?
That’s no more braais, because they don’t agree with the way your lamb is slaughtered or the ingredients in your boerewors were sourced. They’re stopping your income as well, because they don’t like the way you make your money. Of course, they have no legal powers to do this – but actually, they’ll even go as far as breaking the laws of your own country to make your hard life even harder.

What happens to the people of Taiji if the dolphin catch doesn’t happen? Have you even considered that? 
No, of course not:  because it’s about dolphins and pandas and puppies.

Cape Town Stadium: Truly Magnificent

As promised, I can say I was there at the first ever football match played at Cape Town’s 2010 World Cup stadium. And what an experience. As ever, a big football match in the Mother City brought out the true spirit of the Rainbow Nation – every colour, every age – all just there to share in the historic moment and to have a great time.

The standard of the actual football wasn’t much to write home about, unless you are a fan of words like “rubbish” and “dull” and the phrase “couldn’t score in a brothel”, but the weather was perfect, the atmosphere superb, the organisation faultless and the stadium itself: truly magnificent. It was fascinating to watch as people came in and just stared in awe, open-mouthed.

I took almost a Gig of photographs, which I have managed to whittle down to 81 pictures and a video (HD, nogal!) of the very first kick off at the Stadium – courtesy of Ajax’s centre-forward, Diyo Sibisi.

Slideshow (in a separate window) | Flickr set

All in all, a brilliant day out and very promising for the World Cup. In a couple of weeks, we double the numbers for the Rugby – it’s going to be another sell-out and another great occasion.

EDIT: I’m told that there are some (continuing) complaints on certain (Cape Talk) radio stations about fans blowing vuvuzelas. The only noise I’m fed up with is the incessant whining of the whities who have suddenly become football fans (which is great) and now want to change the game to suit themselves (which is not). Bugger off.