Tuesday, May 11, 2010

World Cup One Month Away!

With the World Cup in South Africa only one month away, excitement is building among soccer, or "football," fans around the world.

The first match takes place in Johannesburg on June 11, between Mexico and the home-town favorites, South Africa.

Between now and then, watch for news of one of the greatest sports spectacles on Earth, played out for the first time on African soil.

I read recently that Americans have purchased about 118,000 tickets for World Cup 2010, the highest total of any nation other than South Africa itself. Next, with only about half that amount, is football-crazy England.

My guess is that U.S. interest in soccer is fueled primarily by the popularity of the youth version of the game. On any Saturday morning in the fall, droves of players and parents pack soccer fields around the nation.

The game is perfect for kids, who can play a very simple version when they are as young as 4 or 5, and improve their range of technical skills as they grow.

Excitement is certainly growing in our family as we anticipate our flight from Atlanta (via Los Angeles) to Johannesburg on Saturday, June 19. Our five-week trip will take us to Cape Town, along South Africa's Eastern seaboard over the Garden Route, to the Wild Coast, and on to Swaziland and Kruger National Park before returning to Johannesburg.

We will see at least three matches along the way, including a semi-final in Durban.

Our biggest apprehension at this point? We will be driving as many as 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) in a rental car on South African roads.

In addition to the perils of navigating unfamiliar territory, we will have to quickly adapt to driving on the left side of the road, and operating a stick shift stift with the left hand.

We don't know any other families who are making the trip, but I know you are out there and would love to hear from you.

Check this blog often during June and July for updates from the road, and post your comments, questions, etc.

By the way, the pictures above show the makarapa hat, popular across South Africa among football fans, people with the vuvuzelas, plastic trumpets used for making a cacophony at matches and South Africa's own Castle beer.

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