Friday, June 25, 2010

Orange Crush

We attended our first World Cup match in Cape Town last night, and Orange was the word - as in more than 10,000 Dutch fans decked out in the team's bright orange hue. Some wore wigs, others painted their faces and a few wore formal orange suits and ties.

Cape Town organizers have set up a "fan walk" from the central train station to Green Point Stadium, about a mile and a half away, which was of course a pulsing orange river before the match.

Those who didn't want to make the trek had the option of jumping onto shuttle buses for the short ride to the stadium.

So far, support for the Netherlands has been second only to that shown for Bafana Bafana, the South African national team, at least from our experience. The affinity for the Orange apparently stems from the Dutch heritage of many white South Africans.

Cape Town's stadium was in pristine condition, with excellent acoustics and sight lines. We sat about midway up, above a corner of the field, with great views. My ears are still ringing from the constant trumpeting of the vuvuzelas, which at times reached a fever pitch.

The match itself had little consequence - the Netherlands had already clinched a spot in the next round, and Cameroon was already mathematically eliminated. But both sides played hard in the Netherlands' 2-1 win.

Many streets throughout downtown are blocked off to cars, so fans can browse stalls selling souvenirs or eat at outdoor cafes. While some skeptics wondered before the World Cup began whether security concerns would overshadow the fun, our family felt quite safe at all times both before, during and after the match, which ended about 10:30 p.m. local time.

The FIFA fan zone in downtown Cape Town is set up with several huge video screens where locals and foreign visitors mingled to watch matches, listen to live music and soak up the atmosphere. A Dutch fan proposed to his girlfriend on stage yesterday.

While South Africa is out of the tournament, interest by locals remains strong. Some of the South Africans I have talked to support Ghana and Ivory Coast, which are still playing, and even the USA after its thrilling last-minute victory over Algeria on Wednesday.

(A side note: What's with these refs? Another questionable call, this one an off-sides infraction, robbed the USA of another goal in the Algeria match.)

We are looking forward to cheering on Donovan and Co. as they take on Ghana tomorrow night, and our Round of 16 match in Cape Town on Tuesday, where we may be lucky enough to see Brazil, Spain or Portugal compete.

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