South Africa v Ivory Coast, Sunday 30th November 2014, 3pm


I like to try to fit as much into weekends as possible and this one had already seen Jen and I spend a couple of nights at a game reserve and take in the Telkom Knockout final in Soweto. The thing was though, there was another game that I fancied seeing taking place at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on the Sunday afternoon.

Nelspruit is around two and a half hours drive away from us and I didn’t really want to drive back in the evening after the game and so decided to stay over instead, take the Monday off and then have another drive around nearby Kruger the next day. That’s two weekends in one in my book.

The Kruger drive went especially well as we got up close to a couple of young spotted hyenas that were lazing around by the side of the road. They didn’t seem bothered by us parking a few feet away and I reckon I could have had them eating Smarties out of my hand if I’d wanted to.

Hyenas just need better PR.

Hyenas just need better PR.

The match was a bit of an odd affair. It was a hastily scheduled international against Ivory Coast as part of some sort of Mandela charity initiative. Unfortunately it fell outside of the international ‘window’ and so not only were there no European-based players selected, but some of the South African clubs also refused to release their footballers. The starting line-up for South Africa included eight uncapped players and the three fellas who had previously played for the national team had a grand total of four caps between them.

On the plus side, the reduced interest meant that parking in the stadium was easy enough and I was able to buy my son a Kaizer Chiefs shirt from a bloke outside for 150 rand instead of the usual 800 rand that the shops charge.

They sold hats as well.

They sold hats as well.

We had tickets for the upper tier as I was keen for us to be under cover. The poor sales scuppered this plan though with only the lower tier being opened. With free seating we settled in on the half way line in the sort of area where I imagine Sepp Blatter would get to sit if he turned up.

Bafana Bafana started well with the ball in the net after a minute. The celebrations on and off the pitch continued for a minute or so despite the linesman’s flag ruling the goal out. I’m sure some people near us were unaware that the effort had been disallowed and continued basking in their team’s early success.

Almost one-nil.

Almost one-nil.

I tried to remember what the game was where the Boro were in a similar situation. Festa was twirling his shirt above his head and everyone was celebrating the goal. Well, not quite everyone. The opposition had resumed play and maybe half of our players were frantically trying to contain them whilst the rest and most of the fans were blissfully unaware.

South Africa had the better chances and finally took the lead after half an hour through Zungu. I’m sure some people thought he had made it two-nil.

South Africa were in the white kit.

South Africa were in the white kit.

The first half drew to a close without any further goals and we decided to move around to one of the corners on the other side of the ground. I like different vantage points and this one had the added advantage of being closer to the car park.

Zulu doubled South Africa’s lead a few minutes into the second half. They then seemed to alternate between preserving their lead by timewasting and charging forward as if it were they that were two goals down. I preferred the latter approach and with it being pretty much a ‘nothing game’ why not take a few risks?

Celebrating a real goal this time.

Celebrating a real goal this time.

My plan for a quick getaway close to the end was thwarted as the gates on our side of the ground were closed and we had to circumnavigate the ground to find an exit.

Bizarrely, there were still people coming in as we went out, and others parking their cars as we drove off, despite the game being over by then. African time, apparently.


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