Richard Jackson is blogging throughout the World Cup as he travels around South Africa from Cape Town to Johannesburg. You can follow his journey through the ‘Bolton Raider’ facebook page and on www.subsidesports.com
Durban is a city which has really taken the World Cup to its heart, filling its streets with banners, posters and fabulous World Cup illuminations. Before we arrived here we heard a lot about the high risk nature of being a tourist in Durban, but yet again we will leave a South African city with a positive impression. As in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, the security here has been exemplary. Police are ever present whether you are on the beach, in the city or at the stadium and whilst it’s a bit odd having am armed officer checking your match ticket before confiscating your crisps and drinks the use of police at every level of the event is reassuring. Despite this display of authority all the security personnel we have encountered have conducted themselves in a non-threatening and friendly manner at all times. As far as I’m concerned they are doing a excellent job.
In truth security has been the last thing on our mind this week. The promotional banners here proudly boast that, “Durban is a city with two seasons, summer and summer” and in with warm oceans, blue skies and beautiful sunshine during what is areas coolest month, it certainly lives up to hype. In a stark contrast to the wet and windy conditions of Cape Town, Durban’s Fan Fest is located on its central beach, which yesterday was flooded with thousands of fans to watch Bafana Bafana take on France. As always the atmosphere was fabulous. Whilst the 2010 World Cup will go down in history as the first where a host nation failed to reach the 2nd round, South Africa bow out with their heads held high. It should not be forgotten than South Africa were in a group with three nations ranked inside the worlds top 20 and whilst they probably did not deserve to qualify, they thoroughly deserved their victory against the French. In truth qualification was not a realistic aim, but the significance of beating a nation which has reached two of the previous three world cup finals cannot be understated. With a young and promising squad Bafana Bafana are here to stay.
Yet football is only a temporary visitor to the golden side of Durban. All year round the beach is filled with surfing fanatics, who have also benefited from the recent renovation of the coastal areas. The brand new promenade extends well past Fan Fest and with purpose built storage facilities, instructors quarters and plans for a beach front restaurant the World Cup will leave in real legacy here. I’m happy we gave surfing our first shot here, but I’d be lying if I said I was converted. I spent well over an hour flapping around and falling off my board, without spending more than a second actually standing, yet I still left the ocean with plenty chaffing in the only area where the sun didn’t shine. I’m much happier to recommend the local food than the surfing, not least the bunny chow, a curry dish inside a hallowed loaf of bread. Not only is it delicious but more importantly you can enjoy it sat down.
Our final night in Durban was spent at the magnificent Durban Stadium, with its fabulous arch and open South stand providing a genuinely unique arena. The game between South Korea and Nigeria was equally impressive. It was a real end to end game, played at a terrific tempo where both teams could have snatched victory, although the best chance of the game fell to Everton striker Yakubu, who prodded wide from less than a metre out with the keeper stranded. It was a moment that is sure to find it’s way onto a YouTube reel of greatest misses soon. The 2-2 draw took Korea through to the last 16, sending the small but wonderfully passionate group of Korea fans into a frenzy, staying well after the final whistle to celebrate. Support for the Super Eagles was also quite remarkable. The culture all across South Africa is to support their African brothers at every opportunity, a stark contrast to the culture of strong and often vicious rivalry between teams in Europe. The game provided a brilliant end to a fabulous week in Durban and the pride the people here have for everything African is terrific. One word of caution for those travelling to Durban – beware of the barrage of speed traps around the city, which includes an army of camouflaged traffic police with hand held devices. Believe me, those guys are hotter than the bunny chow.
Richard Jackson (The Bolton Raider) for Subside Sports