World Cup week 2 – tide turns (sort of)

When I clicked the drop menu on the address bar of the hotel’s computer, I realised that I had been held up by prolonged web searches for ‘prostitutas en pretorias sudafrica’ and so forth. Our hotel in Pretoria has been overrun by hordes of Argentinian soccer fans. Whilst some of the few women involved with the group have passable English and engage pleasantly enough with local Africans and other O/S visitors like us, the males comprise one of the most clannish, humourless, charm-free bunches I’ve ever met.

Wonderful soccer players, brilliant team, idiot coach, surly fans – I want to love them, but really, I just can’t. Mullets are de rigeur for the under-30 fans, morphing into comb-overs for the over 30’s, and trackies for all (all day, every day).  I read somewhere that, apart from having the world’s most unhealthy proportion of meat in their diets (borne out by the ‘welcome fans’ buffet here), Argentinians also have the highest rate of psychiatric consultations. It’s like a whole nation of Collingwood supporters.

At least I can report on this weekend’s WC matches with a smile (if not on the Lions in the AFL). Unlike in Durban, when Australia lay down and didn’t fire a shot against the brilliantly quick and decisive Germans, they really took it up to Ghana on Saturday, forcing them to fire from long range despite their (seemingly pre-ordained) numerical advantage – and in the end, Australia might have won with a bit more finishing polish (e.g. Tim Cahill, who couldn’t of course be there). I must (reluctantly) give Holman due credit for being on the spot when a goal chance arrived – after which he reverted to headless-chook type till replaced by the infinitely more creative Chippefield and Kennedy. Frankly, our midfielders have zero creativity. As usual Australia’s best were 1,2,3: Schwarzer, Neill and Moore (take note, Bill).

Only a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist would claim that FIFA has ordered its referees to target ‘3rd-world soccer’ countries, with absurd dismissals of star players, ridiculous penalties and lopsided free-kick counts – but, hey, we all have eyes. (Check the count in NZ’s glorious draw with the World Cheats: 25 frees to 11, and Italy’s goal from an inevitable dive in the box.) Mind you, a lot of the most wild-eyed Australian fans were around us in the top deck at Rustenburg; they graced the arena with a shower of beer stubbies (fortunately made of plastic). You meet many nice, thoughtful Australians in the crowd (like the young Hawks and Victory fan from Malvern who writes for the Australian Jewish News and her dad), but it must be said that there is a concentration of cringe-worth Lleytonite Fanatics present.

I always suspected it, but having a WC match in Rustenburg (a Ballarat-sized drive from Pretoria) is like putting it on in Broken Hill or Mt Isa. (Rustenburg is home to the world’s largest platinum mines, but is strictly low-grade zinc on the civilisation meter.) That said, its open stadium affords you a glorious view of the sunset – so there’s Dusty Rusty’s tourism selling point. Pity that the stadium’s actually 10 miles out of town and you have to be ferried by bus from a Sunbury ’74-style car park in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, winters are bone-dry there, or else it would have brought to mind the ancient charms of VFL Park, Waverley).

As some of you know, I’m content to watch Australia play in the WC and fit in the world’s oldest human skeleton and other tourist attractions in between, but my traveling companion Neville Turner is like a  junkie trying to score scalper’s tickets to other WC matches. He’s succeeded 3 times already and is surpassing himself tonght by trying to bargain his way into Brazil’s late-night match in Soweto before getting a dubiously promised midnight train 70 kms back to Pretoria. His parting comment when I dropped him at Pretoria station had an element of Captain Oates in Antarctica (‘I may be gone for some time…’)

About Tony Roberts

Favourites list: Food: whatever I cook; Drink: whatever my doctor allows; Music: refer 'Soul Time' (pres. Vince 'The Prince' Peach 3PBS-FM, plus Soul Au Go Go at The Laundry, first Saturday each month); Movie: love that Cinema Nova discount card!; TV show: call me Don Draper, if you like (or David Brent, if not); Footy teams: Melbourne Victory (summer), Coolangatta, AFLQ (hols), Brisbane Lions (forever), Western Bulldogs (for now); Player: refer 2009 Footy Almanac Round 18 (WB V Freo); Pet: Ferdy (JRT - as per previous reference)


  1. Dave Nadel says

    I have already sent these comments to Tony privately but other Pie Knackers might like to read them.

    “I was going to take offense at your description of Argentinia as a whole nation of Collingwood supporters, but I think I’ll just barrack for them instead when Australia is knocked out. (I wish Collingwood had a forward line one quarter as talented as Argentina’s). From your own comments it
    would seem Australia’s supporters are reminiscent of West Coast Eagles fans. I suspect Brisbane Lions fans are represented by the United States of America.”

    Go Pies! Viva Argentina!

  2. Martin Reeves says

    Enjoyable read Tony. Sounds like the Fanatics have found some kindred spirits in the Argentine supporters.

    But the question remains, how many Fanatics could explain the off-side rule?

    Look forward to your review of the Australia v Serbia match.

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