I was excited to photograph Brazil playing Ivory Coast at Soccer City on Sunday night, but I ended up being fascinated following an elephant. In 2006 I just assumed that Brazil would make it to the semi-finals and I would have plenty of time to take photographs of their fans. When they were eliminated by France I missed my chance. I thought the Brazil fans would be crazy and fun and intense, but at Soccer City they were rather mellow and besides a few samba players were not really vocal. So I ended up walking around the stadium and followed the trials and tribulations of the Ivory Coast fans that made the trip to South Africa.
A group of about 50 Ivory Coast fans entered the stadium and two of them helped escort the "The Elephant of Ivory Coast" to his seat. It must have been really hard to walk in that outfit and unfortunately the fans did not know exactly where they were seating. They went up and down two ramps and around half the stadium before they found their seats.
Meanwhile the Brazil fans found their seats, with their eyes solely on the grand prize: The Copa del Mundo trophy.
As I wandered back to see how the Ivory Coast fans were doing I came upon a surprise. They had been kicked out of their seats and were standing behind them unsure what to do. A lot of confusion reigned supreme because the Ivory Coast fans only spoke French and they had to wait to find someone else who did. Luckily one of the volunteers at the stadium did and the story unfolded:
Apparently the fans had all bought their tickets individually and had ended up with tickets all over the stadium and not together. One of the volunteers explained to me that you need to buy the group tickets to ensure you are all together. There ended up being a lot of finger pointing and upset Ivory Coast fans with drums and costumes unable to cheer on their team. They spent about 20 minutes trying to find seating together but eventually it became clear that it was a hopeless pursuit and they ended up drifting off to their own seats leaving the lonely Ivory Coast elephant all alone by himself, as his costume was too large to fit him into one seat. And after going down 2-0, the poor elephant had little to cheer for...
I wandered off again and was looking for more crazy Brazil fans but only ended up finding this skirmish of fans after Brazil scored their third goal. Not sure what it was about but I believe the action in the stands was more fun then on the field in what ended up being a rather easy game for Brazil to win.
I went back to see how the lonely Ivory Coast elephant was doing and got there right when Drogba scored a goal for them to give them one back. Several people standing near the elephant patted him on the shoulder in appreciation...
And the Ivory Coast elephant gave out one quick roar for this one moment of happiness for him.
But as expected, the Brazilians won, and partied out of the stadium having qualified once again for the second round. It seemed like the Brazil fans were really holding back their celebratory "guns," having come to expect to get this far and looking forward to partying harder when they get further in the tournament.
And for the South Africans, the party hopefully will continue as well, as will the call of the Elephant, er, I mean the vuvuzuela!!!