And so the finale. The end of the biggest sporting event and the largest party in the world. The event that places every one's life on hold. The finale. The end.
I made my way to Jozi from Cape Town for the final match and from the moment I touched down at the airport the colors and pride of the Spanish...and the Holland fans were on display.
A ton of Spanish fans had just arrived at the airport from Spain ready to support their nations quest for their first World Cup trophy.
As were the Dutch fans who had already been traveling in large numbers but thousands more also arrived at the airport the morning of the final match.
Dutch fans even added a little orange color to a band playing at a local shopping complex in Johannesburg.
And when I arrived at Soccer City it was literally a sea of Orange as far as the eye could see. The Holland fans had become one of my favorite nations during the Cup. They were passionate, fun, wacky, and a pleasure to hang out with and party.
And the smaller numbers of Spanish fans were also ready getting ready for the final.
Perhaps the fans were getting a little too close with each other before the match.
But in the end of the day there could only be one team that would not be crushed.
The game itself, well, I can't say that it was the most exciting soccer match I have ever watched. But having followed the Orange fans this far deep down I was in their corner hoping for a Dutch victory. I ended up finding the one location in the stadium where the Netherlands fans were actually able to stand and support their team. Almost everywhere else the fans had to sit down, per FIFA regulations. ( In my opinion having dedicated fans be forced to sit in their seats ruins the atmosphere of the game, but that is a separate post at another time.)
And as time went on and Holland missed some golden opportunities, it just began to feel like it was not the Netherlands day. Then extra time, a red card and the goal with 4 minutes left to effectively seal the game for Spain.
The Holland fans, many who I had partied and took photographs of long into the night after the semi-final were devastated. It was tough to behold and even harder to take photographs of such sorrow and sadness.
Tears flowed freely...
Glassy, watery eyes were the norm...
And once again a party that seemed would never end came to a quick, brutal ending met by an inconsolable sorrow.
Like a broken vuvuzuela.
But as the Holland fans hugged and thought about what could have been...
the long suffering Spanish fans were able to finally taste the sweet smell of victory.
And enjoy being the champions of the world.
Seeing such joy on the Spanish side tempered how bad I felt for the Dutch fans..
And their absolute pure joy was infectious as well. Congratulations Spain and your fans for a job well done.
Well this is it for me. The end of the World Cup. I am still just starting to go through my photographs and edit them down and try and put together a last collection of my favorite images. But I am afraid that might take at least a week.
But after spending the last month doing nothing but eat, drink and watch soccer I am glad to have a chance to come up for air, catch my breath and have a moment to decompress and savor all the memories.
However right now I can tell, in my mind, I am starting to plan out about the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014. After all it is only 4 years away!! :)