Monday, July 12, 2010

World Cup Finale

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!! :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Der Oranje Invasion

Thank you Oranje! Photographing so many matches the past few weeks I had chosen who were my favorite fans this World Cup. My top choice was the Ghana fans, but a close second were the Holland fans. They were passionate and intense, but given the chance to party, not a moment would be put to waste.
I met up with the Netherlands fans and other fans in Cape Town which was a great place for a match.
Unlike Jo'burg where there was no central meeting point or possibility to walk to the matches, Cape Town had created a "Fan Walk" where after fans met up at the festival, they could walk the 2.4 km to the stadium.

It was a great place for fans all over the world to interact.
Blow their vuvuzuela..Grab a seat and a beer...
or 5 or 10....
and make their way down...

with the handful or Uruguayan fans who made the trip.

At the stadium the spirits of the Holland fans were sky-high before the match.
After a tense opening 60 minutes, when Holland scored their third goal the Dutch fans could not sit in their seats any more but had to get up and start dancing throughout the stadium.
When Uruguay scored a late goal there were some tense final moments....
But then the Netherlands fans erupted into celebration!
Carried their clogs sky high...And could feel the World Cup trophy within their grasp.
Even the Oranje General, who has been a fan since 1974, could taste the sweet scent of victory within his grasp.
From the hour long party outside the stadium, the Dutch fans danced all the way out of the stadium...
And partied for a bit with other fans along Long Street in Cape Town...
Before ending up together once again to celebrate their victory.
The Dutch fans also are a bunch of family. Some have been attending matches for years and the celebration was special.
A former secretary of state for Netherlands and the goalkeeper from the Netherlands Euro winning 1988 side partied with the fans...
But the moment, was sweet...
...the emotions, were pure, and the fun was nonstop. My best wishes to the Dutch on Sunday. I hope their long wait for their first World Cup will soon be over.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Week Worth of World Cup Matches

I was not able to update my blog as frequently toward the end of the first round and second round matches, so here are the several matches I took photos of and had not yet posted on my blog:
First was the South Africa vs. France match. I went to the Sandton fan festival to watch this match and catch what looked like would be the final game for Bafana Bafana.
But with a couple of early goals and a favorable result in the Uruguay-Mexico game it looked like South Africa might go through!
People were watching in anticipation...

But in the end Bafana Bafana fell short but South African's could still be proud with how there team bowed out of the competition.
The day after the USA lost to Ghana, was the Argentina-Mexico match once again in Soccer City.
Fan of all colors had fun at the match...even Brazilians and Argetinians could call a truce for a bit.

By the end the Mexicans had abandoned their head gear.
And the fans were celebrating...

Well not all of the fans.

The next night was the Brazil-Chilie match.
The samba whistles..
and drums were in full effect...
And the Chileans came ready to suppport their team as well..
But in the end it was a romp for the Brazilians, with the fans celebrating 3 Brazil goals.

And the.n finally the Japan- Paraguay match. It was a tough match for the Japanese fans' because they had so many chances to win the match..
And their fans were constantly on, Um, television...
Most of the crowd was supporting the Japanese fans and behind them till the end of extra time.

But with the end of time it came to the crap shoot of penalty kicks...
It was interesting watching the reactions of different fans during the kicks.And the result to some fans turned out exactly as they hoped.

Well that my quick round up. Now on to Cape Town and the semi-final match!