Holly & Holloway's World Cup Holiday


Jo’burg, Germans and Soweto
June 30, 2010, 18:11
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Hi gang!

So we’re out of the World Cup, knocked out by our old enemy the Germans in the Round of 16.  I think before the competition started most England fans would have thought the absolute minimum we should have achieved was a place in the quarter finals.  Fabio Capello said the semi finals were his aim.  But while no-one is going to be pleased at us going out so early, I don’t think many people will be surprised having seen some really poor football from England throughout the competition.

Anyway, we shall come to that.  On Saturday we moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg.  We really loved Cape Town.  It’s beautifully scenic, has lots to see and do, and the people were all very friendly.  Jo’burg is completely different.  It’s known to be quite a dangerous city with a pretty high crime rate, but of course most of the crime is in the poorer, more run down areas. There are a lot of very wealthy parts of Jo’burg, including where our hotel is, but these places seem quite bleak to us.  All the houses are surrounded by high walls, and on top of the walls are electric fences.  So when you go about the city it’s like being in a back-to-front prison.  Everyone has locked themselves in, away from all this crime that they think is outside but probably isn’t.  It’s a weird place.

You can't see the houses in Jo'burg

So, Sunday, and the Germany game.  We had to travel on a coach for about 6 hours to Bloemfontein.  Quite a boring journey … except when a small aeroplane landed on the motorway in front of us!  The coach driver slowed down and by the time we stopped the plane had come to a standstill in the central reservation.  We checked that everyone was OK before carrying on.  Quite a bizarre experience!

We arrived in Bloemfontein at about midday and spent a couple of hours in a shopping centre before making our way to the ground.  Now, as you probably know, England fans do not have a good history.  Lots of hooligans have latched themselves onto the national team in the past and caused mayhem abroad.  It’s nothing like as much of a problem these days, and there has been no trouble at all here, but games against Germany are often quite tense due to the rivalry between the two sides.  However, the atmosphere between the English and German supporters was superb!  It seems that all of a sudden the fans have realised “Hmm, we like drinking beer and watching football.  They like drinking beer and watching football.  Perhaps we’re not so different from them after all!”.  The English and German fans were sitting amongst one another in the ground, and despite the thrashing we received, there was no trouble, no aggression at all.  It was excellent in the stands.  It’s a pity it wasn’t so good on the pitch!

Now would seem like a good time to answer your questions, since we’re on the subject:

Sally: I was quite upset, but I have definitely been more upset by football results, many times.  We were soundly beaten and deserved to lose, so I couldn’t feel anything other than disappointment.  We got what we had deserved throughout the whole tournament.  Most of the England fans seemed to feel the same – we were beaten by the better side and didn’t deserve to win, so that was that!
Emily/Amelia: That’s a good question, but I have no idea how to answer it!  I really don’t know who I want to win.  Not Argentina, not Spain.  It would be nice to see Ghana win, but I don’t think they will!
Jonathan & Matty: Hmm.  I am going to have to be careful what I say here, and probably not use many of the words I used at the time!  We were at the opposite end of the ground, and we thought it had crossed the line.  It was quite funny actually, because, knowing that they would not replay it on the big screen, I said to my mate that we’d have to wait to watch on TV before we knew for sure.  Then I realised we could find out straight away – I texted Mrs Griffiths’s husband “Was it in?”.  He replied straight away “By a mile!”.  It seems that everyone else in the stadium had had the same idea, and within a minute everyone had been told it was definitely in.  So the booing of the referee started then, about a minute after the incident.  Quite strange.  Needless to say, there was a lot of rather strong language being thrown in his direction!
Brandon: Wow, there’s a question!  To answer this would take forever.  If you want to read what I think it a very good article which seems to answer the question very well, go to http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/sport/2010/0629/1224273557820.html.  But my opinion is that the tactics and formation were not right, the players seemed to be unfit, they couldn’t handle a slower style of play in the World Cup and too many players were unable to bring their Premier League quality to the international stage.  I cannot answer why any of the above is the case, that’s anyone’s guess!

So, no more England games to watch.  In a way, that’s a relief.  We can now go to the quarter final, semi final and final and enjoy the event, not worry about England underperforming.  First up, Germany vs Argentina in Cape Town (YAY!) on Saturday.

Today (Wednesday) we went to Soweto.  I expect you’ve heard of Soweto.  It’s the biggest township in Johannesburg, and was home to many of the most prominent anti-Apartheid leaders during those troubled times.  Nelson Mandela lived there, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu still has a house there.  Indeed, these two residences are literally over the road from each other which makes this street the only one in the world that can boast two Nobel Peace Prize winners!

Soweto’s an interesting place.  Parts of it are quite affluent now, with houses that cost over £100,000, a very large amount for South Africa.  But of course there is also a lot of very poor, very run down housing, much of which doesn’t have electricity or water.  We were lucky enough to be invited into one such place, a small hut built of corrugated metal, by the lady who lived there with ten other people.  The hut was about the size of an average living room in the UK and was the home of seven adults and four children.  But despite this, the lady told us she was happy.  “We have no money, but we have this house and we are happy”, she said.  It was very humbling.

Inside a typical township shack. 11 people live here.

Being such a large place housing so many black political leaders, Soweto saw a lot of violence during the Apartheid years.  Most notoriously, the killing of Hector Pieterson took place in June 1976.  Hector was just 12 years old.

The issues surrounding Hector’s killing are long and complicated, and I will try to briefly summarise them here.  I suggest Mrs G reads up on it to fill in any gaps, as I am sure you will have questions about it.  Basically, when black, coloured and white people had been segregated into their own areas, the South African government which was entirely made up of white people passed many other laws which restricted the way that the non-whites lived.  One of which was to make it the law that black children were taught in the Africaans language, the language spoken by most whites.  Prior to this, most schools taught in English or the mother tongues of the various African tribes.  Few blacks spoke Africaans.  This, coupled with the fact that black schools were seriously underfunded and overcrowded, led to education standards tumbling.  After a while, many black students and school children started protesting at the Africaans rule by boycotting lessons.  This didn’t work, so in June 1976 they decided to protest.

On the morning of June 16th, students and children, rather than reciting the Lord’s Prayer in their school assemblies they sang the banned national anthem.  They then went onto the streets to march together to a local football stadium carrying banners calling for the Africaans rule to be abolished.  What you have to understand here is that this protest was made up of children and teenagers, most of them wearing their school uniforms.  Thousands of them marched.  The police came in but were unable to cope with the numbers.  Despite the march being a peaceful protest, during the standoff between protesters and police, some officers started shooting.  The first person to be shot and killed was 12 year old Hector Pieterson.  You can see his body in the photo being carried away, the girl next to him is his sister.

Hector Pieterson

An estimated 500 people were killed during the protest and the riots that occurred as a result.  The very idea that the police would shoot at school children is without question the most shocking thing I have learned about this country’s troubled past.

I’m sorry to bring up such a sad subject, but I think it’s a story every person, every schoolchild should know about.  It is important that we all know about these things so that we can learn from them.  South Africa has learned from them and they are much the better for it.

I was interested to hear about your trip to London.  Sounds excellent!  I’ve also been in the houses of Parliament.  It’s really interesting, isn’t it!  I’m glad you all had a good time, although your 5.30am start is nothing compared to our trip to Port Elizabeth for the Slovenia game – we left the hotel at 3am for that one!  Ouch!

I have a couple of World Cup questions for you.  Now that England are out of the competition, who do you all want to win?  Perhaps you could have a vote?  Also, who drew England in your class sweepstake, and how did you feel when they went out?

Right, that’s enough for now.  We’re going to the Apartheid museum this week before Cape Town for the Germany Argentina game on Saturday.  Hope you’re all still enjoying the football!

Rob.

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Cape Point and the Slovenia game
June 25, 2010, 13:00
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Hello all!

I’m glad to hear you’ve been busy since I last posted – I haven’t!  It’s been a fairly quiet few days.  I’ve only got a couple of things to report.

On Monday we went to Cape Point, a peninsular that pokes down south of Cape Town and leads to the Cape of Good Hope at the very bottom.  It’s here that the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and is known historically as a dangerous shipping route due to the convergence of the two currents.  There were no ships to be seen, however, just waves battering the beaches and cliffs way below our view point at the base of the lighthouse.  Just like Table Mountain, the views were spectacular.

Then, on Wednesday… well, you all know what happened on Wednesday!  It was an early start for us as we had to fly from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.  We arrived in time for breakfast, which we had in a café overlooking the beach.  Amazingly, while we were eating, a group of dolphins (known as a pod) swam across the bay.  An incredible sight!  The weather was beautiful and very warm and we spent a while wandering along the beach or sitting on the promenade watching the England fans pouring in.  It’s a strange thing to see hundreds of fans descending on a place, hanging up their flags and making it their own home for a few hours.  The atmosphere can be quite boisterous, and there is a lot of beer being drunk, but the fans have all been well behaved and, just like Rustenburg and Cape Town there was no trouble.

The stadium in Port Elizabeth is really nice, and definitely my favourite so far.  It didn’t hurt that it was so sunny and warm in there!  We arrived a couple of hours before kick off and watched the place fill up.  I know you all were allowed to go home early on Wednesday to watch the game.  It seems that the local schools in Cape Town were too, and a couple of schoolboys came up and asked to have their photos taken with me.  They were really excited about being at the game and assured me that they were 100% supporting England!

The game against Slovenia was so much better than the Algeria game, wasn’t it!  We played really well for most of the game and definitely deserved to win by more than just one goal.  However, the fact that we had such a slender lead meant that the last 15 minutes was pretty scary!  The noise from the England fans was really loud and I think it managed to drown out the sound of the vuvuzelas!  What did it sound like on the TV?  Hope you heard us!

So we have Germany in the next round.  Well, that will bring back a lot of memories of past games against the Germans.  Of course, I’m far too young to remember the 1966 game, but I remember well losing to them on penalties in the semi-final of the World Cup in Italy in 1990, and then in the semi-final of Euro 96 at Wembley.  But we’ve had better luck since then, especially when we beat them 5-1 in 2001.  That was a good evening!  Let’s hope the spirit of that game is with us on Sunday!

Sadly we leave Cape Town tomorrow (Saturday) and move to Johannesburg for the remainder of the tournament.  I’m going to miss Cape Town, it’s an incredibly beautiful city, and great fun to be here.  Let’s hope Jozi is as much fun!

Now to your questions, my favourite bit!

Joe: The ball’s not great, is it!  This seems to be becoming a theme at the World Cup and European Championships these days.  The manufacturers seem to be intent on making the ball lighter and lighter each time, which is crazy.  If you’ve played with one of those plastic balls they sell at petrol stations then you’ll know what it’s like, the ball swerves around very unpredictably.  Still, I guess it’s the same for all teams.
Eva: Our hotel is a little way outside the city centre so we don’t hear the fans from here, but when we’re out in Cape Town when there’s a game on it’s a great atmosphere.  Last night the place was full of Netherlands and Cameroon fans.  We could here the noise from the big screen in the centre when they scored.  We had left before the end of the game though, as the traffic’s pretty bad when the stadium empties!
Max: The mascot is a leopard called Zakumi.  He has green hair!  Here he is:

Ellis: Because Swindon Town are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen!  Also, I was born in Swindon and my Dad took me to games from the age of about 4 years old.  So it’s his fault!
Daisy: Yes!  We saw penguins in Simon’s Town, a place we stopped on the Cape Point tour on Monday.  They were pretty tame and seemed happy enough for us to walk around them and take pictures.  Here’s one:

Sam/Joe: No, definitely not!  The fans are proud followers of Bafana Bafana (the name of the South African team, it means “The Boys”) and were obviously disappointed to be knocked out, but there hasn’t been one single hint of trouble.  Their fans are just not like that, it feels like a festival, and they want to party even when they lose!  It seems to be the same with all the fans, the feeling is very happy and friendly.  I think we all feel very lucky to be here.

Right, that’s it for this post.  I hope you all have a good weekend and by the time you read this we’ve beaten the Germans… on penalties!!



Township Tour and the Algeria game
June 20, 2010, 14:18
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Goodness me, I’ve got such a lot to tell you since my last blog post.  So much has happened!

Last Thursday was my favourite day of the trip so far.  It was split into two parts.  First of all we visited a township called Masiphumelele (have fun trying to pronounce that!).  Townships in South Africa are the places where most of the non-white African population ended up living during the Apartheid years.  Most townships are extremely poor places where people live in huts made out of wood or metal sheets.  There is usually a very high level of unemployment which makes it very hard for families to move to better places.  Also, South Africa has a very high number of people infected with HIV and AIDS, and we were told that Masiphumelele has the highest rate in the country.

All of this sounds very bad, and for a European like me it’s quite a disturbing place to be.  But after a while you realise that, just like the other parts of South Africa, the people are very friendly and most of them seem fairly happy despite their poverty.  This made the whole thing rather strange because on the one hand you felt very shocked at how people there have to live, but at the same time quite uplifted by their spirit in the face of such disadvantage.

After the trip to Masiphumelele we travelled to the nearby town of Fish Hoek.  Unlike Masiphumelele, Fish Hoek is a fairly wealthy area and quite a pleasant place to be.  We went to a sports ground where some of the people on the tour played a game off football against the Masiphumelele team.  The weather was superb so spending the afternoon watching the game and enjoying a barbeque was very nice indeed!  Most of the people on the tour had brought old football shirts with them from home to donate to the township, and after the game hundreds of these were presented to them, along with some money to help them extend Masiphumelele’s creche.

All in all the day was very enjoyable and very valuable as it gave us an excellent insight into how the poorest people in the country live.

Unfortunately, the next day wasn’t quite so good!  I’m sure those of you who watched England’s game against Algeria know what I mean.  It was such a bad performance, the players didn’t look interested and we were outplayed by a team that we should have easily beaten.  The stadium in Cape Town is very big and it was three quarters full of England fans who sang and encouraged the team noisily throughout the game despite the poor performance.  Many people were pretty angry at the end so it wasn’t surprising that there were boos.  Wayne Rooney’s comments about the fans were out of order and very insulting to those of us who have forked out thousands of pounds to be there and spent the whole game cheering them on.  Something seems to be wrong with the England team.  They’d better sort it out before Wednesday or else they’ll be going home early!

This morning we went up Table Mountain.  Table Mountain in Cape Town is South Africa’s most famous landmark, a huge, flat-topped mountain that rises up and towers over the city.  There’s a cable car that takes you up to the top and when you get there the views are stunning.  Looking down on the clouds way below you is a strange experience and you can see for miles and miles into the distance.  See if you can spot the football stadium in the picture below:

Thanks for the questions you sent me after my last post.  I shall answer them now!

Zach: After Friday night’s performance I don’t think I have a favourite player!  It most certainly isn’t Rooney now!  Steven Gerrard was one of my favourites but I thought he was one of the laziest against Algeria.  I shall say David Beckham, because, although he is injured, he is a hero!
Victoria: That’s an excellent question.  The most obvious evidence is, of course, the townships.  These are a legacy of Apartheid that will take many years to remove.  But other than that I have been very surprised that there is very little evidence of it generally between the black, white and coloured (for example people of Asian or Middle-Eastern origins) people.  I would have expected there to be bitterness against the whites but I’ve not really picked up on any at all.  It is refreshing that it seems people are much more interested in looking forwards than looking backwards.  They are also very proud of their country.
Joseph: What a surprising result that was!  Even after the Swiss scored we thought that Spain would come back and win, but as the game went on it seemed that it wasn’t going to be Spain’s day.  That, together with France and Germany being beaten means it’s going to be very interesting to see which of the favourites fails to qualify.
Olivia: The prison on Robben Island was not a pleasant place.  It was OK for us to walk around, but seeing how small the cells were, and trying to imagine how overcrowded it must have been, it made us feel quite uncomfortable.  It was also a little strange having an ex-prisoner take us around.  He’s pretty brave to come back and work there, but I guess he feels it’s important for people from around the world to know what it was like.  He’s right.
Georgia: We were told when we went into Masiphumelele not to give anyone any money, even though a small amount to us would be a lot to them.  If we gave money it would encourage them to beg, which would not be good.  So in the township no-one asked us for money.  But in Cape Town there are sometimes beggars waiting at traffic lights.  When the lights go red they wander around the cars asking for money.  It’s not very nice to see, but then again there are lots of homeless beggars in London too, so it’s not just here that it in South Africa that it happens.

Keep the questions coming!  Tomorrow we’re going down to Cape Point which is supposed to be beautiful, we’re also hoping to go on a whale-watching boat trip, and then on Wednesday we have to get up at 3am to fly to Port Elizabeth for England’s game against Slovenia.  Now, that game is on at 3pm UK time, so I think Mrs Griffiths needs to let you all go home early so you can watch it!

Rob.



On Safari!
June 16, 2010, 21:38
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Hello again, from Cape Town!

We’ve been very busy since I last wrote to you.  On Monday we visited the District Six museum.  During the Apartheid years cities were split into different zones for the different races to live in.  District Six was an area that had been home to many different races but was changed to be whites only.  Over 60,000 non-white Africans were forced to leave their homes, and they had to move to poorer, more overcrowded areas much further outside Cape Town.  The museum tells the stories of many of the people who were moved.  It’s both sad to read about all the misery and injustice this caused, but also happy to hear about how people came back when Apartheid ended.

Then on Tuesday we went on a safari at a private game reserve.  This was great fun!  We sat in the back of a big Land Rover and sped about through the reserve seeing many different animals.

First we saw a family of white rhino…

White Rhino

…then we saw some buffalo, some hippos, a couple of elephants…

Nelly, trumpeting

…some ostriches, lots of springbok, a few zebras, a giraffe or two…

Peter Crouch

…some wildebeest and a small pride of lions, including this beautiful lioness…

Beautiful but dangerous

Today (Wednesday) we went to Robben Island.  This island was used as a prison during the Apartheid years and all those in South Africa who spoke out against the injustice, or who tried to organise protests, were taken here, some for more than 20 years.  We saw the cell in which Nelson Mandela lived.  It was tiny.  It is amazing that a man who was treated so badly and who saw so much suffering was able to remain so strong and dignified, and eventually lead his country to peace and reconciliation.

Now, some of you sent me some questions!  Here are my answers:

Jessica: I think I’ve answered your question!  I’ve not seen any penguins yet though…
Sam: The atmosphere was amazing, but quite different from football matches back home.  First of all, there’s a feeling of it being really special – it’s the World Cup after all!  So everyone was really excited.  And then there’s the noise of the vuvuzelas.  So when Gerrard scored, there was a roar from the England fans, but it was drowned by the horns!  When Rob Green made his mistake it went pretty quiet, but the England fans were only quiet for moment, and then started singing again.  It was a good response.
Ellis: Should Green play in the next game.  I would say that he shouldn’t be dropped because of that mistake.  If Fabio Capello thought before the USA game that Green was the best goalkeeper then he should continue to think that now.  I am glad I don’t have to make those decisions though!
Tyler: No, there wasn’t any trouble.  The only moment was when someone tried to make off with a flag that wasn’t his at the end of the game.  The guy whose flag it was was a pretty big scary Chelsea fan and he certainly made his feelings known to this guy, but it went no further than that.  I am hopeful that there won’t be any trouble from England’s fans even when we eventually lose (assuming we don’t win the whole thing!).  It seems that the thugs don’t travel when it’s a long way away.  There was trouble in France in 1998 and in Germany in 2006, but not a single arrest in 2002 in Japan.
Eva: The weather is weird!  It can change from nice warm t-shirt weather to very cold in a short period of time.  Of course, because we’re in the southern hemisphere, it’s currently the end of autumn, and on the 21st June it’ll be winter.  Imagine being able to walk around in a t-shirt a couple of weeks before Christmas!

I think you also wanted to know if I have a vuvuzela yet!  Well, I don’t but put it this way, I know what I am going to buy your teacher and her husband as a gift from South Africa!

Tomorrow (Thursday) should be another good day.  We’re going to a township to meet some people who live there and play them in a game of football.  I have a load of old Swindon Town football tops to give them, so my team will have a bunch of new supporters here in Africa soon!  I’ll write and let you know how I get on!

Rob.



Hello from South Africa!
June 13, 2010, 20:15
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Dear Holly Class,

Hello from South Africa!  We arrived on Thursday after a very long flight.  We travelled about 6,000 miles (that’s the same as going from Derby to London more than 52 times!) and it took eleven hours.  Spending that long in an aeroplane seat is very tiring!

South Africa is a very beautiful and very interesting country.  Mrs Griffiths may have told you about the Apartheid system that operated in South Africa for many years (if not, I suggest she does so now!).  Between 1948 and 1994, white people and non-white people were separated in South African society.  This meant that non-white people were forced to live in poor, overcrowded areas where there were few jobs and very bad services.  White people had all the best homes, schools, hospitals, etc, and non-white people were not allowed even to use the same buses as the whites. All of this happened even though white people are hugely outnumbered by non-whites in South Africa!

Thankfully, Apartheid was ended in 1994 and now people of all races have the same rights.  There are still many problems of inequality and poverty in South Africa, but things are moving in the right direction.  The World Cup being held here has made the people of South Africa very proud.  They believe that it shows how much they have worked together to make it happen, and everyone here is very keen for it to be a success and for the rest of the world to enjoy the competition.

On Friday the first game of the World Cup took place between South Africa and Mexico.  We went into the centre of Cape Town to watch the game and the atmosphere was incredible!  It was like an all day party with thousands of black and white South Africans celebrating together.  It was amazing to be there, and when South Africa went into the lead, the noise was deafening.  Even though the game ended in a draw, everyone was celebrating as if they had won!

On Saturday England joined the party and we travelled to Rustenburg to watch the game.  It was another long journey!  We had to get up at 6am and flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and then had another few hours on coaches to get to the ground.  English football is very popular in South Africa, so when they saw coaches full of England supporters the locals waved and cheered and blew their vuvuzelas (the horns you can hear constantly blaring at all the World Cup games).  Even workmen building a road waved as we passed!  Inside the ground the atmosphere was electric and the mixture of English fans and South Africa fans made for a great fun time!  You can probably tell I’m enjoying myself from the picture below:

Me, in the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenberg

The journey home was long and tiring, and we didn’t arrive back in the hotel until 7am on Sunday morning!  After a 25 hour day I was exhausted but it was brilliant and I can’t wait for England’s next match which is on Friday in Cape Town.  Excellent, no long travelling on that day then!

If you have any questions or comments about the World Cup or my visit here I’d love to hear from you.  You can add a comment to this post or email me and I’ll get back to you!

Rob.