Since we’ve been here, we’ve managed to get to two very different but equally compelling sporting events in South Africa.
Two days before Christmas, we managed to get a couple of tickets to see one of the country’s best supported football teams, the Kaizer Chiefs take on AmaZulu in the South African league.
As a Leeds fan, I’ve a particular soft spot for the Chiefs: they’re the club from which we signed one of my sporting heroes, Lucas Radebe – a fact that also inspired the bastardised name of the Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs.
The match had been postponed from the previous week due to bad weather and happened to be re-arranged for the one night we were in Johannesburg, where the Chief’s Soweto home is – but the match was played 30 miles down the road in Pretoria as their stadium is being revamped for the World Cup.
Getting the tickets was pretty easy thanks to the fantastic computicket.co.za website – you buy them online and pop to a local affiliate mobile phone store where they print them off for you. The price? A huge 20 rand (about £1.60 each).
Despite the huge Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria only being a third full, the atmosphere was electric. The lower stands (its free seating when you get in) were a riot of yellow and black shirts and scarves and the crowds throbbed to the cacophony of vuvuzela horns that create a huge buzzing worthy of a million angry bees. When the World Cup comes around, visiting teams will have to get used to the deafening sound pretty quickly and it could give South Africa a huge advantage.
If you think the Premiership is fast, football in South Africa is played at five times the speed. It’s chaotic but skilful and the game was end to end in the early stages before the Chiefs took total control thanks to a stupendous 20 yard volley from forward Nkosinathi Nhleko.
Early in the second half though, keeper Itumeleng Khune – a young lad who will star for South Africa in the summer – showed his suspect temperament by rabbit punching one of the AmaZulu strikers and getting a red card. Luckily the subsequent penalty was blasted into row Z and the Amakhosi, as they are known, managed to hold on for the win that took them third in the league.
While on the computicket site, I’d decided to try my hand for tickets for day four of the second cricket Test between South Africa and England at Durban’s Kingsmead stadium and was astounded to find thousands of tickets were available – so we snapped up two for the grand price of 600rand each (£5).
It’s a ridiculously small amount to pay for international sport – especially when you think Test tickets in England are like gold dust.
We’re just back from the match where we saw England take total control thanks to a century from Ian Bell and then some superb bowling from Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann. Bar it raining all day tomorrow, England should take a 1-0 lead in the series with one to play…
While the match on the field was electric, sadly the only atmosphere in the stands came from England’s Barmy Army.
I’m yet to find out why the match seemed to provoke such disinterest in the South African public but it does seem a little strange that a football team playing in a stadium an hour’s drive away in midweek can pull in a 20k plus crowd while the number two cricket team in the world plays in front of empty stands…