"USA, USA" & the Germans are here

By CHRIS ZIEMER

(Editor’s note: Chris Ziemer, Sonoma Academy athletic director and head girls soccer coach, is blogging for The Press Democrat at the World Cup in South Africa).

June 12/13, 2010

Durban, South Africa –

Put another bratwurst on the barbie…Germans and Aussies invade Durban…

I’m back in Durban, but when I left for Joburg, you could feel that Durban was ready for more action.  And, more action they got!

Upon my return, the airport was flooded with visitors.  Lots of Germans and Aussies, who play Sunday in Durban.  I will be at the game too.  They expect a batch of departures and arrivals every 2-3 days as well as a group of fans who have decided to stay in Durban for the entire Cup, because, well, it is the warmest spot in South Africa and the place to be.

So many options to watch games and be entertained…

Bars and restaurants – almost every game at almost every place.

Fan Park – two options in Durban, both with massive jumbotron screens and dj/mc’s – ranging from 5,000-25,000 fans giving you a stadium-like atmosphere.

Fan Fest – these are outdoor venues with live concerts and entertainment throughout the day.

Stadium – if you are lucky enough to have tickets, it is the place to be.

Fan Park experience for the U.S. game…

I decided to head to town to watch the U.S. vs England game at the Fan Park.  On the way, I met a family which included cousins from South Africa, Spain and England.  We traded friendly banter as they were all cheering for England and I of course held my ground as the only American.

We arrived at the Fan Fest as the National Anthem was starting and I had chills as I stood with approximately 5,000 other fans with a massive viewing screen in front of me, the Moses Mabihda stadium glowing to the left of me, and the Indian Ocean to the right.  Does it get any better?

United we stood…

It didn’t take long to bump into someone from NorCal.

Two were teachers from Sacramento, one who played at Humboldt State and coaches in Sacramento and another who lives and coaches in Arcata area.  We shared a lot of mutual friends and experiences.  Before long, we congregated with another group of approximately 15 American fans – a few from Chicago, a few from San Jose and others scattered from around the U.S.

The surprising thing was that of the estimated 5,000 at the Fan Park, over half appeared to be cheering for England and the rest were neutral.  That didn’t stop us from exploding into a “USA, USA” chant when we scored, gaining the attention of the rest of the crowd and eventually winning over some closet U.S. fans.

It should be noted that most who joined were Germans, still stewing over the 1996 World Cup final game…

Vuvuzela experience…

I now own two vuvuzelas…my new one is the real deal.

 It not only has a South African flag covering it, but it has a shoulder strap too.  I will save it for the big games (what better game than U.S. vs England), kind of like those new boots you wait to break in.

Well, I can now see why there are so many…it is addicting and fun.

On the bus ride over, I quickly realized that I could hardly make any noise.  Initially, it sounded like a dying cat, not the intimidating and powerful sound you hear in the stadium.

With a quick tutor (there is a technique to it) and a lot of practice (I’m talking almost constant for 4 hours to the point where my lips hurt this morning), I was able to work toward a much better sound.  In fact, on the way home, I bumped into the same group I traveled with, and they were impressed with my progress.  I might have a future in it…

Word/saying of the day…

So many new words, as there are 11 officials languages.  They call traffic lights “Robots” which took awhile to figure out, mainly because many of the drivers don’t actually use them.

My “I’m at the World Cup in South Africa” moment for today…

Without a doubt, watching the U.S. game at the Fan Park, vuvuzela in hand, Indian Ocean crashing to my right, World Cup stadium glowing on my left, surrounded by soccer fans from around the World, and celebrating like lottery winners when the U.S. scored to equalize.