It’s all queues and carnival atmosphere in the Broker Network chairman's first blog from South Africa
Good day to you all in the UK from sunny Cape Town!
I’m writing this on the eve of the first game between South Africa – ‘Bafana Bafana’ as the team is known locally – and Mexico. I can’t describe how excited everyone is about the World Cup. It dominates every newspaper, TV and radio show to such an extent that frankly that’s all they talk about! You can’t walk into any shop without being bombarded.
The whole country is leaving work early tomorrow to watch the opening ceremony and then the game. There are parties planned everywhere, and a real carnival atmosphere. The only thing is ... they're talking the national team up to such an extent that much of the chatter is about how they might just win it! Fat chance, but I suppose it’s no different to being at home, with us talking up England’s chances every time too. But at least we do have a proper football team ...
I’d got quite used to flags on cars and windows at home, but here every car has a flag, and most sport two natty little wing-mirror socks in the nation’s colours too. Being a patriot, I’m waving the cross of St George on my car, but frankly I’m heavily outnumbered.
I picked up my tickets today from the FIFA office in Cape Town (see photo, right) – the ones I bought and paid for 18 months ago, but which I must pitch up for in person if I am to be granted entry to any game. It’s supposed to be automated, but three of the machines were being rebooted, and the bar code reader wasn’t working. Fortunately I had with me the credit card that I’d used to buy the tickets, and that was supposed to ID me, and away I go! Needless to say that didn’t work either, so I had to stand in a queue to see the one person who was trying to sort out the mess.
I was lucky though, as I struck up a conversation with a Brit FIFA official who was clearly homesick already. My empathising worked, as he disappeared ‘out back’ for five minutes and came back with my tickets! How about that for a good Samaritan?
FIFA behaves like the Mafioso here – running the whole thing like a despot dictatorship. There are so many rules and regulations about what you can do with your tickets, what time you can go to the ground, where you can park, what you can wear, take in with you and so on, it’s like preparing for an exam! Not only that, but of course many of the people who are tasked with enforcing all these rules aren’t that well briefed, which results in a huge amount of misunderstanding and misinformation.
There was even a FIFA representative on the radio yesterday, saying that children under 12 were not allowed into games. This was until it was pointed out to him that the FIFA website says all kids are welcome, as long as they are accompanied and have a ticket!
So, if it all goes wrong from an operational point of view, make sure you blame FIFA and not the South Africans – they’re trying their level best in very trying circumstances!
Grant Ellis is chairman of The Broker Network.