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Dave's World Cup Blog I - Durban HQ

“How’s it” to everyone from South Africa – that’s the local version of G’day.

Just two days to go until the World Cup kicks off in Jo’Berg (sorry I am day or so behind in my blogging) and if the noise of the Fuvuzella’s is anything to go by its going to be an extremely memorable – if incredibly noisy Mundiale.

Here is what I have been up to for the last couple of days since I arrived…

As you fly into Durban the most noticeable feature of the landscape is that it is quite brown and sun beaten and two days here has explained why.

It’s been probably 24-26 degrees here since we arrived and it’s the absolute middle of their winter – it’s clear why Durban was a good choice for the biggest section of fans as Jo’Burg is 2 degres – it’s supposed a slightly warmer 14 in Cape Town.

The vast majority of the staff has been up by 7am both mornings, since we arrived and we’ve walked the short 5-10 minute journey down to the beach for a morning swim.

The main beach in Durban is absolutely massive, Gold Coast-esque in appearance with tall buildings almost lapping the water and there is now the spectacular view of the new World Cup Stadium, with its distinctive Wembley style arch over the top, visible from the Water.

It was very unusual to us that not one single local was in the Water, though many were jogging along the walkway that borders the beach.

There were however a few local fisherman, casting their lines from a raised promenade that stretches into the ocean and we asked them why no one was swimming.

“Do you know that the Durban Rugby side are known as the Sharks? – “Yes” we all replied.

“Well it’s for a reason….”

Early morning swims possibly at an end then :-)

Everywhere you go the local South Africans are making you feel welcome and it does appear as though the government have done a great job of keeping everyone “on message”.

Three key phrases are repeated almost word for word–

‘Welcome to Duran I hope you enjoy your time.’
“Welcome to South Africa”
And somewhat surprisingly – “Please visit us again”

You have a feeling that there is a fourth key phrase like “don’t forget to visit our wonderful casino” but I have yet to hear that one.

Posters and banners everywhere are emphasising that the different cultures here are all behind “Bafanna Bafanna” – “Different tribes - one Voice” is a slogan I have seen a few times.

And as the team is almost exclusively African in origin – that appears to be the appropriate term locally – there is a real effort to get the Afrikaans population involved – former Rugby player Bobby Skinstad is even one of the World cup TV pundits discussing the pre-tournament friendlies and the games to come.

The expert panel also has John Barnes and Garry Mabbut (ex Spurs) as well as Gary Bailey the old Man United keeper – sadly no sign of Bruce Grobellar who would surely be brilliant and controversial.

So since arriving the focus has been on finishing up the ticketing and merchandise requirements inside the Fanatics Durban HQ - which is located inside the Kingsmead Test Cricket Ground in Durban.

Physically seeing and getting your hands on the match tickets is a great feeling and makes you realise that the foolish, surely untrue notion in your mind, that you are about to attend the World Cup is not an illusion at all but a recycled paper, silver hologram and serial numbered reality.

Both Channel 7, 9 and the Daily Telegraph were there yesterday so I am sure you have all seen pictures by now of the tent rows inside the stadium and the two absolutely enormous Aussie Jersey’s at the entrance to the HQ and also inside the stadium.

The home and away changing rooms inside the ground have been converted into dormitory areas for the staff to sleep in – and ingeniously the series of individual commentary boots have been made into single bedrooms for some of the others.

A few of the local South African guys who are working security and on the bio-metric scanning are very envious that we are being allowed into such a hallowed place as the home changing rooms and its quite an honour.

To be able to see all the history and imagine players like Hansie Cronje, Graham and Sean Pollock and also Durban’s favourite cricketing son and a player I loved as a kid, Jonty Rhodes sitting on those benches having scored a ton, taken 5 wickets or jagged a ripper catch is pretty cool.

The change-room itself is quite Spartan and featureless but some of the cricket history and memorabilia, that is in the adjoining rooms is fascinating.

There are score cards from classic tests, bats and balls from historic matches, the honours board which includes Phil Hughes’ two centuries in the one test last year, the history of racially divided cricket when Durban was represented by two teams – Natal “Europeans” and Natal “Coloureds” and many many more.

The set up for the fans is brilliant and akin to a summer music festival or the races.

There is a huge covered Bar and dining area set up to cater for the almost 1000 people staying there – the Mark Bosnich Big Bar – with two massive projection screens at either end, a series of plasmas dotted around and music playing through the sound system during the day.

This will also be the venue for the daily panel sessions, Powderfinger and Fat Boy Slim concerts as there is a stage being built at one end.

As it’s a test cricket ground there are catering facilities inside the stadium and the areas where corporate hospitality or functions would be held have been transformed into two huge dining areas – it’s a really smart use of the available facilities to suit the needs of the Aussie supporters and will really help generate a great “team” environment amongst all the fans.

I haven’t really seen much of Durban yet as we have been consumed with arranging Tickets into customer requested groups – ie mates who have bought tickets independently of each other but want to sit together for the games.

It’s a basic exercise but due to the sheer volumes of tickets and the differing nature of the requests, it was a really time consuming exercise.

I probably won’t get to see Durban now until I return there on the 19th as I am heading to Cape Town on Tuesday afternoon.

It’s maybe just as well as there is a huge storm forecast for the next couple of days.

So the countdown to kick off continues and tomorrow adventure will be the start of my time in Cape Town.

Till then..

PS This is now a day late, Sorry – there will be a Cape Town update very soon...
Fri 11/06/2010 Irish Dave 793 views

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