This was the picture at the Jo’burg airport (301 days to kick-off):
In 2006, I suffered through the poor 3 and out showing by the US in World Cup watching the games in a couple bars in Arlington, VA and in a German cultural center in Washington, DC. Bolivia did not qualify.
In 2002, I remember the early morning hours before my flight to spend another year in Bolivia. I had to scream with joy into a pillow, as to not wake my parents, when the US upset Portugal. That tournament would prove to be the best finish of the US team and I watched the rest of the tournament in Bolivia, often at many obscene hours because of the time difference with Japan and South Korea. Again, Bolivia did not qualify.
In 1998, I recorded the games on my VCR (what are those? asks digital natives) because I was working at a summer program for kids, but I begged and pleaded with my co-workers not to tell me the scores. Many of them fed me incorrect score lines to mess with my head. The US finished dead last and Bolivia did not qualify.
In 1994, I could care less about soccer/football, which ironically was the year that both Bolivia qualified and the US hosted the WC. If that same situation occurred today, I would have done just about anything to be at Bolivia’s opening match against Germany in Chicago. However, I did catch a single match in the Cotton Bowl, upon the insistence of my father who took me to see Argentina vs. Bulgaria. That was the game where Diego Maradona had been suspended prior to kickoff because of drug use. I spent the entire match marveling at the intensity of the crowd and took in the atmosphere. I can definitively say that it was that game that got me hooked on the sport.
Now 16 years later, I am hours away from boarding a plane to Johannesburg to see the 2010 World Cup with a greater appreciation of what it all means. These past several years, I have taken in local matches in about half a dozen countries giving me a greater insight to those local cultures, I have suffered through the ups and downs of Bolivia (ups: 6-1 drubbing of Argentina downs: just about everything else), and put down some local roots in Cochabamba by investing myself in the local club team.
Attending this tournament also means giving up the opportunity to work with my students back in DC, which is something I had done for the past 6 summers.
So, I think it’s time to dust off my blog and write/post photos/post videos about my 28 days in South Africa, where I have tickets to 8 games (for now), and see what happens. I’ll also be doing some work while I am there, writing for Global Voices and for Highway Africa. More on that later…