Monday, May 31
We meet the UNHCR Regional Representative for Southern Africa in Pretoria. Mister Kimbimbi is very surprised and disappointed to hear that the Dutch national team do not want to support 'the shirt 2010'. They have given us the standard 'nice project but we get zillions of similar requests all the time...so sorry but we cannot help'.
Yeah, I bet they get dozens of people contacting them every day who have cycled from Norway to South Africa for 11 months...
First the Dutch stole Bjorn's bicycle in Amsterdam and now their national team don't want to help the project! Come on you crazy Dutch!
Reminds me of how former England football manager Graham Taylor felt when the Dutch eliminated England from the World Cup in 1993, under very dubious circumstances:
"Do I not like Orange," he famously complained
Sunday, May 30, 2010
On the advice of one of my friends, Kelvin Hooke, I have introduced a new section to this website today.
It is called 'The scores so far'.
The purpose of this section is to log the progress of this project. Recent TV coverage on CNN and on Brazil's and South Africa's leading TV channels has boosted the 'media footprint' of this project.
Global audience aware of 'the shirt 2010':
280 million *
30,000 (Bjorn) 6,500 (Justin) *
'World Cup 32' (number of WC squads donating a shirt) :
2 (South Africa, Serbia)
Number of people visited in African refugee camps during Bjorns and Justin's journey:
Number of days hitchbiking:
335 (Bjorn) 42 (Justin)
Number of photos taken by Bjorn and Justin:
Number of hours blogging on the road:
Countries where this website is being followed:
Number of countries hitchbiked through:
35 (Bjorn) 6 (Justin)
The current weight of 'the shirt' :
Average number of daily 'viewers' following this
project through our websites, facebook pages and
other social networking mediums including twitter :
3,000 - 5,000
Number of hits on www.thshirt2010.net :
Saturday, May 29
At this point in time I would love to dust off my backpack and spend the days leading up to the World Cup travelling around South Africa. But the next few days are vital to how much more this project can achieve. We have many targets, such as increasing the media coverage of 'The Shirt 2010' from its current estimated figure of 280 million to over 1 billion people before the end of the World Cup.
Another goal is for all 32 teams participating at the finals to donate shirts signed by every member of their World Cup squads.
I begin the process of contacting all 32 teams on saturday. It is not easy contacting the likes of England and Spain. These are not only national football teams; they are also international brands. Everybody wants a piece of the big international teams and, consequently, it can be rather problematic getting your message to and then convincing the decision makers within the national federations to support you.
We received a signed South Africa national team shirt last year. Only 31 more teams to go.
After several hours of chasing the national teams I get my first 'World CUp 32' result when a representative from Serbia gets in contact to tell me they would love to contribute a shirt signed by all its players.
A big shout of thanks therefore goes to Serbia for being the first national team (other than the hosts) to support the refugees and the work of the UNHCR.
Two down, 30 to go...
Friday, May 28
It is football friday in South Africa. Each and every friday South Africans are encouraged to 'dress down' for work by wearing the Bafana Bafana's colours into the office as a show of national unity.
Seems like every second South African now owns a national team shirt.
The locals are extra happy today after South Africa continued its impressive World Cup build up with another victory last night; this time a 2-1 win over Columbia in front of 90,000 at an (as ever) noisy Soccer City. Bafana Bafana are growing in confidence despite the best efforts of the nation's media to knock them down.
Brazil became the second team to arrive in South Africa on thursday. I think the Samba boys are going to find Joburg a bit chilly with temperatures dropping close to zero some evenings.
Bjorn is giving a presentation to the PSL today as way of thanks for their help since we arrived in South Africa. The biking Viking is about to give an hour long interactive show chronicling his 11-month journey from Norway to South Africa.
Thursday, May 27
'Snakes, quakes, a scary place for Brits' is the lead article in the country's top selling daily 'The Star'. The article is a humorous piss take of the British media, which has now printed so many South African horror stories ahead of the World Cup that the paper feels it is time to step in and enjoy a laugh at the British media's expense.
The England national football team have apparently bought into the 'fear' and installed electric fences at their training pitch to keep snakes out. Fabio's back room staff have also banned the England players from stepping on the grass after sunset to avoid black mambas and puff adders. The Star goes on to point out that as this is mid-winter in the southern hemisphere, the snakes are currently hibernating.
Clearly, the article concludes, terrorists will not be attending the World Cup because they are scared of the high levels of crime in South Africa and dangerous wild creatures.
Two TV companies and a concert promoter have been in contact, showing interest in 'the shirt', while many more shirts are still arriving in the UK, Norway and South Africa. One of the latest was kindly posted to England all the way from Australia by Anita Kazis. Thanks very much Anita!
Fittingly, Australia's 'socceroos' are the first national football team participating at the World Cup to arrive in South Africa, after arriving on a long haul Quantas flight last night.
Wednesday, May 26
After several days at Kjetil's it is time for us to sling our hooks for a few days and move to another part of Joburg. Bjorn, Marianne and I are now renting a flat off a local professional footballer.
It is a decent place, but I am not sure I could live in this city. The fear and paranoia are extreme. At times, you live under virtual 'house arrest' hiding behind huge barb-wired security gates, some with electric fences. Then there are the prison bars on the houses, the armed response teams...and even more security barriers within the houses themselves.
Add the slightly strange feeling that you could be in England when you peer outside at the shops (Woolworths and Wimpy) and industrial estates that bare more than a passing resemblance to home.
...Just make sure your house is stocked up with enough food and alcohol so you don't have to venture out on to the streets at night!
Today, we are trying to get organised for the weeks to come. Photos, blogs, videos, contact lists all need to be up to date and easily accessed.
I guess today is the first 'normal' boring day of the trip to date.
But you need days like this as well...
Just got the latest google analytics figures for this site. To date, 'More than a game' has been viewed by people in 41 countries.
Here is the current top 10:
1. United Kingdom 2. Norway 3. Latvia 4. China 5. Switzerland 6. Kenya 7. Lithuania 8. Zambia 9. United States 10. Ireland
Still no viewers in Portugal, New Zealand and Uzbekistan...
Tuesday, May 25
Brazil's top channel TV Globo pay us a visit.
They interview Bjorn and then it is off to Soccer City for some decent cycling shots outside the stadium.
The senior reporter, Cesar Tralli, reckons a staggering 85 million Brazilians will see his channel's coverage of our project.
Meanwhile, a very good friend of mine, Steve 'Dave' Perry gets in contact to let me know he has kindly managed to get a signed Nottingham Forest shirt from all the players at the world famous club. Nice one Dave!
Brian Vandervilt, Chairman of Corinthians Casuals FC, also emails and pledges a signed shirt.
Monday, May 24
I am fortunate enough to attend South Africa's pre-World Cup friendly with Bulgaria at the Orlando Stadium.
The stadium is in the infamous Soweto suburb of Johannesburg, within sight of many of the country's most notorious townships. After total refurbishment in 2008, this new state-of-the-art arena now seats 40,000 fans.
It is chaos on the roads leading to Soweto. Despite leaving another Johannesburg suburb at 7, we are only able to double-park on one of the roads adjacent as the match kicks off at 8.30.
Many of the streets leadng to the stadium are unlit and the noise is deafening. Once inside the arena the volume level goes up several more desibels. It is so raucous, in fact, that I cannot hear my friend Norris, stood next to me. It is very cold; maybe only 6 degrees Celsius. It is more like a chilly November evening than the summer paradise many foreign football fans are expecting.
The Orlando stadium actually shakes as tens of thousands of fans jump up and down in unison and dance rythmically from side to side. Truthfully, I have never heard noise anything like this from 40,000 fans. It is deafening.
When Bafana Bafana take a deserved 1-0 lead it is time to apply index fingers inside the ears.
Bulgaria have good support in the stadium. I can only assume the couple thousand present reside here in the Rainbow Nation. Cyrillic flags include: Slavia and Lokomotiv.
When the Bulgarians equalise it also feels more like a full international rather than a friendly.
At half time I realise, if I didn't realise before, strolling around, that the majority present here are straight out of the Soweto townships. There are a lot of, shall we say, quite 'rough and ready' lads present. In the toilets the local males think little of sharing urinals, rather than waiting their turns. Three blokes sharing one urinal is a first for me.
The stadium is located inside a giant natural bowl and, as it gets colder, mist begins to hug the floodlights giving the occasion the feel of a packed out November evening FA Cup replay.
Bafana Bafana look like a much more decent side than they are given credit for, look dangerous at set pieces, and are inspired at times thanks to Steven Pienaar. If this kind of support is behind them for their Group A matches with France, Mexico and Uruguay I believe they can and will qualify for the second round.
The match finishes 1-1. I break my 'never-leave-a-match-before-the-final-whistle' rule on 87 minutes, otherwise I will be spending the whole night in Soweto rather than one of Joburg's rather leafier suburbs.
Monday, May 24
Back in January and February, when this project seemed virtual rather than real, I spent many long days and nights sending emails to football clubs, newspapers and TV companies informing each and all about the project.
Some replied saying - nice, but we are not interested. Most never replied.
It got to be rather demoralising at times. Not only did I begin to question if I was crazy to hitchbike from Kenya, but I also wondered whether all my emailing and letter writing was a complete and utter waste of time.
Today was the day I realised that some of my letter writing has paid off:
I have just found out that Italy's biggest football paper, Gazeta dello Sport, is giving me a 2-page feature. And one of my mates, Daniel, has sent me an email saying that he read a one-page feature about my journey in Metro (the UK's third biggest paper by circulation) this morning on his way to work.
Added to this, two TV channels have also been in contact in the last 24 hours, and want to meet prior to the World Cup.
It just shows that sometimes hard work does pay off...it just takes time to get the results.