Friday, June 25
Port Elizabeth - Grahamstown
One good option for getting to Bloemfontein for sunday's match is today's 3pm train. It only costs 130 Rand and includes a night's accommodation on board. Camper Van Nick, however, has come up with a cunning plan to take us to a festival in nearby Grahamstown en route.
Rich won't be coming. Although he is guaranteed a ticket for the Germany match he needs to be back at work on monday. He had been hoping for England to play in Rustenburg on saturday, but now there is no way he can get back from Bloemfontein to London in time.
Grahamstown is one of the most attractive towns in all of South Africa. Actually, the drive in puts one in mind of Derbyshire both in terms of the local nature and the architecture of this former frontier town. This is a little piece of nineteenth century protestant England plonked near the southern tip of the African continent.
It is also the festival capital of South Africa. There is another part to Nick's ingenious plan: he will sleep in his van with a female friend he met in Cape Town, while the rest of us kip down on the floor of her bungalow situated on the aptly named Africa Road.
While most England fans are singing 'ten German bombers' in Bloemfontein square, we instead find ourselves hanging out in temperatures of minus five with a bunch of hippies and young university students in the back of beyond. Italy and France are crap. The World Cup has never been this strange before.
Monday, June 21
Another team I don't like is Portugal. I love the country Portugal - particularly its islands - as well as its people's laid back, down-to-earth attitude to life. I just don't have much time for Mr Cristiano Ronaldo, Carvalho and their mates. It is more bitter and twisted stuff from me that dates back to Portugal-England games of the past, where I feel we have been cheated out of tournaments by Portuguese gamesmanship.
I am explaining this because this is the background to Robin, Rich and I leaving Simon's Town in driving rain to return to Cape Town in search of tickets for the day's Portugal v North Korea match. Oh, how we would love to be there inside the stadium to witness the cheeky North Koreans dump the arrogant Portugal team out of the tournament.
On the 'fanwalk' to the stadium there's a surprising lack of tickets being sold on the black market. In fact, demand appears to be outstripping supply by a conservative 5:1. The one thing we have got going for us is patience. It certainly isn't the end of the world if we don't get in, and if we miss the first few minutes of the match stood outside trying to buy last minute tickets, then so be it.
Half an hour before kick off plenty of category 3's are being offered out at face value (560 Rand). But that's too much for us on our increasingly slim budgets. We want to get in for a maximum 20 quid.
Twenty minutes before kick off two South African gentlemen come over.
"Our two mates can't make it here. Do you mind giving us 500 for their two?"
"Is 400 OK?"
"Yes, sure. You can give us the money inside so that you know the tickets are genuine. You are now our guests"
Everybody is a winner...including FIFA. The stadium is nearly full.
The North Koreans start very well. They look well organised, play the ball on the ground and their number 10 looks better than most central strikers in the tournament. But when Portugal go 2-0 up you know it is all over for them. Suddenly the Koreans appear to be playing with three at the back and are about to get a thrashing.
So, I came here hoping to see Portugal lose and instead I end up privileged to watch Portugal put on one of the most complete halves of football in World Cup history. Sublime is an overused word but it must be applied to descriptions of this performance. Brilliant is another word that comes to mind. The game finishes 7-0 with gasps of excitement drowning out the increasingly headache-causing vuvuzelas. I still don't like the Portugal football team but I have to take my hat off to a truly inspiring second-half performance by the claret and greens.
Camper Van Nick is ready and waiting for us in Greenmarket Square. The road trip to Port Elizabeth begins.
120 kilometres out of Cape Town we pull in for the night at Hermanus, the 'world's best land-based location for watching whales'. After more good food and drink and a few giggles at Fernando Torres' expense at Cubana, on the sea front, we call it a night at The Potting Shed Guesthouse, where a triple is ours for 650 Rand between the three of us. It's a normal price for a very decent little B&B...and definitely beats sleeping in the van when we might need to do that in the coming nights.
Saturday, June 19
"What is wrong with your football team?" an Australian bloke asks me in the lift on the way to breakfast
"England were very bad, weren't they?" the South African waiter serving coffee at breakfast suggests.
"I thought you guys were good: Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard. What's the problem?" the Kurdish restaurant manager states and questions at lunch at Mesopotamia.
Cape Town is a very cool city. As well as its beautiful setting and being a good night out there're also loads of quality sights to be discovered. Our afternoon football-free stroll takes us around the castle, parliament buildings, botanical gardens and into the earthy streets and painted houses of Bo-Kaap, where the locals are friendly and very pleased to see foreign football fans. Those of us who are visiting South Africa for the first time still can't quite comprehend the seeming lack of undercurrent between the resident blacks and the whites. Blacks never seem to double take whites, and only a handful of whites, most of whom are nervous tourists, appear to do it to blacks.
Near the History of Slavery Museum there's a bench marked "White's Only" left to remind and educate about the apartheid era. It is incomprehensible to me that individuals could be so bigoted as to even write signs on benches prohibiting people from sitting down there if the colour of their skin was not white. It is absurd beyond words.
Saturday night Cape Town lives up to expectations, the bars and clubs of Long Street and Cape Quarter guaranteeing a hangover upon a hangover...upon a hangover for sunday morning.
Friday, June 18
"Who's that idiot walking around on the shirt?"
"I don't know. Let's go and have a word with him"
"Oh, alright Fat Boy!"
He might be an hour late but it turns out it is Fat Boy Slim who is walking around inspecting 'the shirt'. Good of the lad to sign it for us.
"Nice one with the shirt mate" he tells Bjorn, after signing one of the England shirts and, with that, all the super star excitement is over. Norman Cook (AKA Fat Boy Slim) and the rest of us need to get on with the day's other business of drinking excessive quantities of beer and watching England thrash Algeria.
Cape Town Waterfront has been transformed from a wannabee millionaires' classy playground into something more closely resembling a street of boozers in the East End of London. Flags 'adorn' every restaurant balcony and cruise ship advertising hording. Tuneless cries of "Inger-land, Inger-land" fill the air. Most pubs are so full they won't let anyone else in.
Blackburn, who has come dressed for the game in a red and white Michael Caine 'Zulu' uniform, has managed to organise tickets for my Norwegian friends. Meanwhile, Columbian Richard, Robin and I bump into London Mayor and cuddly Torrie, Boris Johnson,stumbling around by himself amongst the drunken tomfoolery. It's too good a photo opportunity to miss although Boris does seem to treat my camera-at-the-ready-handshake with slightly nervous suspicion.
The Cape Town Stadium is within walking distance of the water front although FIFA seem to have gone out of their way to create a series of ingenious metal mazes and bridges made of scaffolding that turn a 10-minute walk into a one-hour long crush.
As is the case with all of South Africa's stadia, Green Point is a fantastic theatre of football. The England fans have certainly turned up. Question is - has the England team?
England are diabolical. Rooney, considered to be the best English player of his generation, can't as much as trap the ball. The rest of the team are ineffectual and, worst of all, seem to be playing without passion or character. It's not that I've got a problem with England under performing or even losing. The main things I want to see from the players are passion and a will to win.
The 0-0 must rate as one of the most inept England performances in years. Even Capello doesn't seem able to conjur up the necessary tactical changes of going at Algeria with two wingers and Gerrard playing behind Rooney for the last quarter of the game.
You won't here me booing my own team during a game but I've got no issue with the fans doing it at the end of a performance like this. They deserved to be booed in Cape Town.
We hear afterwards that Rooney sulked off moaning about the booing. Is this the same player who walked off the pitch and didn't bother to clap the tens of thousands of fans who have virtually bankrupted themselves to be at this tournament? Carragher was the only player I noticed who took ten seconds of his own time to acknowledge the fans.
At the Fat Boy Slim concert, back in town, there's talk that an England fan broke into the England changing room after the match with a dangerous weapon. I can only assume it was a football. There needs to be a sea change in attitude from the players because there is currently disharmony of the worst kind in the England camp - i.e. between the fans and the players. Unless England pull out some kind of respectable performance against Slovenia, the relationship between the fans and the players will be irrevocably damaged for many years to come.
The Fat Boy Slim concert turns out to be considerably more fun than the match. The party goes on till four with many of us partying on happy in the knowledge that we can sleep in and hide in our rooms tomorrow.
Watching England has been crap so far. Thankfully, South Africa is a beautiful place where you can eat well, drink affordably, party excessively and enjoy its stunning landscapes on the way to your next embarrassing England football nightmare.
Monday, June 14
"Hello Justin? We will begin the radio interview after about twenty minutes if that is OK."
It is 8am and I have just woken up with a shocking hangover. I am due to be interviewed live on the BBC Leicester breakfast show. When I agreed to doing the interview a few days ago I hadn't factored in a night of drinking with a gang of forlorn drunken Aussies and crashing in bed about four hours before the BBC called.
It is a beautiful Durban morning, with birdsong filling the air. As I wait for the interview to begin I can hear the weather report for Hinckley and Uppingham going out live to the good folk of Leicestershire. It's all a bit strange first thing on a monday morning, a dead snake lay on the road, as I pace up and down outside Smith's Cottages trying to prepare myself so I don't sound hungover on the radio.
The interview seems to go very well with BBC Leicester kindly encouraging their listeners to send in football shirts to the studio so that they can become part of 'the shirt'.
The rest of the day looks like it's going to be a write off. I can't remember the last time I felt this tired and spaced out. It's been an intense last few days and all I feel like doing is being as lazy as possible and enjoying the great hospitality of Gary, Keith and their family.
My phone doesn't stop ringing all day with a number of TV companies and newspapers getting in touch about The Shirt's arrival in Cape Town today. It appears to be creating quite a buzz. Even South Africa's premier TV channel, SABC, are on the case requesting that they can film the shirt being erected at Cool Britannia on tuesday.
With Bjorn and Marianne flying down to Cape Town from Joburg, Robin and I were planning to bus it down to Port Elizabeth, grab a ticket for the Portugal v Ivory Coast game, and then catch another bus down to Cape Town early morning on wednesday. But having spoken to several backpackers staying at Smith's Cottages, who have travelled up the coast, it seems like we seriously underestimated the travel distances involved. Plan B is a direct flight from Durban to Cape Town on wednesday afternoon, a day of watching football at the cottages today and several hours of blogging and media work on tuesday in Durban.
Netherlands ease past Denmark; Japan look much better than Cameroon; a gang of twenty of us cheer on Paraguay in unison against Italy in the back yard bar. We haven't left the cottages all day, but it has been a perfect home-from-home recuperation, ready for the madness to begin all over again in the coming days.
More Than A Game will be officially released on itunes on April 15. I encourage everybody to please download the title track or the album. 50% of the revenue goes directly to our project and will enable us to put money directly into worthy causes along our route and to help build our 'fans' embassy' in Cape Town for all the supporters at the World Cup to meet and learn about what we are trying to do.