Thursday, June 24
The silly post-match drunken shananigans of wednesday night have left me with a mobile phone full of beer. Where once it read 'MTN mobile' there is now a wet dirty brown tide mark. My phone is Kaput.
There is chaos in the England supporters' ranks. Wherever you look they lie comatosed on the Port Elizabeth beach and on the grass of the BP petrol station. Others stumble around with the mother of all hangovers trying to work out what to do next. Many England that we meet are hastily trying to cancel accommodation that had been booked for Rustenburg - often many months ago. Others face the prospect of unwanted flight tickets to the north and comedy tickets for Ghana v USA. In the case of Robin and I, being disorganised with travel plans (i.e. making it up as we go along) and pessimistic about England's chances has turned cluelesness into a tournament-winning formula.
"I couldn't get rid of me spare England tickets. The Yanks wouldn't pay 50 quid each for them so I found some young local lads working outside a shop and asked them if they wanted to go with us."
"I s'pose they couldn't go 'cos they were working?"
"No, I asked their boss if they could 'ave the rest of the day off. He said yes, paid them their salaries. I were gobsmacked when they told me how much they earn - 12 Rand for a day. Anyways I gave them both the tickets for free and took them to the game. They bloody loved it. One of them was so happy he were nearly crying. I gave them 50 rand each after the game so they could have a beer or some'it."
Brilliant stuff from Blackburn.
The crowd roars as Italy crash out of the tournament to Slovakia.
With Bjorn up in Joburg and me following England around my input to the shirt project and contact with Bjorn have been minimal for the past few days. The big news from the past few days is that the shirt is now up at the Brightwater Shopping Mall in the suburbs of Johannesburg. You can catch images of it here:
The appearance of Bjorn and I on the BBC has also attracted a fair it of attention from both friends and strangers. When you mention the project to anybody out here now, chances are they have already heard about it from the ongoing press coverage. The 2-minute BBC video of the shirt in Cape Town can be watched here:
Make sure you watch it to the very end so you can see just how good the English are at penalties.
I decide to call it an early night in Port Elizabeth. Nick, Rich, Robin and our new friend - Fabio the Swiss Cheese - are all on the wine early doors in celebration of the English advance and the Italian exit. I can't face it and stroll home around 11pm.
Being sensible clearly isn't the way forward though as suddenly, a few hundred yards before I reach the B&B, a Toyota 4x4 pulls up next to me and some local lads start shouting and abusing me in Afrikaans. At least they don't shoot me, I suppose.
With all the ridiculous hype about crime and the general violence in South Africa it says something that my first incident of any kind is care of a bunch of local red necks.
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.
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.