I sat next to Alex Perry, Africa bureau chief for Time magazine, during Friday’s opening World Cup match between Mexico and host South Africa, which ended in a 1-1 draw. Alex described the atmosphere in the sold out, 94,000-seat Soccer City Stadium as “perhaps the loudest football match in history. It seemed like 94,000 fans were all blowing their vuvuzelas at the same time.” It was definitely the loudest soccer game I’ve ever attended. We were high up in the media tribune – my brother Ralphie would’ve called them “Bob Uecker seats.” “Great seats, hey buddy?”
There were traffic problems getting to the stadium. Some media friends from Globecast took me to their area across the highway from the stadium, where they had set up an area for reporters to do stand-ups, with the massive stadium as a backdrop. I squeezed between a fence, and then walked about a mile on a dirt path, crossed a railroad track and then hoofed it up a hill to the stadium. There were big traffic back-ups on the main highway to the stadium.
I’m writing this from Ellis Park, the venue for Saturday’s match between Nigeria and two-time World Cup champion Argentina. I took a media shuttle to the stadium from my hotel, and there were no hills to climb. Ellis Park has a seating capacity of about 65,000, so I don’t expect it to be quite as loud as Friday’s opener between South Africa and Mexico.