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Happy chaos and no one is complaining here

Usually, happy hours and Monday mornings are as compatible as Kaka and cricket. But when football's World Cup is three days from kick-off, the normal is in suspended animation. For proof, you just needed to step into the atrium outside the Oliver Tambo International airport in Johannesburg, reports Dhiman Sarkar.

sports Updated: Jun 08, 2010 00:04 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times

Usually, happy hours and Monday mornings are as compatible as Kaka and cricket.

But when football's World Cup is three days from kick-off, the normal is in suspended animation. For proof, you just needed to step into the atrium outside the Oliver Tambo International airport in Johannesburg.

To the blast of vuvuzelas and with a melange of colours that was a sight for eyes sore from lack of sleep on a long-haul night flight, South Africa said 'welcome.' The German national team was due not long after the Jet flight from Mumbai and the place was abuzz with media, fans, some looking more lost than the others, and those looking at every guest in the hope that the face and the name on their placard would match. Hung from the sunroof, a huge black-and-white football swayed gently as if supervising the happy chaos.

First impressions can be misleading but it sure felt nice that President Jacob Zuma's assertion that South Africa is ready was not lost in translation. Everyone connected to the World Cup — media, fans, delegates and volunteers — went through a separate channel for immigration. And in less time than it takes to prepare instant noodles, formalities of entry were complete. This certainly was better than Germany four years ago.

Here to watch their first World Cup, Nirab Dholakia and Nikunj Patel, who connect South Africa and Surat through their diamond business, were impressed. With a smile the lady at the immigration counter said she would catch the matches on TV. With an even bigger smile, she said Bafana Bafana (which is what the South Africa national team is called) would win the cup.

As we drove to our lodgings in Kensington, it seemed anybody and everybody who had anything to advertise had latched on to the World Cup.

The gold statuette, for which 32 teams and 736 footballers will fight for come Friday, glistened in the pleasant winter morning from nearly every hoarding.

The arrival terminal prepares the visitors for that. Here, you tread on areas painted in South Africa flag and stalls sell team shirts (South Africa shirts were most in demand and cost 599 rands, said a salesman at one of the counter), vuvuzelas (175 rands) and flags (75 rands). At the approach to Southgate Mall near Soccer City, a trio from Mozambique was selling flags — one of them, Samuel, said South Africa flags were most in demand, followed by Brazil and Portugal.

Cars had flags pinned on their doors and some had team-colour covers for looking glass.

The World Cup's in your face here. And no one's complaining.

First Published: Jun 08, 2010 00:02 IST