JOHANNESBURG - On one particular street corner in downtown Johannesburg, there is a vacant lot contain nothing but strewn rubble.
Like almost everything else in South Africaís biggest city, it is surrounded by barbed wire.
Why? Are they afraid someone might walk in and steal some of the dirt, rocks or shreds of garbage that are scattered all over?
Like many things in this town, it makes no sense. I will not miss downtown Johannesburg, dirty scary cesspool that it is.
And I will not miss all this cursed barbed wire, which has left a nice faded scar on the scalp of colleague Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star.
But the list of things I will not miss about the World Cup 2010 experience doesnít end there. Not by a long shot.
Indeed, I will not miss:
- The mediocre soccer: All in all, there were too many boring games, too many teams concentrating on tactics rather than flashing skill. Hey, how about removing offsides from the game? The officials regularly blow those calls anyway.
- The mediocre officiating: Exhibit 1 - Frank Lampardís goal for England that landed two feet over the goal line and was not counted in a Group of 16 4-1 loss to Germany. Exhibit 2 - ... ah, we donít have enough space to list the rest. Just be assured itís a long list.
- The feeling of uneasiness concerning safety: Truth be told, the pre-tournament warnings we were peppered with about how scary and unsafe this country was proved to be a bit over the top. Still, there are certain places where you always feel you have to be on guard. Like Johannesburg. Consider that Canada House, the home five of Canadian writers we rented for the month, has a security shack across the street in which a guard sits every night. And weíre in a good neighbourhood, too.
- The feeling of anger and frustration after my personal camera was stolen.
- The fuss over the Jabulani ball: Attention FIFA - why not have the same ball for every tournament? You donít see the NHL changing the makeup of its pucks every spring for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
- Hearing Shakiraís ďWaka Waka (This Time For Africa)": Look, itís a catchy tune. And it was cool that she performed at the Closing Ceremonies at Soccer City on Sunday. But does it need to be played on EVERY radio and TV station at least once an hour? Ugh.
- The bad drivers: Never again will I complain about the no-minds behind the wheel on Canadian highways when I head up to the cottage on the freeway. Accidents here are as common as, well, that damn Shakira song.
- The Cold: On one particular night, it was minus-three in Johannesburg. We turned the stove burners on to keep warm. I left Canada in the middle of summer for this? Isnít this Africa? I thought the only place it would be cold on this continent would be standing at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro!
- Sepp Blither: Sorry. The name of the FIFA prez is actually Seth Blatter. At the same time, he often comes across as a blithering, well, you know what. He acts as if FIFA is the beat-all-to-end-all when it comes to sports organizations. In actuality, he and his outfit have a long way to go just to catch up to the NHL.
- France: In-fighting. Whining. Finger pointing. This was a team that humiliated its entire country. Shame on them.
- Vuvuzelas: Yes, yourís truly supported the use of them, even when fans in Europe and North America were bitching that they screwed up the sound on TV telecasts. My point: they are a part of South African culture. Having said that, after hearing these things almost every day for over a month, my ear drums feel as if John Bonham just finished playing a session of Moby Dick on them.
- The Townships: These are the areas where the poor live in shanties. And they go as far as the eye can see. Canadians have no idea what real poverty is.
There are more things I wonít miss. But I canít type an ymore. Iím getting a headache. They are playing that damn Shakira song again!