JOHANNESBURG -- It is mercifully the final day of South Africa 2010 and six Canadian scribes are doing what six Canadian scribes have done for much of the past month.
This time it’s for the 1:15 p.m. shuttle from one of the media hotels to Soccer City, where the final of the World Cup between The Netherlands and Spain will take place more than seven hours later.
“Don’t worry. The bus will be here in 15 minutes,” we are told.
It arrives at 2:11.
If this is a sign of things to come, it is going to be a long interesting day.
2:57: Pulling into the parking lot, a dog is seen bouncing a soccer ball three times off its head. He’s already been more effective than Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Kaka were in this tournament.
4:43 p.m.: QMI Agency’s Gareth Wheeler is stuck in the mass of humanity waiting to shoehorn its way through a ticket gate when he notices the man beside him is none other than golfing legend Gary Player. After Wheeler introduces himself, Player asks where he’s from. When Wheels responds he’s from Canada, Player, a native of South Africa, says: “I just got back from Canada (three weeks ago).” That’s great Gary. Because after more than a month here, we’re on the verge of heading back to Canada ourselves. Back home. And we can’t wait.
6:37 p.m.: To mark the kickoff of the opening ceremonies, a squadron of fighter jets roars over Soccer City, causing the seats inside the massive stadium to rumble. No truth to the rumour that Ronaldo was in one of the planes, looking for a way to get into the final.
6:46 p.m.: Shakira steps onto the stage at midfield, accompanied by hundreds of multi-coloured spotlights and dozens of dancers dressed in native African garb. With almost every one of the 85,000 seats already filled she breaks out in her unofficial South Africa 2010 anthem ““Waka Waka (This Time For Africa).” By our estimation, it was the 12,341st time the tune has been played since the tournament kicked off June 11. But hey, who’s counting?
6:56 p.m.: A herd of 13 elephants is led onto the field and does a parade lap. Thankfully, the pitch is covered by a large plastic tarp. Wouldn’t want David Villa to be breaking in alone on the Dutch goal later on and slipping on one of their, ah, souvenirs. Informed later by colleague Morris Dalla Costa that the elephants were fake, that they were costumes with men inside. Is nothing sacred?
7:17 p.m. A tingle runs down the spines of the 85,000 on hand, including yours truly, when the great Nelson Mandela emerges from a corridor on a golf cart, waving to the crowd. The flood of camera flashes from the stands is blinding. A truly memorable moment in the lives for all of us privileged enough to be on hand. We certainly won’t hold in the same esteem the dogs breakfast of a game that will kick off in 73 minutes.
8:14 p.m.: The crowd goes bonkers when the World Cup trophy is brought out onto the field and taken out of its case. Just one question: Shouldn’t the World Cup actually be a Cup? Like the Stanley Cup? Something you can drink celebratory champagne out of?
8:30 p.m.: After rousing renditions of the Spanish and Dutch national anthems, the game starts with the fans roaring. There won’t be much reason to cheer for the next couple of hours, however.
8:37 p.m.: Netherland’s star Arjen (Greg Louganis) Robben flops on the ground for the first of countless times on this night, netting a Spanish player a yellow card. It would be the first yellow card on a night of diving, whining, acting and, simply put, total boorish behaviour by both teams, who embarrassed themselves in front of hundreds of millions watching TV around the world.
8:47: One section over from the Canadian contingent in the nosebleed press area, an ambitious fan displays the longest vuvuzela we’ve seen here. Must be six feet long. He starts leading the area fans in rhythm, almost like an orchestra conductor. In other words, the maestro of this vuvuzela band.
9:17 p.m.: Halftime. Thankfully. What an awful game. One well juiced-up fan out in the corridor flops on the ground. “Look, I’m Arjen Robben!” he says.
10:44 p.m.: With the game seemingly heading for penalty kicks, Andres Iniesta breaks the scoreless deadlock in the 118th minute to put Spain up 1-0. In the media centre, a roar goes up from the Spanish press. Why don’t these guys just wear jerseys while they type. What a joke.
10:47 p.m.: The final whistle blows. The Spanish celebrate. The Dutch whine. What an awful display of soccer in what was to be FIFA’s grandest stage.
10:58 p.m.: Spanish captain Iker Casillas accepts the World Cup trophy from FIFA president Sepp Blatter and South African president Jacob Zuma. The Spanish celebrate. The confetti flies. And yours truly proudly boasts to anyone who will listen that he picked Spain to win the World Cup in the QMI Agency’s pre-tournament supplement in early June.
But what a humiliating exhibition of sport this title game was. Boring. Childish.
OK boss. Coming home now. When does hockey season start?