Friday, 16 July 2010

World Cup 2010: They think it's all over. Sadly, it is now

The World Cup is over. I'm home. Back in my charming little village in Buckinghamshire, about 25 miles west of London. Great to see the missus and the kids, great to recount the South African tales, great to use the brand-new barbecue, perhaps the only built-in "braai" in historic Chalfont St Giles!
But there's a hole in my life. The World Cup is over, and like so many others, I'm struggling to remember what I did before the whole thing got underway on June 11.
For me, it started years ago of course. I tapped out a book in six weeks last November, a novel which told how the Rainbow Nation's miracle was about to begin. Then I went out for the England cricket tour to South Africa, having set up my blog site with Andy Watts, the local internet guru.
Then South Africa tourism flew me out to their Indaba 2010 conference in early May. Since then, it hasn't stopped. An epic tournament, filled with drama on and off the field.
In brief, here's the statistics from my World Cup:
Newspapers: over 140 articles articles in an estimated 29 different newspapers, from USA Today and the Wall Street Journal in the US, to the Standard and Express in England and all over South Africa with translations appearing in India and Portugal among others. As I clip out the articles to create some kind of record of my trip, I find the Natal Mercury and the Shoot World Cup pull-out (which appeared in the Johannesburg Star, the Cape Argus, the Pretoria News, Natal Mercury and even Kimberley's Diamond Fields Advertiser, produced by the excellent Matshelane Mamabolo and dominated by the super Kevin McCallum) did me proudest.
Television: Apart from the usual Sky News stuff, there were two fascinating appearances on SABC2's Weekend Live plus interviews for Norwegian, Japanese, Indian and Italian television. Never saw those last four, but if anyone did, I hope I did okay!
Radio: nearly 50 crossings with David O'Sullivan on Johannesburg's 702 and CapeTalk's Aiden in the Mother City of South Africa, plus six or seven for BBC Radio 5. I did every Saturday lunch-time on WJR in the US which can be heard in 17 states, a couple with the BBC World Service and Ireland's NewsTalk, five or six for SABC's Radio 2,000 and one for a Portuguese outfit and various snippets for Guatemala, China and Denmark.
On-line: these are the verifiable numbers: YouTube 100,551, 30,129, Bleacherreport 128,730. How many of those are unique, different hits I'm not sure, but it puts up a figure of over 250,000 people.
I don't know how many readers/viewers/listeners actually paid heed to my views. Whether spoken, written or networked, I stuck to my guns.
When the foreign papers began their "South Africa sucks" campaign around April time, I firmly refuted their nonsense, sticking up for a nation which only shrugged off Apartheid 16 years ago.
There will be no bloodbaths, I said when the Daily Star's front page was emailed around the world. The stadiums, roads and hotels will be ready, I said when the Sun and Daily Mail said they were still building sites. The fans will be safe, I said when papers all around the world warned of crime and poor security.
Even on Sky News, when their Emma Hurd was down in Cape Town digging for anti-South African publicity at a squatter camp, I was on air saying such things wouldn't affect the World Cup.
They didn't. None of them. The stadiums were packed, the games started on time, the whole thing was magnificent.
I have made myself extremely unpopular in certain areas for being so outspokenly pro-South Africa. One site suggested I was paid by Durban's city council for being so keen on a 2020 Olympic bid. Rubbish. It's the best Olympic venue I've ever seen, and the official bid is underway now, six months after I first mentioned it here on December 29 lats year during the cricket tour.
An African Olympics is a certainty now. The IOL have been shamed in to it by FIFA's Sepp Blatter, not my favourite man but a visionary of sorts. He knew South Africa could do it, and stuck with them in a world full of doubters.
And ultimately, I should be happy. Crime in South Africa dipped to record lows during the World Cup. Security was perfect, just 170 arrests were made, a miracle of miracles. No bloodbaths, traffic snarl-ups, earthquakes, unfinished infrastructure, lethal snakes. How many times have I written that?
I was right all along. Of course, the foreign papers will make no apologies. None of them will call me and remind me: "Neal, you were right all along, we were wrong." South Africa, rightly, basks in the glory of a tournament which they pulled off with aplomb.
And I should be the happiest man in the world. Look at those stats above. I got the message out there, sold a few copies of my book.
But now it's over. Africa's first World Cup went off with barely a hitch. And here I sit, painting a fence, watering the hanging baskets, going to a school prize-giving, a county cricket final.
But what next? When you've been consumed by a crusade like South Africa 2010, how do you follow it?
Commuting into London has lost any allure it may have once held. The idea of doing shifts on the national newspapers and sniffing out a full-time role appalls me. There's a few Test matches coming up, the Ashes in Australia this winter... the start of the new Premier League season with England's rotten, over-paid let-downs.
Another book? A sequel to A GAME APART? Hardly. At 50p a book I'm never gone to get rich on current sales. Another career? Too late for all that at 49.
What I need is a new crusade. Any ideas? Feel free to leave them below. Help me lift the gloom. Please.


  1. Thanks for sticking up for us Neal! You can now proudly say "I told you so."
    Maybe you should think about emigrating to SA. There's always something to crusade about here! And we're a fantastic country, as you've seen.
    Enjoy your new braai! I hope it helps with your post-WC depression. Believe me, most of us in SA are experiencing the same thing. I'm off to make myself a World Cup CD...

  2. Big move to emigrate with the younger boys 13 and 15... got a couple of offers... let's see what happens with Durban 2020!

  3. For us locals, it's back to porridge. Affirmative Action, BEE, xenophobia, corruption. Even Julius is back in the headlines again.
    It was fun while it lasted. No, it was more than fun, it was bloody brilliant.
    Don't think the Olympics is such a great idea as it is based in one city.
    Looks like a nice braai. You just need someone to teach you how to cook .. you should have turned that meat ages ago.

  4. Neal your tireless reporting from South Africa needs recognition! so many of us here in Chicago (my friends who I have encouraged to follow you on Twitter and read your blog), have all told me how much they enjoyed the fruit of your efforts.

    We lived it through you ! while tuning into ESPN or ABC and trying to hear the likes of Martin Tyler (and the others that I cannot remember their names) through the annoying din of vuvu's !!

    Take a well deserved rest !

    I was amazed how quickly you posted game reports -- tell us how you did it -- please write a blog entry of "behind the scenes of a busy reporter". Would be interesting to read.

    If you ever need or want to visit Chicago -- you have a place to stay !!

    Take care and thanks again