Go USA!!!

In the spirit of USA’s recent win against Algeria, I thought I would finally write a post of our World Cup adventure. First, you have to know that Elena and I had talked about going to the USA-England game, but several attempts at getting tickets had fallen through. A couple days before the game, we finally accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen. Elena made plans to have a nice lunch in Johannesburg with an American friend she met in Egypt and dinner plans with a South African friend she met in Santa Barbara, who we were staying with Saturday night. We started looking forward to our peaceful weekend.

Saturday, June 12th – GAME DAY

11:30 am. Elena and I are 50km down the road from Bloemfontein on our way to Johannesburg when Elena calls to confirm our lunch plans with Jackie. Jackie informs us that she has a friend of a friend of a friend who can sell us tickets to the game. We’re not really sure how likely it is that the guy will actually have tickets for us when we get to the game, but we decide to go for it anyway. We start booking it to Johannesburg.

3:00 pm. We arrive in Johannesburg and pick Jackie up at her hostel and then book it to Andrea’s place in Pretoria. On the way Jackie makes her first call to John, our ticket guy, with the update on our status. He still has the tickets.

4:00 pm. We arrive in Pretoria to pick up Elena’s friend, Andrea. Andrea, the South African in the group, had enough USA gear for all of us. She came with car flag, scarf, and stickers for the lot of us. She also got us some awesome meat pies for the road…no stopping now! Back in the car and off to Rustenburg! Jackie makes her second call to John while I drive with great speed and determination (and of course safely and with seatbelts fastened) towards the stadium.

5:00 pm. We’re 18km away from Rustenburg and we hit our first traffic jam. 30 minutes and 5 phone calls to John with status updates later, we make it through the toll booth that was causing the traffic jam and we start moving again.

6:00 pm. Now we’re stuck. The traffic is barely moving. We’re all super irritated with the people who think they’re more important than everybody else and decide to turn the berm into an extra lane. I straddle the lane and the berm to block the ruffians, but the car of French people behind us don’t appreciate my law enforcement efforts (or perhaps it’s the American flag that Andrea is waving proudly out the window that they don’t appreciate) and try to push us out. Eventually, we decide that we too are more important than everyone else and zip down the berm…hiding our faces (and our flag) in shame of course.

7:30 pm. Jackie makes her 18th call to John to tell him that we’re nearly at the parking lot. Apparently, all the calls and texts ran down his phone battery and he warns us that his phone is about to die. We are to meet him at Gate B where he will wait for us with the tickets.

7:45 pm. We arrive at the parking lot. Park. Grab stuff. Lock doors. RUN! We start our first sprint to the shuttles taking fans from the lot to the stadium. We get on the shuttle with a bunch of other USA fans where we realize that we don’t have any kind of soccer team song that we can sing. So we break out into Sweet Caroline…the next best thing.

8:00 pm. The shuttle arrives at the stadium. Park. Jump. RUN! We start our second sprint from the shuttles about 0.5 km to Entrance 5.

8:05 pm. We arrive at Entrance 5 and go through 2 rounds of security before we find out that we can’t get to Gate B without the tickets. Jackie calls John, but his phone is dead. We find out that Gate B is closer to Entrance 2 at the other side of the stadium. RUN! We start our third sprint from Entrance 5 to Entrance 2. The park is designed so that you have to run the perimeter around the perimeter around the perimeter to get from one side to the other from outside the stadium…about 1.5 km.

8:20 pm. We arrive sweating and gasping for air at Entrance 2, but no sign of John and no way to reach him. 5, 7, 10 minutes go by. The game is supposed to start and we’re stuck outside. We’re just about to give up when Jackie’s phone rings. John’s friend to the rescue! He’s waiting at Entrance 5. Seriously?! But he says he’ll run to Entrance 2 and meet us there.

8:35 pm. We’re waiting for John’s friend. We hear cheers from the stadium…the game has started. They start closing the gates, and we beg for more time.

8:38 pm. We see a guy running towards us. We run at him and all of us embrace in a giant, jumping, group hug. We run shrieking and skipping towards the security guards who barely looked at our tickets in amusement at our excitement and/or sympathy for our urgency to get inside the stadium. RUN! We run now towards Section J, not because we have to but because we are so excited to actually be through the gates to the stadium.

8:42 pm. We step foot inside the stadium…it was magic, pure magic. We all look at each other and share a group scream before we take the world’s best seats…midfield, row P…16th row back. The game is incredible. Words can’t even describe it…a couple of the best hours ever.

10:30 pm. Then all of a sudden it’s over. The screens aren’t working at the stadium, so we have no way of knowing that the game time is coming to an end. Just as quickly as it all started, it ends…at least the game ends.

10:35 pm. The post-game celebrations begin. The tied score left everyone feeling like winners, so US and England fans celebrate together. We dance on the seats, take pictures, and make friends, and we finally leave when the guards kick us out.

11:00 pm. We leave the stadium and then Jackie starts a dance party in the port-o-potty lines so after another 20 minutes of dancing, we finally head to the lines for the shuttles. Jackie finds a way around the line so we get a shuttle right away and we are on the road back to Pretoria by 11:45 pm…just a little over 12 hours after we made that initial call to Jackie.

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