Dismay for England fans in Bloemfontein

By Gregory Mthembu-Salter in Bloemfontein
Posted on Monday, 28 June 2010 11:55

Gregory Mthembu-Salter witnessed a genuine English football disaster as the three lions were thrashed 4-1 by Germany.

Monday morning finds me blearily preparing to drive 1,000km back to Cape Town from Bloemfontein, trying to work out what to do with all the dismal memories of yesterday afternoon’s game between England and Germany.

I had driven the long, long drive from Cape Town with a friend for the game, through the Karoo, making it to the small dorp of Hanover in the Northern Cape the night before the game.

With South Africa playing Italy at rugby that day, it had been hard work to get the bar’s TV switched to football, but we eventually managed it, watching Ghana make Africa smile by beating the USA, while brandies and cokes flowed on all sides around us.

We rose early on Sunday morning after a freezing night, scraped the ice off the windscreen, and pressed on for Bloemfontein.

We reached there at midday, and made our way to the accommodation, which was already brimming with Germany and England fans.

The owner dropped us off at Bloemfontein’s ‘waterfront’ (complete with a purpose-built lake) at around 1pm. The place was almost entirely festooned in England flags, and heavily populated with fans. The English seemed to outnumber the Germans about 3 to 1, with South Africans opting for either side in roughly equal numbers.

Milling around with the crowd were a few British and German police, and large numbers of the South African variety; but there was never any hint of trouble. In fact, everyone seemed in a good mood, beers flowed and the weather was fantastic.

As at the mall, English flags and chants dominated, but did not monopolise, the stadium. There were masses of German flags too, waved by highly vocal German crowd. In short, the stage was set for an epic contest.

But, but but… Things did not quite turn out that way. Instead, from the outset Germany’s attack sliced and diced England’s defence, and easily earned the two goals they scored in the first half hour.

Somehow England struggled their way back in, scoring a first and then a second, outrageously denied by the referee. Our section of the crowd began chanting jibes at the referee in the finest Queen’s English, but he paid no heed. The first half ended 2-1, and in the second, as dusk descended, Germany dissected England again and again, with the game ending a decisive 4-1.

It was butal stuff. England have not been beaten like that in years, but they richly deserved it. All the weaknesses displayed against Algeria were there again, only this time against a team that knows how to score.

The undoubted highlight of the game for me was the local crowd, which usually supports Bloemfonten Celtic, who had some fantastic dance moves, and great chants, but otherwise it was a disaster, a genuine English football disaster.

We staggered out to 2nd street, whose bars were humming with thirsty fans, and settled down to watch Argentina take Mexico apart. The contenders are stretching away in this competition, and the Germany vs Argentina game will be something to behold.

And so to bed. The German residents were in full voice and the TV was showing endless repeats from the England game. It was that kind of night.

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