BLOEMFONTEIN - England and Germany fans
are converging on Bloemfontein, scrambling for accommodation,
transport and tickets for Sunday's World Cup showdown but two
things are not in short supply, beer and goodwill.
Despite the long-standing rivalry between the teams, which
meet in a last 16 clash at the Free State Stadium, everyone was
basking in the glow of South Africa's feel-good World Cup and
had traveller's tales to share.
In the Reyneke Park camp site outside Bloemfontein, German
and English flags hung from tents and camper vans.
"They started drinking beer early but it's a nice
atmosphere. All are well behaved, no trouble," site owner Les
Reyneke said. The bar had stayed open until five o'clock that
For England fans, there was a rush to find places to stay in
Bloemfontein as the team had been expected to top their group
and stay in Rustenburg for their first knock-out match.
"The last two days have been crazy. The phone didn't stop
ringing for five hours yesterday," Reyneke said.
Nick Falvi, a 30-year-old telephone engineer from West
London, was lounging by the pool with his friends, veterans of
previous World Cup campaigns in France, Japan and Germany.
"Cape Town was good, Port Elizabeth was good, Rustenburg was
a disaster. They couldn't cope. Bloemfontein is...different.
There's not much here."
Many England fans had exchanged tickets with United States'
fans after the Americans topped the group, he said. Some had
lost money on pre-booked flights and rooms.
Their main complaint was the cost of accommodation but they
were loving their football safari.
"The people are great. The white people aren't so friendly
as the black people though," Falvi said.
Fears that South Africa was a dangerous, crime-ridden place
had largely not proven true, the fans said. Falvi said he had
been held up at knifepoint at night in Rustenburg.
"It was my fault. I was as drunk as a skunk and I was told
not to go there. It could happen in London."
As for the game, the English were confident of victory over
a young German side, despite the fact that England made heavy
weather of qualifying. It was what might come next - possibly
Argentina - that worried them.
They were also scornful of Wayne Rooney's criticism of
England fans for booing a dismal performance against Algeria.
"We've been working 24 hours a day to come here. All we're
asking is 90 minutes of work," said Darren Gelding, a
At the Loch Logan waterfront, German and English fans
mingled. There was not the slightest hint of aggression of the
sort that in decades past scarred the reputation of English
Stefan Zundel, 30, from Berlin, and Katharina Lueth, 27,
from Munich, both management consultants, sat having lunch in
their Germany shirts.
"Unfortunately we're outnumbered now," Zundel joked. "But
there's a lot of South Africans who support Germany. My
impression is that the crowd here will be with Germany."
It would be a tough game, Lueth said, adding: "We'll win if
it goes to penalties."
South African police have brought in reinforcements to guard
against any outbreak of violence among supporters.
But Andrew Fleming of the English Football Supporters'
Federation, manning a mobile help-point at the waterfront, said
such ugliness was a thing of the past.
"A lot of people have worked hard to change things since the
dark old days," he said."
Follow FFT.com on Twitter
Join FFT.com on Facebook
Barcelona's golden boy grabs the headlines again
It's Larsson Jr stealing the show these days
England striker puts pen to paper on permanent deal
The new season is but six weeks away (in the Football League)
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010