28 June 2009

ellis park, johannesburg: the silliness of soccer and the memories it made

There was a day, as residents of Johannesburg, when Stef and I welcomed some Americans and decided to show them what we thought South African culture really was. This small group was interested in something authentic, something real. They had been knee-deep in the most impoverished places in the world and wanted to see what really substantiated a South African existence.

We took that group to the Apartheid Museum and jokingly separated them by race (see photo) and then we stopped by historic Ellis Park to catch an international soccer match between the USA and South Africa. The Museum was heavy history and perspective. The soccer was light fun, a window into the diversionary passion of South Africa's Everyman.

At Ellis Park, the vuvuzelas were in full force and our folks got a true taste of life for everyday South Africans. There was chanting and dancing and some funny smelling smoke floating in the air battling the smell of sidewalk pap and chicken for nostrilian dominance. We sat in the cheap seats with the poor folks and just generally enjoyed blending into a culture to which we did not belong.

This Sunday, the USA again plays soccer in Ellis Park, this time in the final of a high-profile international tournament, the Confederations Cup. The vuvuzelas will again hum and the smell of pap and chicken will waft in the air. I can still see it, smell it, and taste it. I am thankful that something as silly as soccer can bring such warm memories.


  1. For me its Rooibos Tea. I found some at a market downtown and everytime I have a steamy cup Im instantly transported to a beautiful morning in the mission house backyard. Just me, my tea and a bible.