As I watch the CONCACAF Gold Cup, (soccer tournament) I recall the magic of last June. I recall the world coming together to watch soccer, recall witnessing South Africa continue to heal through sports, and I recall believing I’d see USA play a World Cup match.
When my tour through Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa ended I decided to stay behind. The World Cup was just six days away and I wanted to see USA play. I still needed hotel reservations, tickets, transportation to the match, but truthfully, I wasn’t worried. I believed.
As it turned out, accommodations were fairly reasonable when you did get creative, but the ticket. The ticket became the challenge.
Naysayers told me, oh “you’ll never get a ticket to USA vs England.” I disagreed. The sold out match played between the two biggest traveling fan bases to South Africa played in one of the smaller stadiums would prove difficult -yes, but impossible – no.
With some system of ticket ownership checking implemented (or rumored) by FIFA to discourage scalping, my best hope seemed through a cancellation. Apparently, people who weren’t making the long haul could cancel their tickets.
One morning, I headed to the FIFA ticket offices in Cape Town. I lined up with fellow fans and waited. And waited. Hours passed.
Eventually I made my way to the ticket window and asked for England vs USA. Nothing. Did I give up? No, I still waited.
I learned I needed to watch a screen to see what type of seats were available to which matches. It updated every 3-5 minutes and I watched it like a hawk. For an hour nothing changed.
Then suddenly a blue seat, tier 1 (seemingly) became available. I became so excited, I dropped my credit card instantly saying I want ticket(s).
The attendant checked and still nothing was available. What? Shocked, ‘it has a blue light, it’s on the board, you told me that meant a ticket was available?” I continued in a slightly elevated tone and pointed “It’s there.”
She told me, “I know, but there is still no ticket.” I watched the screen, it remained on the board after the next refresh. She tried again. System crash. What the…
Five minutes. Then five more. I asked again, and reluctantly she checked again. Suddenly, she had a ticket. I handed her my credit card, “please charge it.” Those seconds when processing felt like minutes, if not hours. I was competing with all the other ticket offices, the internet, the world basically and I won. I scored.
Suddenly, her initial unpleasant demeanor (not unwarranted) turned to a smile. She definitely doubted my chances at first, but now she saw my happiness and told me to enjoy the match. I would.
Now, I needed passage to Rustenberg.
From Cape Town I flew to J’berg, (Mango offered reasonable fares) and headed back to Pretoria. I had a ticket, but still needed a ride. Rustenberg was a two hour drive at best.
Almost instantly after I checked into my hostel my ride situation rectified. I met fans from around the globe; Argentina, New Zealand, Uruguay, Australia, Germany, and I also met plenty of American soccer fans. Yes, fellow fans of the Stars and Stripes who were going to the game. I asked around and found my ride. Mission accomplished. Sometimes, I love hostels.
The game itself proved a memorable experience. The pregame buzz wore off quickly when England scored in the 4th minute, but I jumped for joy when we equalized to capture a point with a draw. In the end, the memory of day will remain with me, but more importantly, so will the lesson learned.
I found accommodations, scored a ticket, and secured a ride. I made the world cup match I wanted to see. Looking back it all seemed easy, but it was because I believed. Sure, I had moments of doubt, but largely I kept my course and believed I’d attend the match the entire time. I did.
At times, I wish I played all my life with the same determination and attitude. Oh wait, I can. And watching soccer in the Gold Cup is reminding of just that.
Tip: Always believe. As I watched a continent believing in its ability to host the world, I believed I would secure a ticket, passage to Rustenburg, and see England vs USA. Everything worked out, and largely because I believed it would. Always remember, good fortune favors the prepared mind.