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The Toilet

by Max Sleaze, images by Jurie Senekal / 13.04.2010

The Cape Town stadium has been compared to the Amsterdam and Allianz Arenas, the Emirates and even the Birds Nest in Beijing, which may either hint at some kind of architectural thought monopoly or just some cunning business savvy from the international construction trade. They are all stunning examples of stadia development that have attempted to create organic forms that at least play lip service to the surrounding environment and Cape Town, being the newest of the bunch and having the advantage of one of the world’s most memorable backdrops, could hardly fail to impress. And impress it does, whether viewed from above on Ocean View Drive, from across Table Bay, or standing nose to it. It has presence. Thankfully not in the silly hubris of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai but in a sense that it actually seems like it belongs, it is the stadium that in many ways Cape Town deserves.

Of course, you may ask, is it one that an African City can afford? And no matter how hard Capetonians try, they can’t argue with geography. So if you look beyond the flowing membrane, elegantly framed by the mountain, from above, it does have a remarkable resemblance to an upmarket toilet bowl. And since the costs have risen way over the estimated to 4.9 billion, the flushing away metaphors are very close to home. Though as a diehard football fan not clouded by those pesky socio-economic arguments, seeing the river of colourful fans streaming in under its shining reflective skin, I am quite simply unashamedly in love. It is that bad kind of love, the love for the wild girl that you know is going to cheat, the love for that ostentatious BMW, a Patron coveting kind of desire.

Sport, like sex and rock ‘n roll, is one of the things which allow you to let reason go. If you don’t get it then you never will. Some don’t, Chomsky who is probably one of the most incisive thinkers of the 20th century sees sport as, “keeping people from trying to get involved with things that really matter”. Yeah whatever, I have never seen him score a scorcher from forty yards and anyway Camus, who was a pretty good goalkeeper in his time, reckoned that “everything he learned about morality and obligation he owed to football”. So I am happy to let the eggheads battle it out for a scoreless draw while I get sucked into the moment.

This not going to be one of those FIFA© hating rants, no matter how suspicious I am about an organisation that has more in common with North Korea, it has brought joy to every corner of the world from penthouses to favelas, when for one month every four years the world seems to pull a little closer. The Cape Town International Challenge was not a FIFA© event, it brought together some of the future stars of tomorrow, from football powerhouses like Brazil, Ghana, Nigeria and well our lot, and it was brought to us by the Cape Town City Council. Perhaps eager to justify the spend to the locals they went out of their way to be local friendly. There is no trademark after City of Cape Town, and it is still democratically elected. Ticket prices were pegged at mere R30 and many were distributed to local football associations.

So there was a family feel to the event, the large public areas inside and outside the stadium meant that many, including a surprising number of teenage girls in Manchester United shirts, choose to hang around to chat and Mxit, it could have been a mall. With the exception of some pretty vocal Nigerians who decided they would rather sit together than be constrained by something as banal as seat numbers and were heavy handedly evicted by the SAPS, we can always rely on good old fashioned SAPS style diplomacy, it was all pretty tame, even the vuvuzelas seemed subdued. All well behaved, feel good in the Mexican wave “take me out to the ball game” way you see in twee American “romcoms”. I wondered what the Chiefs or Pirates fans would make of this suburban picture.

The lack of star quality meant that the on field action took second place to the stadium itself. It being a test event you can excuse the occasional hiccups, the misplaced Nigerian national anthem resulting in the team captain belting it out acapella on a hastily found microphone was amusing, the atrocious boy band that attempted to be the half time entertainment was not.

The Amajita led by the wonderfully named Choppa Mboweni (I can see sub editors wringing their hands with glee if that boy has a future) made a valiant effort, but the more battle hardened Nigerians eventually wore them down with their physicality and the on field version of the 419 scam, they all regularly dropped with cramps as the clock ticked down.

The Brazilian as to be expected were pure class, the true purveyors of the beautiful game, a glance at the team sheets revealed unlike the other teams of varying ages, that every one of them was born in 1992, suggesting a production line of talent churned out at whim, a sobering thought when we have to desperately try to reanimate an aging Benny McCarthy.

The city council turned on the charm, surprisingly enough the Mahala press credentials were the real deal. Including the full vehicle search with sniffer dogs, bonnet lift and bizarrely driving over a ditch with a guy below, all followed up by a motorcycle escort into the stadium through a designated lane. I just wished we had a blue light.
Of course there was something bigger at play here, so I was not that surprised to see some of the real “players” pop in for the press conference. Ok I might have been preoccupied with tucking in to the very impressive buffet; prawns at a press conference, now if only Malema had thought of that at Luthuli House, he wouldn’t need to pacify even the most irritating of ‘agents”. So mid-munch in walks the tripartite alliance of SA soccer, the urbane new SAFA CEO Leslie Sedibe, Danny Jordan, probably the dullest inspirational speaker ever (seriously if we did not have some Madiba magic we would have been lucky to be hosting the school jukskei championships), and the “second time around” saviour of the hour Carlos Parreira.

After a short conference where the best questions seemed to be coming from the Brazilian media, I managed to corner Carlos at the lift and proffered my hand to wish him “good luck”, only waiting till he clasped my hand by ending with a cheeky “you are going to need it”. You would think all those millions would buy him a sense of humour? Maybe next time I will try it in Portuguese.

All in all the stadium is ready, Carlos reckons it is one of the top 5 in the world, so let’s even bring the rugby here, sell Newlands and with the money lets finally finish that bloody highway.

What clinched it for me though was the talking lift, when it reached the basement in a very seductive voice it slowly mouthed, “ohhh” and I thought, yeah I can live with this.

All images © and courtesy Jurie Senekal.

Check out the Zoopy videos of the action below:

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