It’s 10 years since our columnist Gavin Caney spent five weeks in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. So instead of writing about his own experiences, he’s allowed his column to be taken over by the people who made it a trip of a lifetime.
My highlight of South Africa hosting the World Cup was that my son Philip, who was 23 at the time and had lived in England for the previous 17 years, came to visit for the duration of the tournament.
He arrived the day before the opening game with seven of his best friends in tow. From the moment we all met at the airport in Johannesburg it was the most wonderful experience to share with them all.
The country was in a state of euphoria; the excitement and buzz was palpable wherever you went and the whole gang of them lapped it all up. It was such a pleasure for me to become a part of their experience and to be embraced by them as part of their group.
I had tickets for the opening game between South Africa and Mexico for Phil and myself which, even now, is a spine-tingling memory. When we entered the new stadium (Soccer City), felt the indescribable vibe, heard the vuvuzelas and I was there to share this historic moment together with Phil, it literally brought tears to my eyes. When Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the stunning opening goal the eruption of joy in The Calabash blew the roof off. Sadly, the Mexicans equalised but even this didn’t dampen the mood much.
The following day we all travelled to Rustenburg, where the whole England contingent had tickets for the game against USA. The bumbling Robert Green mistake was a precursor as to how the results would go. We all wanted England to ‘Bring it Home’ but this match was a sad wake-up call that this wouldn’t happen.
The month that followed was a fabulous time for me. I was able to relive my youth vicariously through the South African adventure of the band of King’s Lynn lads. It was such a pleasure to witness and share their enjoyment of the entire trip, despite the trial and tribulations of the English team.
The lads had a chance to visit the length and breadth of the country and go to many places a lot of South Africans had never been. They were less conservative and more daring than the locals, which enabled them find undiscovered places to go and people to meet.
Gavin Caney showed through his interview with David Garrido for BBC Radio One at Sun City that he would succeed as a sports journalist. The disappointment was that if England had gone through to the final, Gavin would have been used as a correspondent to report on the experience from an English point of view.
Philip and I managed to get tickets for the final, which was another lifetime memory making experience. There is a special feeling to being a part of such an historic and amazing occasion, which is being watched by so many people all around the world.
It was a very proud time to be a South African where the spotlight was shining on us and we excelled in every way.
I was very sad to see the boys leave but was relieved that they were all healthy and fit and still all in one piece! On the other hand, I was so blessed to have been instrumental in some way of them taking great memories back to England with a love for our country and a personal friendship with them all, which still endures.
(David moved to England in October 2019 and will swap Sutton St James for South Wootton in the next few months)
England couldn’t ruin trip
South Africa 2010 was my first experience of following England and, although the players let us down, the trip didn’t disappoint.
It’s impossible to summarise this trip. The World Cup is more than just football to so many people.
The anticipation building as soon as South Africa won the bid alone was gripping; preparation, stadiums being built (will they be ready?), applying for tickets and sorting travel – the country was pumping and it was the first World Cup in Africa.
To follow England in my country of birth and experience the World Cup with a group of special school friends and my dad, who lived in South Africa at the time, meant I knew I had to be there, even if I couldn’t land any tickets, which I did.
I was lucky to watch a lot of matches live, including the opening game and final with my dad in the city I was born (Johannesburg). It was a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I just wish Ghana could have gone further and (Gareth) Barry had taken out (Mesut) Ozil on the halfway line.
Overall I’m glad all my mates got home in one piece!
Andy Prior: After all the scaremongering, it was an amazing trip – away from the football that is! South Africa’s a pretty cool place – made all the better for travelling with my best pals.
Jake King: It was amazing to tour South Africa and watch England play with some of my oldest mates.
Danny Barnes: A moment in time that will never be rivalled. Simply, untouchable. The king of all road trips with mates and memories I will treasure forever.
Steve Girdlestone: South Africans were so excited to host the World Cup and to welcome us. The highlight wasn’t the football, it was the party atmosphere everywhere, generated by the locals.
Matty Clayden: As we got closer to a fan park for the opening game with people racing around, the buzz and the vuvuzelas being played, I knew it was going to be the trip of a lifetime.
Joel Wille: The opening ceremony and game at the Joburg fan park was like a carnival. Everyone dancing and drinking and then BOOM!, Tshabalala’s goal. Sheer joy and all rooting for SA.