I remember the day so many years ago when we won the bid for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. I was on the putting green down at Beachwood Golf Course, warming up for the Durban Country Club 2004 Club Championships. I ran into the closest open door when I heard the screaming and celebrating.
I had hoped that I wouldnt have tee'd off by the time old Sepp Blatter pulled the envelope, and I was only just in time as my name had been called out to head to the tee box when the announcement came.
I may have been a little emotional as I didnt play that first hole very well at all...
Needless to say, all those years ago, I don't think anyone knew just how big the tournament would be for our country, for industry and small business and for the game of football on the African continent.
I was in the United States when my brother emailed me and asked if I wanted to help with a client of his and work at one of the stadiums during the tournament. I knew that he had taken up their offer to manage the fire safety for the VIP suites at the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town, but when he asked me if I would like to do the same for Moses Mabhida in Durban, I naturally said, "YES, ABSOLUTELY"
The opportunity to work with Fifa during the tournament was one that I, a self-proclaimed soccer nut, was too good to be true (I have managed to get this far into my blog without mentioning Liverpool, and with the last 19 years being as painful as they have been, I may have to wait another few before I can say too much more about my beloved club)
What sweetened the deal even more (as if it needed it), was that I had VIP access through Fifa, to all the stadiums and all the suites for the duration of the tournament. Now, to put this in perspective, this meant that I could go to any game, enter any stadium and situate myself in the best seats in the house. For nothing.
And so, i did...
I went World Cup mad, going to the opening ceremony and game, one of the highlights of my life. That morning I woke up at 4am, just too excited to sleep any longer and hearing the sound of the vuvuzela outside on the streets. I sat on the half way line in Soccer City, cried during the National Anthem and went absolutely insane when Tshabalala slotted that top right hand corner strike. I remember a guy in the row in front of me turning around and we were both jumping out of our seats. He tried to give me a high five, but in our excitement we both missed completely (very, Dumb and Dumber like) It was all just too much.
I went to so many games, watching England collapse against the USA in Rustenberg and the infamous Robert Green spill (not so good for him), I travelled up and down to Durban and watched Brazil take on Portugal and many others. Last but not least, I went to the Final of the 2010 Fifa World Cup and soaked in the atmosphere where Spain took on Holland.
(Inside Soccer City, while they prepared for the Opening Ceremony - Yes, I got there early)
(The football dung beatle)
(Leaving the stadium after one of the games)
(The press line up as the teams prepare to come out for the National Anthems)
(At the Eng vs USA game, I stood right behind Vice President of the USA, Joe Biden, during the National anthems in the presidential suite)
(Captain Stevie, a one man show for club and country)
None of these could match the feeling on that opening day when our country united behind Bafana.
The World Cup was a success, it leaves behind amazing stadiums which we now need to utilise, it created a whole new culture of support for our National football team (who doesn't own a scarf, shirt or jersey now with the yellow and green of Bafana?!) and it showed the world we can deliver on the greatest stage.
And I was there.