In the first of his Esquire World Cup blogs, talkSPORT's Anthony D'Angelo is happy to discover that the scare stories about South Africa were just that
Ok, I shall hold my hands up. Despite my protestations about how hard I'll have to work, about how cold it is at night, and the din made by those bloody vuvuzelas, the fact is I am about to spend the next four and a half weeks working at the World Cup in South Africa for talkSPORT radio. As a football junkie, it does not get any better than this.
The excitement had been tempered somewhat thanks to the British tabloids. Six months of headlines about machete-wielding gangs, killer bees and myriad other ways to die in Johannesburg had made me a touch paranoid. But what I have found so far could not be further from what they'd predicted. To my relief, the only things being wielded by the locals at Tambo airport was World Cup merchandise - T-shirts, cups, shirts, scarves, hats, flags, and those bloomin’ vuvuzelas.
South Africa’s excitement at being World Cup hosts is palpable. The first thing we saw as we disembarked the plane was a giant poster featuring Nelson Mandela, covered in ‘Welcome to South Africa’ slogans written in different languages. Scores of staff were on hand in the airport to answer any questions. You can feel the eagerness of the South Africans to ensure their country puts on a great tournament.
Football fans were arriving from all corners of the globe, from moody Argentineans sauntering around in their Boca Juniors gear, to a pair of Mexicans in front of us at passport control, dressed head to foot in their team’s kit and matching giant sombreros.
I only managed to sleep for two disrupted hours on the flight but took comfort in the fact that since I was not working that day, I would be able to have a nap in the afternoon. Or so I thought. When we reached our accommodation, I was told to get a move on as we were going straight out to record some audio.
We ended up in a safari park, recording the presenters’ reactions to the wildlife and getting some vox pops. We also interviewed some Mexicans who sang a song for us. They were very insistent we play the whole thing which makes me suspect there were some rude words being used.
The first game is almost upon us. I hope South Africa beat Mexico, not because of the rude words but because it will set the country alight. I heard one radio presenter on a local Johannesburg station say that the game will see 48 million people with one common goal. It really does feel as big as that.
You can hear all 64 matches in the World Cup live on talkSPORT – 1053/1089 MW.