Clearly, it was called the “Fan Mile” and not the ‘Family Mile’, for a reason. It should have been called, “The Optimistic Mile”, as upon arrival I saw many optimistic faces. And why not? After all, if nothing else, soccer is a game for optimists. Where else will you see fierce, agile men battling out with the very real possibility of ending up with a nil-nil score? Thank god for sudden death shootouts. OK, not really, but you get my drift.
We (that is to say us and the rest of Cape Town) just felt it would be a moment our kids should know they were part of. Their sketchy soccer heritage if you like - a once in a lifetime opportunity. Naively, we should have anticipated that’d we wouldn’t be the only family who flirted briefly with soccer mania. Seemingly, 250 000 soccer fans brought their kids (and some cousins) who by the look of things, weren’t ‘feeling’ it at all.
What we saw, in fact, was very fake-happy looks on parent’s faces. Gritted teeth as they carried whining, whinging children, toddlers and shorties of various sizes who clearly, had abso-effing-lutely no sense of decorum whatsoever. A once in a lifetime event? Couldn’t give a dang. Can you feel the love tonight? No, not really, mostly I’m just hungry dad. I think most parents thought they’d be able to show their shorties a photo of themselves (family portrait a- la-fan-mile style) one day and be able to say: You were there. You felt the gees. You loved the vibe. But nooooh, what were the shorties after? Crappy snacks and psychedelic drinks.
Can’t say I blame them. If you were shortie enough you got to ride on a parent’s shoulders or back. If you were a middly shortie, you had to walk. And what did you see? A whole bunch of stranger’s waistlines or crotches (mostly from the back, admittedly) maybe a few flag ponchos, a weird wig or two; but that’s about it. Were shorties feeling boastful, show-offy and smug about SA winters? No, not really. Because when you’re a kid hot is hot, cold is cold, and comfortable is comfortable - there’s just no talking yourself into believing you feel great when you don’t.
And as I gazed at the parent’s faces, I saw longing. There was an unwritten camaraderie based on knowing that whilst you thought you were being sportishly noble, all you really wanted to do was chug back a few lagers and discuss how fabulous SA is with some random foreigners.
I’ll never do a sporting event with shorties again. Not till they’re biggies. Hell, there were even 70 year olds having more fun, I shit you not. Beers in hands, blue rinse and all, wandering round the fan mile looking right merry and jaunty. Lucky bastards.