Flat bats and players without gloves, teams both decked out in all white, fans on the field at half time, football without pads, tickets for less than USD $5. Professional sports in South Africa differ a bit from those back in the States.
While in Cape Town, we had a chance to check out both a professional soccer game and one day of a 5 day cricket test match. The experiences at both could not have been more different. However, both were highly entertaining, and with everything in Cape Town, the venues were incredibly scenic.
We watched the football game on a Saturday night at the Cape Town Stadium in Green Point. This stadium and its surrounding parks and golf course were built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It is a stunning structure located just about on the coast and can be seen throughout the city from many different perspectives.
The view from inside the stadium was a stark comparison. While very new and clean, it looks and feels like something that was built in a hurry with a limited budget – likely similar to many World Cup and Olympic structures. Seats are small and cheap (not likely to last more than 10 years), electronic scoreboards and big screens are small and limited. Beer is served from cans not from dedicated taps or beverage areas. None of this really takes away from the experience but provides quite a contrast to the big business stadium of the NFL or MLB.
Attendees were mostly working class and at under USD$4, attending is affordable for many. But football is not the big sport here in Cape Town so there were plenty to of empty seats given the stadium’s 55k person capacity. Energy was high though and Vuvuzelas and dancing fans ( including many cross-dressed ones ) were everywhere. Rugby is the big draw in South Africa. And to a lesser degree, Cricket. And while summer is not the season for rugby, we were able to check out some great cricket between South Africa and England.
We watched the cricket played at the PPC Newlands Cricket Stadium located in Newlands, an upmarket suburb at the base of Table Mountain. A very English-like garden setting – apart from the mountains that dominate the skyline.
The cast of characters at the cricket pitch was quite varied. There were those in proper whites and dress as you would see at a horse race as well shirtless fans turning red under the brutal sun and obviously there to consume as much beer in 6 hours as possible. No hotdogs and Crackerjacks here. Donuts and biltong (the national favorite beef jerky) were served in the stands.
The match went on for hours with a couple long breaks for lunch and afternoon tea, of course. During these breaks, the pitch is opened up and fans swarm the field. We gave it four hours and studied the game a bit before the game but I think we only got about 50% closer to understanding it. But it was a fun outing nonetheless and we look forward to checking out another game in the future.