Meaningfully Meaningless

 

Green Point Stadium

Cape Town, South Africa

March 27, 2017

For many soccer fans in the US, the most memorable moment of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was followed by Ian Darke’s famous words, “Go Go USA!” However, for me, it was a ‘meaningless’ final match of Group E between Cameroon and Netherlands. The Dutch had already secured a place in the knockout stages and Cameroon knew they could not advance out of the group. However, the stadium of nearly 68,000 fans from across the world did not seem to care about the stakes, or lack thereof, myself included. 

My evening began with two friends at our hostel that stood only a few kilometers away from Green Point Stadium. We wanted to do something different, something memorable. With no affiliation to either team, we decided that we would be cheering for the underdog, Cameroon. This idea took us to a local paint shop where we purchased yellow, red, and green body paint, because why not?

As we lathered up outside of our hostel, soccer fans from Argentina could not help but to watch as they questioned our intentions. Although I can’t recall their exact words, I’m sure they were something along the lines of, “Why are three white guys from the US painting themselves in the Cameroon flag?” Fair question. They weren’t the last to stop and stare.

Green Point Stadium from the Waterfront Village

Sporting a World Cup shirt as a kid

A few hours prior to kickoff, we went to the Waterfront Village, next door to Green Point, fully clothed. Minutes later, we no longer had a need for our white tees. Not knowing the reactions ahead of us, we began walking around the Waterfront as World Cup festivities were taking place.

Within seconds we had our first photo request. Within 20 minutes we were surrounded by local and international media, fans, and Waterfront employees all asking for a picture or interview. My guess is we had at least 200 people fixated on our shenanigans. To this day, I have only found a few of the images, linked at the end of this article, that were taken that night, but the memory is all I need. 

After a couple hours of fun, we made the 20-minute walk to Green Point Stadium. As I rounded the last barricade that divided fans from traffic, this beautiful, extra-terrestrial looking stadium filled with vuvuzela-blowing fans greeted me. I admit it… I joined in the vuvuzela nonsense. Please forgive me. I was in awe. I had seen Green Point from afar, but as it towered over me I could feel the magnitude of what the World Cup means to so many around the globe. It was not about the Netherlands or Cameroon. It was for every nation, regardless of language, religion, or color. 

After my ticket was scanned I made my way to Block 103, Row 21, Seat 17. Upon seeing the immaculate pitch and bright lights I felt chills working their way down my spine. The moment was euphoric.  

The painted buffoon in the middle wearing a beanie... that's me. 

A group of Cameroonians greeted my friends and me as if we were family. We didn’t speak the same language, but we had no trouble finding a way to share that special moment alongside each other. 

Post-game photo-op

The Dutch defeated Cameroon 2-1, and ultimately completed the tournament as runners up to Spain. But that night, Green Point hosted more than a soccer match, it held an intercontinental gathering of fans that spoke the common language of World Cup soccer. 

Check out these photos from the official FIFA website and Getty Images that found their way around the world.

FIFA.com, ZIMBIO - 1, ZIMBIO - 2