The Temple of Jabulani
At the World Cup, you try to get away from the zombie walk of endless matches by breaking up the routine. So this morning we went off to Sandton Convention Centre, a 15-minute drive turned to half an hour by the traffic, and the traffic-dodgers, lanes and traffic cones being little more than an inconvenience here.
It was “Penalty day” at World Football House, adidas' central HQ that might as well be called the Temple of Jabulani, with one wall racked with balls - balls attached via wires, in case anyone had a feeling to pinch one. On the wall are some truly hideous renderings of the tournament's key players. And players. Hey, former TFC almost-charter member Andrew Boyens was up there as the New Zealand rep. The Diego Forlan looked like Richard Simmons.
The press conference that brought us there was attended by a number of press shoving their way in – standard operating procedure at the World Cup media centres when the waitlist tickets are divvied out – then heading up to the podium beforehand to have their friends take pictures of them with the Golden Glove and the Jabulani.
After a short power-point demo - a Chinese journo in front of me scribbling down all the stats flashing by on the screen - it was show time for an “all-important” press conference, according to the emcee. Then they came on – Petr Cech of Chelsea/Czech Republic, former Argentina 'keeper Sergio Goycochea, and former Germany hothead/divisive egomaniac Oliver Kahn.
Most of the room clapped them on in their three-stripes kit. They clapped when Gocochea upbraided journalists - them, in other words - for referring to the penalty shootout as a lottery or Russian roulette. “There is only good luck and bad luck,” he said, and Chinese guy scribbed some more and nodded his head. Good luck, bad luck - isn't that was a lottery is?
It was pretty much a dud, in other words, and with the laboriousness of it all extended by the need to translate everything, we cut out early. We didn't even wait for the Khan to go off. He looked like he'd just stumbled out of bed and could use a shave and a couple Advil, actually. Just like me, actually.