I am reeling from shock.
What an awful ending to a match that started with such anticipation and patriotic fervour. With mounting excitement, we had been looking forward to tonight’s [last night’s] 20h30 match between Bafana Bafana and Uruguay at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium all day.
When we witnessed Switzerland’s surprise 1-0 defeat of Spain, I thought it might even be a sign that we as the underdogs might prevail tonight [sorry, last night].
Alas, things did not turn out that way.
Our boys in gold and green had a sluggish start (like they did in their opening game against Mexico last week), but gradually started to get into their stride. They made a lot of careless mistakes, though, passing the ball to the opposition with alarming frequency. To their credit, they also fought back and intercepted the ball successfully on numerous occasions.
But shortly before the end of the 1st half, the formidable Diego Forlán scored a goal for Uruguay. It was a beautiful goal, precisely struck, and curving elegantly over the head of goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, and straight into the back of the net.
While the Uruguayan team and its supporters went absolutely beserk, the South Africans fell silent. I think even the noise of the vuvuzelas had stopped.
The second half started off with passion, flair and deft dribbling from both sides. The tension mounted with every almost-approach to the goal, and every last minute defence. I found myself completely swept up by the game, cheering our boys on loudly, and groaning in dismay when we were dispossessed of the ball and the opposition gallopped towards our goal instead.
And then, about 80 minutes into the game, disaster struck.
Luis Suarez (who’d gotten a bloody mouth in an unfortunate encounter earlier in the first half) had somehow squeezed past our defences and earned himself a clear shot to our goal. Khune flung himself in the path of the ball, and somehow managed to trip up Suarez. The referee, Massimo Busacca, promptly whipped out a red card, and banished Khune from the pitch for his “professional foul”.
The close-ups on the faces of his team mates clearly showed their shock and dismay. The stadium had fallen almost silent once again.
The replacement keeper Moneeb Josephs had to get ready in record time, to face a penalty… which was taken by Forlán. There was little he could do to stop the ball hurtling smack-bang into the back of the net.
2-0 to Uruguay.
By this stage, I was feeling quite ill and emotional. The commentator remarked that the supporters of Bafana Bafana were leaving the stadium in droves. Hundreds of seats emptied within the last 10 minutes of the game. It was awful. I thought it was rude of them to leave before the end, and a clear sign of disrespect for the opposing team, as well as an indication that they were withdrawing their support from our national team. But it was a cold night, with temperatures below freezing, and I could understand their desire to leave the scene of their defeat as quickly as possible.
And then, in the last few seconds of the match, Alvaro Pereira scored another goal. Oooff… As if it wasn’t enough that we lost 2-0, now we had lost 3-0.
I think our nation is going to be in mourning tomorrow (or rather, today).
And so will I.