Welcome to the Smarmy Army
Cape Town lures sedate supporters
THE ENGLAND supporter – that much-feared smirking lout best kept the opposite side of a riot shield – has been transformed. In South Africa, he is a gent and though he still orders pints, he is likely to be seen with a plate of tapas on the side.
London hedge fund trader Mark Thomson, 33, was tucking into a light lunch at Cape Town’s Wafu restaurant in Mouille Point yesterday, watching the sun sparkle on the Atlantic. “England fans? I haven’t seen many. There was a bit of chanting at the Waterfront shopping centre earlier – but generally everyone is very quiet and well behaved.”
Thomson was planning to see three matches in nine days, including last night’s match.
Chief Superintendent Dave Lewis, one of 12 British police officers at the World Cup, confirmed that memories of cities trashed in England’s football past seemed distant. “The England fans here are really nice people. They are not the type of people who go to football matches on Saturday afternoons at home.”
He said this had something to do with the fact that cheap airlines like Ryanair and easyJet did not fly to South Africa. “This explains why we are not seeing the under-25 males who drink too much and behave anti-socially.” Some English fans agreed. “The cost of getting here – at least £3 000 (about R33 000) – and the planning explain a lot,” said Steven Rodgers, who was treating himself to the trip after 28 years in the Royal Navy.
His friend Kevin Perrin, a surveyor of lifeboats from Stockton-on-Tees, said: “You see people travelling with their partners. They are having a holiday at the same time, seeing the sights. The fans are quite a bit older than I had expected. I suppose the young lads cannot get the four or five weeks off from work that we will need if England get through the group stages.”
Nigel Suddell, 32, a mobile phone technology expert from Berkshire, said: “The prices are the same as in London. The atmosphere is great because people really love football.”
However, he left his jacket in a bar the other night and didn’t get it back. “But that would have happened in any country,” he said.
South African immigration officials have suggested that enhanced border controls have kept troublemakers out.
Football Supporters’ Federation spokesman Kevin Miles confirmed that few fans have seen evidence of South Africa’s record crime rate. “We have seen a couple of phones go and the odd wallet.”
Miles’s federation – in collaboration with the British Foreign Office – offers support and information to the 11 000 England fans who bought their tickets through the Football Association.
He said Joburg’s traffic and Rustenburg’s remoteness had stood in the way of England fans gathering in large numbers there.
“Cape Town is more like a European city – more what we’re used to.” – The Independent