The shortest of working weeks in South Africa has been the longest and most intense of sporting weeks around the world. From banana eating as a subtle, yet potent anti-racism symbol, to the not-so subtle xenophobic silliness of suggesting Kenyans drown in swimming pools.
It is to Spain we turn for the moment of the week, when Dani Alves turned the act of a bigot into a viral sensation.
It was, claimed the Spanish paper AS, a pre-planned campaign by Alves, Neymar and marketing companies after Neymar had been the subject of racist abuse from abused by Espanyol fans in March. The decision was taken that the next time a banana got chucked on the field, they would take a bite of it and let the wildfire of social media take over.
Kevin Evans has a new tattoo. SA Hardcore Tattoos in Parkhurst inked it a few months ago; it depicts his skin having been ripped open to reveal a cog, chain, piston and other mechanical inserts alongside blood-red muscles. It’s a bionic arm for one of the iron men of the South African mountain biking, a comment on how tough you have to be to ride in the hardest of sports.
Evans had the tattoo done before the Absa Cape Epic, a race he hopes to win this week for his FedGroup-Itec team, riding with fellow South African Max Knox. The intricate inking would have taken thousands and thousands of needle pricks and a fair amount of discomfort for a result that is striking and intense.
When I rode up alongside David Moseley, a writer, editor, publisher, and wild and woolly member of the DC Massive, somewhere during the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour on Sunday, he said he was over the race already. “All I am thinking about is the ice-cold beer at the finish.”
It was all I was thinking about as well. My body was reminding me about the ice-cold beers I’d had the night before. Sobriety and an early night are necessary to ride a good Cycle Tour. I’ve never managed to ride a really good Cycle Tour. The first 30km is for getting rid of the hangover, the next 40km is for hiding from the wind behind other riders and the last bit is spent getting ever closer to that beer.
On Thursday afternoon, not long after the Fireman’s Arms on Buitengracht St opened and a good part of Cape Town became a happier place, Steve Walsh, the Australian referee from New Zealand who once made too regular a habit of being happy, was sitting in the bar of the Cullinan hotel with a laptop. He and a person I did not recognise, were going through videos and explanations of the way things would be for Friday night’s match between the Hurricanes and the Stormers. It was, from the looks of things, a rather relaxed discussion, focused, I guessed, on the breakdown and the mess it has a tendency to become.
There were nods, smiles and words along the lines of “I’ve got you”. Walsh drank water. A lot of it. The man who once loved a drink or 15 and arrived at a referees’ function in showroom condition worked his job, loved his job. He was, it must be said and praised, good at it on Friday. Preparation, interaction and explanation paid off. A simple trio.
It was the best of days, it was the worst of matches, if you were a South African. The fourth day of the first Test between the Proteas and Australia at SuperSport Park may just have produced the best atmosphere of any match in the country this summer. They came in their thousands, not to bury South Africa, nor to praise them, but to have one hell of a party.
Around 17000, the cap for the crowd for the prettiest, little stadium in the north of the land, arrived on Saturday, pouring out of cars, buses and trains. By Tuesday, the day before the Test started, 14500 tickets had already been sold for the Saturday. The silliness of starting a Test on a Wednesday was necessitated by the schedule, with the quick turn-around between Centurion and Port Elizabeth. If the match had started on Thursday with days three and four on the weekend, we might have had a two-day party instead of a one-day festival.