Cape Town League Cup fever & Confed Cup disinterest
While in Cape Town, I met up with the United supporters club in the city to watch the League Cup Final. Around 200 of them filled the top floor in MitchellÃ¢ÂÂs Brewery by the Waterfront, completely outnumbering Tottenham fans.
It was an interesting, friendly and raucous mixture of expats and South Africans of every creed and colour. Many had never been to Old Trafford, some once held season tickets.
Almost all wore replica shirts, which they proudly buy from Old Trafford each year when they also renew their memberships.
The Cape Town Reds
The issues which affect them are completely different to the fans in Manchester. Ticket prices or allocations are irrelevant because they donÃ¢ÂÂt go to games, yet import taxes almost double the cost of their merchandise and they were peeved by the cool reaction of some of the visiting United players last summer.
The biggest hit with them was one Patrick Crerand who they shared several wines with.
I thought IÃ¢ÂÂd escaped CrerandÃ¢ÂÂs name, though I sent him and Noreen a postcard from Tristan da Cunha. I wrote that while there were only 270 residents, there was a massive Glasgow Rangers supporters club but not one for Celtic.
ThatÃ¢ÂÂll get him fuming over his morning toast when it arrives, probably next year.
The enthusiasm of the Cape Town Reds was unquestionable Ã¢ÂÂ they even made up songs about players which IÃ¢ÂÂd not heard at Old Trafford and they all went mental when UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs penalties hit the net. So much for the League Cup final being worthless.
Anderson sparks celebrations in Africa
From Cape Town, we drove inland for four days and through cities which will host World Cup matches like Port Elizabeth and Durban. I was in both last summer and could check on progress, which has been significant.
The stadiums will be top level in South Africa and I believe the World Cup will be a success. There are issues to address like public transport, rip-off taxi drivers and crime hot spots. There are many doomsayers to overcome, but South AfricaÃ¢ÂÂs a beautiful country and the media portrayal is often hysterical.
Last summer, The Sun ran one such piece about the crime there ahead of the World Cup. I sat with the author a few days later in Cape Town and shook my head.
Even with a goosed pound itÃ¢ÂÂs cheap, the roads and hotels and nightlife are excellent and it successfully staged other big events like the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
FIFA will reduce prices for South African residents and the country will stage the Confederations Cup this summer Ã¢ÂÂ though the ticket uptake has so far been disappointing.
The organisers have been ordered to boost local ticket sales or face accusations that they are only interested in attracting rich foreign football fans.
Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium takes shape
I didnÃ¢ÂÂt see one advert for the Confederations Cup in the country, but I did see someone wearing a Leeds United shirt in a street in Durban.
Despite featuring world champions Italy as well as Spain, Brazil, New Zealand, Iraq and the United States, only 170,000 out of 640,000 tickets have been sold for what is effectively South AfricaÃ¢ÂÂs warm-up for 2010.
Empty seats will be an embarrassment for FIFA and South Africa and itÃ¢ÂÂs not like Spain or Italy can rely on a travelling support like the northern European countriesÃ¢ÂÂ¦