My First Taste of the World Cup – The Geriatric Hooligan

Being South African and American – I couldn’t possibly turn down the opportunity to come to the world Cup. So we got ourselves together and headed down to Cape Town to enjoy the first World Cup in Africa. This time we flew through Europe – as opposed to our usual direct Atlanta – Johannesburg route. The flight out of the US was nothing to really shake a stick at – but the flight into South Africa was quite something else!

We were situated in our seats when 6 senior-citizen European men came onto the plane. They were clearly tipsy and jovial (to say the least). They were giggling, laughing obnoxiously and staggering as they made their way to their seats. Once they figured out where they were sitting – they started telling jokes, laughing out loud and telling stories so loud – we could all hear it. Several other passengers muttered, “11 more hours….. this is going to be horrible”. I should start by saying – I’ve never quite understood hooligan culture. I have sometimes contemplated what motivates the passionate European fans that wreak havoc with their sports-inspired revelry. These men were clearly itching to get up to some mischief – and it hit me – these probably aren’t hooligans – but they are either retired hooligans or perhaps the parents of some hooligans. The remainder of the flight was a flurry of requests for cocktails, wine, and beers.  The flight attendants came back countless times asking them to be quiet. Not only were they chanting and singing, but they kept congregating together. At any given time 2 – 3 of them were standing in the aisles with a glass of wine or beer, laughing out loud about something.

At some point, one of the men actually pulled out a light-weight European version of a Vuvuzela and started blowing it on the flight. I could only think that if this flight was bound into the US – an air marshal would have detained them and probably diverted our flight out of the US!  At one point, after about 20 minutes of constant horn blowing, the flight attendant walked by calmly and snatched the horn. She was met with cheers and clapping once she finally did it.

Then there was the singing. I heard a few national anthems and then lots of “Oooooolaaaaaaay-Olay-o-Laaaaaaaaaaay! Oooo-Laaaaay-Oooooo-Laaaaaay!” I couldn’t help but think that – these men were old enough to be someone’s parent. Imagine if your parents were this passionate about their teams, I can only imagine what their children were like. I felt sorry for anyone who was trying to sleep on the flight because there was no chance with all of the singing. Ultimately the flight ended without incident, but it made me realize how serious this soccer business is.