South Africa? or Shanghai?

Bangkok, Thailand

15 June 2010

Dear Friends and Sports Fans Everywhere,

Back in 1994, when the FIFA World Cup was staged in the USA, I attended two matches at Foxboro Stadium outside Boston: Bolivia v Korea and Nigeria v Greece. I had never seen a football (soccer) match before. I loved the enthusiastic national pride of the spectators and I was impressed with the athleticism and skill of the players. I enjoyed the constant “stress” of the game. I was “sold.”

(I’m a fan, but not like my cousin Roger in London is a Fan. He’s a FAN! Or my Brit friend Mark here in Thailand is a Fan. Mark has explained the rules of the game to me, but I still have trouble understanding “off side.” It’s not as simple as it looks.)

Soon after the Boston matches, I decided to try my own skills with a group of much younger guys from work. They all wanted to run around the pitch of course and I chose the wiser course; I was the goal keeper for my side. On my opponent’s very first attack, the striker drilled a ball straight between my legs and into the net behind me. My friends and colleagues never let me forget that blunder. I was the butt of their good-natured derision for weeks afterward.

So this year I considered traveling to South Africa to attend the World Cup (as a spectator). (Reminds me of the time, not so many years ago, my good friend Allen Milman announced to his father that he was headed to Florida for baseball’s Spring Training. Mr. Milman responded in his charming Russian-Yiddish accent, “Vy bother? Anyvay, you vouldn’t make the team.”)

I have never been to South Africa so I thought this would be a good time. But when I researched the event and saw the outrageous ticket prices, I nixed the idea. Besides, I wanted to avoid the inevitable crowds. And when I watched the matches on TV, I had no regrets at all. Those obnoxious vuvuzelas would have driven me insane in about three minutes.

(What does all of this have to do with the price of tea in China? Absolutely nothing!)

Instead of the World Cup in South Africa, I chose to travel to Shanghai, only four hours from Bangkok, to attend the Expo 2010. The ticket prices are high, but I got a Senior discount. Also, I avoided the noise, but not the crowds. Believe me sports fans, there are no crowds like Chinese crowds.

The average attendance at a World Cup match in South Africa was about 49,000. The average daily attendance at the Expo 2010 Shanghai China is between 400,000 and 500,000!

Thank Heavens; in Shanghai, there was not a vuvuzela in sight!