Wednesday, August 5, 2009

South Africa Q&A with Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan, the U.S. international midfielder, was in South Africa for nearly all of June while playing with the team that finished second, to Brazil, in the Confederations Cup -- a sort of test tournament for the 2010 World Cup.

I was hoping to get some input on this blog from someone who was there, for the Confed Cup, and Landon graciously responded to a set of questions I sent to him.

My queries, and his replies:

Question: What most impressed you about the handling of the Confederations Cup?

Answer: I think a lot of us didn't know what to expect and, given all the rumors we had heard, we were expecting the worst. However, I was completely impressed with the organization of the event and didn't have any complaints.

Q: What is most memorable South African part of the event? That is, something about the host country and not about the matches you and the U.S. played.

A: Going on a Nature Ride was something I will never forget. It's one thing to go to a zoo in America and see these animals, but it's a whole other thing to see them interacting in their natural environment.

Q: The horns, the vuvuzelas. Have an opinion on them?

A: It's part of their soccer culture and we need to accept that. They were a little annoying at first but we got used to them as the tournament went on.

Q: What did you see that the organizers could do better, next summer?

A: I honestly didn't have any complaints. The people were friendly, competent, and helpful.

Q: Do you feel as if you have a good sense of the country? Did you see any of the poorer parts of the country? Can you compare South Africa to any place on the planet you've been before?

A: South Africa is incomparable to anywhere I've ever been. There were certainly some "poorer" places but the people were very happy and I really enjoyed being there.

Q: Do you have any sense about whether South Africa fans like Americans or the U.S. team?

A: I think we grew on the South African people as we got deeper into the tournament. They seemed to like us from the day we got there and we were very friendly with the people throughout.

Q: If the weather next summer is similar (cool, a little wet), what might that mean for the competition?

A: It will be interesting to have a World Cup in cold weather. The players actually prefer it because it makes the game faster. Hopefully it doesn't snow ...

Q: How much do U.S. players know about South Africa and its history? Was there a sense of anything special going on there ... or was it just another tournament?

A: It's hard to experience their culture and history the way we would like to because we are confined to the hotel and practice fields for most of the time. Hopefully after the World Cup we can spend some time learning more.

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