My wife?s proud Norwegian ancestry and my own mixed Boer/Huguenot genealogy provided added impetus for a proxy showdown of our respective family trees at a relatively neutral venue (the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace). Our daughters, aged six and one, would referee the off- field conflict and, hopefully, imbibe a real South African experience that would add an extra tendril to their connection to this country.
Gauteng?s proximity to the wild North West gave us the luxury of leaving at 10.30am and still have a lengthy stop at the Home of the Chicken Pie en route.
Barely glancing at the Tuscan-blighted landscape at Pecanwood, but steeling ourselves for intermittent Spielbergian duels with bullish 4x4/ German luxury sedan drivers, we headed deeper into the Platinum and Maize province.
We reached our overnight accommodation just two hours short of kick off. Just enough time to get the squaw and the two papooses checked into our tepee.
Wigwam Hotel retains an allure that might have more to do with hazy childhood memories cloaked in a sense of well-being, rather than being knocked over by a charm offensive from the hotel staff.
"?Phokeng pedestrians and livestock?"
Before we could scrutinise our accommodation too critically, it was time to get our young Gang of Four into reasonable football-supporter shape and track down the match venue.
Lack of forward planning led us to look for the last available parking we could find in the bustling township of Phokeng. Well named. We almost hit any number of Phokeng pedestrians and Phokeng livestock.
As the stadium drew us ever closer our anxiety at not being in the VIP lane grew ? I noticed Jacob Zuma?s helicopter and a fleet of ANC SUVs within the confines of the stadium.
Several sho?t lefts later, we had found a bay in someone?s front yard. Our only worry apart from making kick-off time was whether or not we might be parked in by the time the game had finished. We shelved this anxiety long enough to appraise the state of 2010 readiness of the Sports Palace.
Patriotic notions that we might be ahead of schedule were dispelled by the time we took our seats atop the covered stands. There were no dustbins anywhere. The majority of people had bought refreshments en route and had to guzzle and slug at the security checkpoints before just dumping empty packets and bottles on the nearest brick wall.
440 days to fix it, Mr Jordaan!
Security was lax, but the first sense of any physical danger was on the walkway to the main stand where a crowd of 30 or so just ignored the lone security guard?s request to see their tickets.
My mind flashed back to Hillsborough 1989 or even Ellis Park in 2001, even though we were dealing with a small section of a less than half full stadium. 440 days to fix it, Mr Jordaan!
My wife couldn?t help but giggle at how a young previously advantaged family, possibly feeling quite alien in their own country, reacted with relief that almost bordered on glee as they saw us ascend the steps.
The wisdom or folly of having two young 'uns became obvious. My work rate in the cheap seats put the paid professionals on the pitch to shame as I tried to prevent my youngest daughter causing an international incident by assaulting pasty Norwegian tourists with either vuvuzela or flag.
I always enjoy the surreal quality of watching a game from 50m up, but the ladies to my left were even beginning to tire of people-watching. I sensed an early exit. We left with the stadium clock at 75 minutes, early enough to assess the state of our parking dilemma, but also missing the Simphiwe Tshabalala winner just before the final whistle.
A brisk walk and one sho?t right later, our fears were confirmed as we noticed that we were solidly parked in by two vehicles. Any attempts to extract meaningful explanations when we?d given a R20 deposit to ensure our speedy exit were met with hazy stares that hinted that much of intervening 80 odd minutes had been spent increasing blood alcohol volumes.
Relief came in an unexpected guise
Things became increasingly hairy as other dissatisfied patrons arrived and realised that it might be a long night waiting for revellers to return to their vehicles. The threat of violence hovered for a few terrifying moments. At this point I contemplated emigration.
As tempers were about to unravel relief came in an unexpected guise.
A few enterprising fellas from Soweto offered (for a nominal fee of R100) to help us bounce the two offending vehicles clear to create a pathway for our old jalopy. My assistance, manning the front right hand wheel, made me feel more South African than singing the national anthem (and shutting up during Die Stem). It was my first foray into the world of blue collar crime since stealing a rat pack from the QM?s Store as a national serviceman.
Grateful to be back at the hotel with all four pairs of arms and legs intact, the time for responsible drinking was just about upon us. There?s not much that beats sundowners and buffet dinners in any part of Africa. Listening to the casual chatter at the bar and the occasional whoop at the TV, I realised that the invention of the weekend must rank in the top five human achievements of the last 200 years.
I had to modify that hubristic notion, because a few hours later I?d be cursing some late night revellers from the University of Johannesburg. We had a room at poolside where these tertiary learners were hard at work testing the human tolerance for alcohol.
By Sunday Morning the idyll had returned. A dawn stroll around the estate allowed us to witness a stray baboon ransacking the detritus of the student party. Some lunatics were off to play golf on the estate course.
Highlight of the morning? Buffet breakfast sans hung-over students. Pity. A jolt of vitamin C and grease of egg and bacon might?ve slapped them back into sobriety, but I overindulged on their behalf.
Our checkout time was delayed slightly by the arrival of some bikers on a breakfast run. They looked lightly less fierce than Hunter S Thompson?s Hell?s Angels (the women, I mean), but since they were from the West Rand I thought I?d better give them my best forced smile and wait my turn.
Account settled, with the leather and bandana easy riders still in earshot, I did my best impression of a John Wayne or Arnie Schwarzenegger swagger out towards the car.
If I?d been braver I might have called out: "I'll be back."