Bizarre first training hit out for All Whites
BY COEN LAMMERS IN BENONI
The All Whites' campaign in South Africa started in a bizarre fashion this morning when the first training was cut short because of the thick wood and coal fire smog from the surrounding Daveyton township.
Just before the team arrived a solid, smelly fog descended on the pitch of Sinaba Stadium and made it difficult to breath or even see the corner flags.
As the players waited in the bus outside the stadium, the All Whites management team spent nearly half an hour debating whether they would call off the training.
Only after doctor Celeste Geertsema and captain Ryan Nelsen joined the mid-pitch pow-wow, it was decided to give the team a chance to stretch their legs.
The session, however, was limited to a light kick-around and Simon Elliott and Andy Boyens, who both have asthma problems, only took part for a few minutes and had to use their inhalers.
"We won't risk anything," said coach Ricki Herbert who downplayed the impact of this morning's events.
"Setback? No, not at all. I don't think we can look upon it [as a setback], unless we get hammered in all three games and then I'll tell you it was."
Herbert had called off the morning training to give his team time to get over the long flight from Austria but nobody had foreseen that the thousands of chimneys around the ground would make the night training nearly impossible.
Assistant coach Brian Turner was visibly unimpressed and said he had already struggled to breathe while pumping up the balls inside the dressing rooms.
Interestingly, the local South African staff on the sidelines were bemused by all the fuss and could not see why a bit of smog could stop a training session of a national team.
Herbert said one restricted training would not upset his preparations and that there was plenty of time left to drill his charges.
"Tonight was all about getting the boys off the bus after a couple of long flights, but we'll just go into organisation tomorrow morning."
The trip to the Daveyton township gave the New Zealanders a sobering insight into the real South Africa.
As the police escort whizzed the Kiwi bus through the ramshackle rows of huts of corrugated iron, the contrast with the lavish surroundings of the Serengeti resort could not have been greater. Only hours after cruising their golf carts across the resort's fairways on their way to breakfast, the New Zealand bus drove through a world where breakfast might not always be guaranteed.
The All Whites are scheduled to have all their training session at the Sinaba Stadium and Herbert had no plans to change venue. It is doubtful however whether another night session will be on the menu.
The 15,000-seat home ground of South African second division club Benoni Premier United received a major makeover as an official World Cup training venue and could easily pass as a training ground for one of Europe's biggest clubs. It will remain as a landmark of Fifa's wealth amidst South African poverty outside its walls.
The All Whites were due back at the stadium later today for a morning training and will board a flight to Nelspruit on Wednesday morning to play Chile in their final build-up match.