DTTG2 ep. 8 South Africa - Soccer
Dhani arrived in CapeTown, one of South Africa’s 3 capitals, to place soccer. Since it is 2010 and the World Cup is hosted in south Africa this year, soccer hysteria is rampant all over the country. Why shouldn’t Dhani be part of that? Anyone that knows anything about soccer knows that he cannot possibly go from nothing to a world-class level in one week, so this is set up to have him compete on a lower level at which he might be able to hold his own once he learns. His soccer coach is Martin Secklenberg and Dhani considers him a genius at devising drills for improving soccer skills. Dhani knew from prior interaction on U.S. soccer fields that soccer requires quick and versatile feet (to be used like hands), a strong head (to be used like a bat) and bodies like butterfly nets. Their first practice is on bouncing the ball from top-of-head over to top-of-hear; the losers (including Dhani) have to do pushups. He was training at the youth academy of Ajax CapeTown, a Premier Soccer League team.
Dhani goes with t teammate to visit Nyanga, one of South Africa’s poorest neighborhoods in the Cape Flats area of CapeTown, a violent and high crime rate area suffering from high unemployment and AIDS. There is a lot of interest in soccer among the young, so Dhani brings 24 soccer balls as presents. 8 local men show up to dance and sing for the unexpected visitor. Dhani observed both kites and wind surfers at Bloubergstrand, a popular beach with some of the best views of Cape Town and renowned as one of the world's top 3 beaches for kite-surfing. Then he decided to do a cage dive in an area around Great White sharks off False Bay’s Seal Island, where the high concentration of great whites feast on the high concentration of seals. Bait is prepared and spread to attract the sharks. Dhani went down in a cage with the joke that “if he were a lawyer, he would not even need a cage.” That’s a good one! Nicholas, a kid selected somehow from the pack in Nyanga, got to make the trip with Dhani but he did not want to go into the water with scuba gear and in the cage.
Dhani’s second practice is about dribbling the ball around cones, teaching which part of the foot to use when. Dhani has heard that “sometimes teams hide their weakest link as goal keeper and depend on a sturdy defense to prevent their goalie from facing many good shots. There are more cones to move laterally and beyond and Dhani does the same drills that the kids do.
Dhani wants like any tourist to see some of the best sights the area has to offer. He retraced ground covered by the Amazing Race season 2 and Amazing Race Asia season 2. In Amazing Race 2, teams had to visit the former cell in the Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela spent more than 2 decades. In amazing Race Asia 2, the penultimate leg in the CapeTown area ended at the Aquila Game Reserve, which is famous for being the home of all 5 of the top “Big Game” animals: water buffalo, rhinoceros, lion, elephant, leopard. Dhani had a brief safari experience there with Nicholas from Nyanga. Its 11,000 acres are almost 20 square miles
Other area attractions visited by Dhani include Cable Mountain, which has a cablecar that takes people to its top for the spectacular views of CapeTown. He got to hike to Lion’s head, one of two major subsidiary peaks at 2100 feet overlooking Cape Town more directly. Dhani also visited Bloubergstrand, a popular beach with some of the best views of Cape Town and renowned as one of the world's top 3 beaches for kite-surfing. To “pay his dues” Dhani visited Nyanga, among South Africa's poorest neighborhoods, suffering from high rates of unemployment, crime and HIV/AIDS. Its residents were especially politically active during apartheid. Dhani worked hard on the filming of each episode, so his producer tries to give him some special events to increase his knowledge of various topics that might interest Dhani. Kanonkop is a fourth-generation wine estate known for its excellent red wine. This was developed by a South African chemist who combined pinot noir and cinsault grapes to make this fine wine. Dhani pretends to be an estate worker sorting grapes, but it just doesn’t wash.
Dhani gets to be an assistant coach applying American football drills designed to teach “going through the man to get to the ball” on his youth. Payback for the kids is to have a rugby scrum against Dhani. Dhani rates his own offensive skills as meager, but his defensive skills are natural.
The game is on. Dhani wants to make a credible showing to satisfy his own pride. Its Ajax CapeTown youth vs. Vasca da Gama for bragging rights. It’s clear from the beginning that Dhani as large loses to “small and quick.” He summarize that it’s like running wind sprints for 90 minutes. The first half ended in a scoreless tie. Dhani was shifted to goalie. It was 1 to 1 when Dhani’s team earned a penalty kick Dhani was asked to take it and he scored to win for his side.
DTTG2, ep. 9 Mexico – Lucha Libre
Lucha Libre, free fighting, is the “sport” of the usually masked Mexican professional wrestlers who delight crowds of enthusiastic supporters with their strategy and tactics. Dhani went to Mexico City to perform lucha libre. My first exposure to lucha libre was on the Travel Channel Samantha Brown Mexico City episode (which coincidentally reprised today) in which Corleone, a handsome 300 pound American giant lucha libre who fights without a mask so everyone can appreciate his looks, took Samantha (who appears to be about 125 pounds) to a restaurant named “the Ring” in Spanish for a Gladiator sandwich composed of 14 eggs, 3 pounds of beef, bacon, ham and chicken, plus a huge bread covering and topped with 3 sliced hot dogs. In one of the most hilarious skits I have ever seen on film, Samantha supposedly outeats Corleone by a wide margin, then has the audacity to ask “what’s for dessert?” She really knows how to hurt a guy.
Dhani opens this episode with brief footage of him as a matador in “the ring” followed by him as a lucha libre in that version of “the ring.” He stated “it’s not about how I play the game; it’s about whether I win or lose.” Of course that is rubbish. Professional wrestling is scripted entertainment and no NCAA title or Olympic berth is being contested. So it really is all about “how you play the game” and the ways in which the outlandish personas of the lucha libre wrestlers can be expressed to delight their fans. It depends on communicating roles of heroes versus villains and good versus evil. It is ridiculous, thrilling and unexpected, all at once. Fans scream, cheer, curse and laugh. Naucalpan Arena, where Dhani was viewing lucha libre, seats 2000 and stages fights every Sunday night. Much of the action takes place outside the confines of the ring. There do not appear to be many rules to restrict what the wrestlers can do to their opponents. Dhani was introduced to the crowd with the statement that he will be back one week later to compete. The woman who was teaching him about lucha libre was assaulted by a wrestler in a staged action, so Dhani takes on the hero role in defending her honor against Mascara, the embodiment of evil. There is a press conference to publicize their upcoming match. It will be a grudge match.
Dhani indicated that Mexico City is an urban area of 22 million people. Na cho, who makes fine silver lucha libre jewelry, became his tour guide and translator for a week. Dhani stated that he came to Mexico City to learn about the culture. His definition of culture includes drinking the “Lucha Libre” brand of mezcal, a distilled alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant with the worm in the bottom of the bottle. Dhani calls it a “pretty strong cricket” and only eats it to show that he is macho.
Dhani needed a coach and Black Terry was the ticket. He had won 500 of 700 bouts in a decades-long career. It takes 3 to 4 years to learn how to become a really good wrestler. Dhani must learn the basic of tumbling, jumping and falling down without injury in one week! As Nacho says, “It’s for your own safety.” He later added bouncing off the ropes and barrel rolling, some nasty holds and flying dropkicks to his training routine.
Dhani visited Teotihuacan, 2 huge steep pyramids known as the temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon 25 miles northeast of Mexico City. Climbing its 245 steps of the temple of the Sun provided a good cardiovascular workout.
Dhani also visited the Plaza del Toros, the bull ring that is the world’s largest. It is ritual animal sacrifice. This started with the picadors and banderilleros preceding the matador with his cape and intricate footwork and moves. The matadors demonstrate their bravery by bringing the red cape in closer to their body, thus minimizing the clearance the bull has as it goes by and increasing the risks for the matador. A tiny bull is brought out so that Dhani can pretend to be a matador. Using the muleta (red cape) with only one hand is a moxie move which Dhani demonstrated.
Food in Mexico City is very special. Dhani is introduced to the delicacy of bull balls. It is not very tasty, but he eats it in hope that it will make him “strong like a bull.”
Dhani went to the Sonora Market to get the requisite mask. Every mask is different. Dhani tries on several really weird ones before settling on a gold with red trim mask and a gold cape. Dhani is looking for an edge, so he visited a tarot card reader to learn his fortune. She told a story that is quite plausible. He also visited a witch doctor and went to hear the Plaza Garibaldi Mariachi.
As always, Dhani’s actual athletic competitions are somewhat anticlimactic. He is still a novice at most of the national sports in which he competes, so he cannot expect to appear as a superstar. Dhani took off his mask to show off his pretty face. He is an NFL linebacker, so the violence of basic wrestling moves in competition is not foreign to him. Dhani and Mascara do the requisite time outside of the ring to please and incite the crowd. He did a flying leap to knock his opponent to the mat, then got the pin but was disqualified. Those are the breaks!