Forget getting past England. The U.S. soccer team had to get past the elephants first.
The U.S. team was delayed twice Friday when elephants blocked the road, the second back-up coming as the squad was traveling to its training session at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa.
The elephant was munching on a tree as the Americans left the Bakubung Bush Lodge, and it moved to the side of the road after about four minutes.
“Everybody had their cell phones out, pictures were being taken,” coach Bob Bradley said. “It was all part of the experience.”
Earlier in the afternoon, a bus carrying 10 players on their way to an open-air market at the entrance to the team hotel got stuck behind an elephant, spokesman Michael Kammarman said. Players had timed the trip to get back to the hotel in time to watch the start of the World Cup opener between South Africa and Mexico.
Signs outside the U.S. hotel warn: “Elephants come close to our fence. Keep a distance of 30 meters and please be quiet” and “Baboons are dangerous – please keep clear of them and do not feed them.”
“It was cool,” U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said of the up-close encounter with the animal kingdom. “A big elephant, just eating on the path out of our hotel.”
PLEASE PLAY FAIR
Diego Maradona has urged referees to crack down on foul play to create better soccer at the World Cup.
Maradona says referees should “know the meaning of” fair play and apply it wisely, while FIFA’s campaign to eliminate dirty play should be more than just a slogan.
Maradona, who scored the infamous “Hand of God” goal against England at the 1986 World Cup, was also the victim of frequent rough fouls during his career. He said Friday in Pretoria that fair play can be the basis for a great tournament, giving the stars a chance to shine.
Argentina opens its World Cup campaign against Nigeria today in Johannesburg.
U.S. forward Jozy Altidore will start against England, despite a right ankle sprain June 2 in practice. … Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta remains doubtful for the team’s opening match Wednesday against Switzerland. … Sports books in Nevada consider Spain the team to beat, at 7-2 odds. Casinos give Brazil 4-1 odds and Argentina 11-2 odds.