Who You Callin' Phillip?

NPR's Mike Pesca

NPR's Mike Pesca recording a crowd chanting what sounds to him like "Phillip!" at a World Cup viewing party. Stefan Fatsis hide caption

itoggle caption Stefan Fatsis

After the fourth South African called me "Phillip" I got to wondering: Do I look like some famous Phillip? People say I have Wayne Rooney’s haircut but who is this Phillip? Why do they think I’m him?

Phillip does seem beloved: people screamed the name approvingly, so I was eager to meet him. When the 5th oak (South African for "bloke") shouted "Phillip!" at me, I began the interrogation:

"Why are you calling me Phillip, who’s Phillip? DO you think I am Phillip, or do you think I am a Phillip look-a-like," I asked.

"No not Phillip. Fill it!" the oak answered.

"Ahhhhh," I said,"Fill it as in the goal. Fill the goal with scores!"

"No man," said the vuvuzela carrying gent, "not fill it. Fiiiiil it!!"

"Ok great, fiiiiil It," I could only mutter, still linguistically flummoxed.

I was in Newtown, one of the many sections of Johannesburg hosting an outdoor soccer viewing party.  In addition to the two officially FIFA approved sites in or near Johannesburg where tens of thousands of people assemble to watch games, individual towns or neighborhoods are sponsoring their own fan fests.

More than 25,000 fans showed up in Mary Fitzgerald square in Newtown to watch South Africa open the tournament against Mexico.  For other matches it was still pretty crowded.  The town square parties aren’t well publicized, or  even acknowledged by the imperious FIFA, but if you ask around you can find them.  Or you might just find yourself sitting in a traffic jam with impassioned soccer fans calling you Phillip.

Trying to find parking at the event in Newtown seemed daunting task than Bafana Bafana making it out of group play.  Then I spotted a fellow on the median waving a flag offering parking –just like they do for a big event outside a stadium in the US.  So I took him up on it.  The guy immediately jumped into the passenger seat, which they never do in the US.  But I figured that since I was in the literal drivers seat, he could be bargained down.  "How much?" I asked.  "50 rand," (about $7 ) he said.  Anyone offering 50 to an American in for the World Cup would surely take 40, so I counter-offered, and he accepted, thus saving National Public Radio $1.33.

He had me turn  left (easy in this drive-on-the-sinister-side country) then right (harder) then  left,  then another right.    He told me to pull up on the right.  "But I don’t see the lot," I said. "No," he said motioning to a Honda that was pulling out of his spot on the street. "Park there."

My entrepreneurial pal jumped out of the car and helped me parallel park on the street.  I guess I was paying him for his expertise.  I pointed out that the sign said it was only 60 minute parking. "Don’t worry friend," he said. Somehow I was assured.  I mean the worst thing that would happen is that I’d be issued a summons and the meter maid would jump in my passenger seat and direct me to town hall where I could pay up.

Looking at my billfold I found that I only had one 20 rand note (picture of an elephant) so I showed him my 100 rand (water buffalo) and asked for change.  "No friend," he declared, "that is the cost— 100 rand."

I was having none of it, "You quoted me a price of 50." Unfazed he answered, "no that is my name- 50 Cent."  I burst out laughing and told him I would pay him 50, like his "name" rather than 40, but there was no way I was forking over a water buffalo for his parallel parking guidance. Knowing he was dealing with a hardened negotiator he found a 50 (lion) and I got my change.

"Ok man, see you," he said, then added, "Feel it!"

That’s when it hit me.  Not Phillip, not fill it — FEEL IT! — and so I shall.

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