Orphanage visit leaves me feeling humbled
"Give it a few weeks and Africa will get you," was one of the first things colleague Rob Walker said to me after we met at Heathrow two weeks ago.
Last Saturday, his words struck a real chord as the BBC Sport bus visited the Zenzele orphanage in the township of Finetown, about 50km outside of Johannesburg. We were going to show a group of 60 kids their first football match on a TV rigged up to our bus.
I hold my hands up and admit that I went to South Africa with preconceived ideas about what I would see and the people I would meet.
Saturday was an absolute game-changer. It was the day that Africa got me. When we arrived at Zenzele, the children were all outside waiting for us. They sang us a song and some of the children read us a script they had written.
A lady called Winnie Mabaso was the founding mother of the orphanage. She used to feed more than 1,000 children a week out of her own kitchen before fundraisers in England bought the building that is now run by a remarkable lady called Miriam.
All of the children in Zenzele are HIV positive and have lost their parents as a result of the virus. They are happy, vibrant and full of life. Much of that is down to Miriam and her team, who care for them, feed them three times a day and take them to the clinic when they show any symptoms of the virus.
The heartbreaker for me came when Miriam said she too was HIV positive and lost her mother to Aids. The emotion we all felt listening to her is hard to describe - it was a mixture of anger, frustration and guilt at the life we have back at home.
The overriding feeling is one of helplessness. When I held a little lad called William, who was the same age as my eldest daughter, I knew there was very little I could do.
The kids at Zenzele are the lucky ones. Statistics will tell you that those with Aids who live outside the gates are far more likely to die before they reach adulthood. That explains why - during the day - there were children jumping the walls to get in.
When we finally rigged the TV up, all the children gathered on a crop of rocks in the driveway. With no running water and limited electricity, this was a totally new experience.
Miriam showed them how to cheer if a goal went it - and they soon had the opportunity to practise when Australia took the lead. They were happy when Ghana equalised but the highlight was when they saw the advert for Doctor Who at half-time. "What was that?" said El Rico. "I want to see that show," added Thabiso.
Once the game had finished and our piece on the orphanage had been broadcast, we showed it to them on the screens. Imagine seeing yourself on screen on the first day you had ever seen a TV. Dancing broke out and the occasional yelp was followed by pointing at the faces they recognised. Miriam broke down when she was told how many people were watching them back in the United Kingdom.
The children watch the Ghana v Australia game
We left just after dark with warm hugs all round and promises that we would never forget the people we had met and the friends we had made. I have been more surprised by South Africa than any other place I have ever visited.
We all know it is a complicated country with huge social problems but we have met some remarkable people with incredible stories to tell.
The World Cup is warming up nicely and the bus rolls on but what we saw at Zenzele puts football very much into perspective.
I'm finding it very hard to write this blog and feel that I lack the words to explain the situation. My intention was just to describe what we saw and the effect it had on us.
Maybe I should leave you with the words of a guy called Michael who I met in a Soweto church on Sunday. As a South African, his opinion carries far more weight than mine and strikes at the heart of it...
"I have lived in South Africa my whole life. Over the last 40 years, I can barely remember a day when I haven't felt frustrated by what I see around me. I love this country. At times, it makes me laugh and cry in equal measure but I am confident that, before I die, I will live to see a better South Africa because there are so many people desperate to make a difference and change it."
Miriam is one of those people.
If you would like to know more about the Zenzele orphanage, information can be found at www.winniemabaso.org.
The best way to follow our journey on the BBC bus is via twitter.com/danwalkerbbc or the facebook page of Match of the Day.