South Africans fill cities to join in party

JOHANNESBURG Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:06pm IST

Soccer fans hold up a flag as they give thanks to former South African President Nelson Mandela (also known as Madiba) during the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 11, 2010. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Soccer fans hold up a flag as they give thanks to former South African President Nelson Mandela (also known as Madiba) during the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 11, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, adjusts her flower garlands as she campaigns for her mother during an election meeting at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

Election 2014

More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — are eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.  Full Coverage 

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Township parks and downturn squares across South Africa came alive with the blast of air horns and the dazzling yellow of the national team on Friday as jubilant fans flocked to watch their nation open the World Cup.

Massive television screens have been set up to make sure ordinary South Africans can watch "Bafana Bafana" (The Boys) take on Mexico in the opening game of the first World Cup to be held on African soil.

As tens of thousands of fans with tickets descended on the showpiece Soccer City stadium for the opening ceremony and first match, many more were getting into the party mood in their home cities.

"I couldn't sleep last night because of the excitement and the noise," said Tiisetso Mohapi, a 25-year-old businessman at a fan park set up in the central square of Bloemfontein.

All around, crowds of soccer lovers in the national colours sang gospel-style songs and bobbed around to the rhythm of pulsating African dances as vendors did a brisk trade in barbecued chicken and sausages.

South Africans hope the World Cup marks a new chapter for a country troubled by crime, AIDS and racial division 16 years after the end of apartheid, and patriotic spirits were running high.

"It has united the nation... the rainbow nation has gathered together... Bafana Bafana will win 3-0," said 36-year-old teacher Disebo as she joined in the chorus in Bloemfontein.

In Johannesburg alone, about a dozen fan park sites have been set up, able to cater for some 100,000 supporters.

"There's no place to be in the world except South Africa," said Eddie van Rensburg, 28, at a fan park in the Melrose Arch office development just outside the city.

Cape Town's "fan fest" site was packed before midday (1000 GMT and supporters were let in gradually to avert a repeat of the crush that injured six people at the site at a concert on Thursday.

The 25,000 capacity site has been built just outside the historic City Hall where Nelson Mandela delivered his first speech as a free man after his release from prison and with a stunning backdrop of Table Mountain and palm trees.

A spokesman for the City Hall said such crowds and celebrations had not been seen in the square since Mandela's speech.

"I'm here to feel the vibe. There is nowhere else in the world where you would experience a melting-pot like this," said 23-year-old economics student Binita Ganca, from Cape Town.

Xoliswa Mashicila, 57, donning a yellow Bafana Bafana shirt, said she had come so her children and grandchildren could say in the future she had been there on June 11, watching the team.

"This is history for us South Africans. I just wanted to be part of it," she said.

(Additional reporting by Angus MacSwan, Serena Chaudhry and Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Michael Holden)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Champions' Clash

Champions' Clash

Real's Ronaldo on course to face Bayern.  Full Article 

Coach Quits

Coach Quits

Farbrace resigns as Sri Lanka coach, set for England role.  Full Article 

Winning Zeal

Winning Zeal

Guardiola says impressed most by Bayern's zeal for success.  Full Article 

Wrist Injury

Wrist Injury

Djokovic plays down injury fears, back for Madrid.  Full Article 

Comeback Challenge

Comeback Challenge

Phelps facing toughest challenge yet.  Full Article 

Doping Ban

Doping Ban

Three staff linked to Armstrong doping get long bans - USADA.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage