South Africa fans out but not down after France win

JOHANNESBURG Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:38am IST

Children play a game of soccer just ahead of the FIFA 2010 World Cup soccer match between South Africa and France at Soweto in Johannesburg, June 22, 2010. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Children play a game of soccer just ahead of the FIFA 2010 World Cup soccer match between South Africa and France at Soweto in Johannesburg, June 22, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's victory over France restored pride in Bafana Bafana, proud fans said on Tuesday after the hosts finally won a Group A game at the tournament they hosted.

South Africa became the first host nation to go out of the World Cup in the first round since the tournament began in 1930, but devoted supporters in Johannesburg's Nelson Mandela square said at least they went out in style.

"It's something that brings back people's morale. It restores patriotism," said Katiya Mongezi, 32, a trainee pilot, as he took a break from blasting his yellow vuvuzela trumpet.

"We might have lost the game but we're still winning because we're hosting the World Cup," he said, standing below the towering bronze statue of former President Mandela.

The statue of Mandela, which is circled by upmarket bars and restaurants, has become a focal point for South African soccer fans and visitors during the tournament.

Supporters wearing the dazzling yellow and green team jersey sounded their vuvuzelas trumpets hours after Tuesday's game.

NATIONAL PRIDE

The 2-1 victory over the troubled French was not enough to take the home side through after a previous 3-0 defeat in Group A to Uruguay and an opening day 1-1 draw with Mexico, but South Africa gave fans plenty to cheer on Tuesday.

"We have a feeling of great national pride. France is not an easy team to beat," said student Taki Nelcheni, 23, who was celebrating the win with her sister.

"From now on we're going to cheer for the other African teams. We're still going to enjoy good football," she said, her cheeks painted with the country's flag.

Newspapers were critical of the team after their defeat by Uruguay but The Boys' courageous showing against a major soccer nation which won the title in 1998 and were runners-up in 2006 could bolster enthusiasm for the rest of the competition.

"They were focused today. They played like they were promised a million rand," said Nqabisa Yili, 34, a project coordinator for a data company, who left her office early to watch the afternoon game.

"The whole nation is behind them," she said.

(Editing by Jon Bramley)

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