DURBAN (Reuters) - The motto of Ogwini high school in Durban is “Deeds not Words” and on Friday some 50 Dutch fans put it into practice by getting in their cars and bringing a taste of the World Cup to the Umlazi township.
Welcomed by pupils performing a Zulu celebration dance and classmates singing “Feel it, it is here”, the Dutch fans took to the soccer field for a mini-tournament with four mixed teams made up of Ogwini students and the European visitors.
“That we can shake hands, we can interchange ideas is more meaningful than having gone to watch a soccer game,” Simon Dlamini, principal of the Ogwini Comprehensive Technical High School, told Reuters.
“It will bring a lot of hope. People in South Africa had lost hope within the Apartheid era. Now, this actually is reviving the human dignity of an African person,” he said.
The fans and students donned headbands with the names of the four teams -- Bafana Bafana, Brazil, Ghana and Holland -- and battled it out on a dusty, bumpy field under the hot Durban sun.
Sausages sizzled over a grill, or Braaie, a sound system blasted out music from behind one goal and hundreds of pupils came to watch, despite being on holiday.
Out of breath and reaching for a cigarette, Vicky Peeters from Breda in the Netherlands said the Dutch fans were thrilled with the township welcome.
“We heard that we could play soccer against local teams, to see something about local life -- rather than just drinking beer,” she said after her Brazil side drew 1-1 with Ghana.
The Dutch national side also had an unscheduled visit to the KwaMashu township on Friday for training after the Moses Mabhida stadium groundsmen decided to preserve the pitch for match day.
“It is good for all of us to see what this country looks like and by playing football here we may be able to give something back to these people,” said striker Dirk Kuyt.
“VISITORS SO SPECIAL”
Some 550 Dutch fans are staying at a caravan park in the coastal city of Durban organised by “Oranjecamping”, a group that provides camp sites for supporters of the national side.
Some flew to Johannesburg for the opening game and then left in a 170-vehicle convoy for Durban. Another 22 vehicles took a slightly longer route -- driving to South Africa from the Netherlands.
Jokko de Wit, who founded Oranjecamping, said the aim was to give the fans a chance to do more than just watch soccer while in South Africa for the first World Cup on the continent.
“I hope that some long-term relationships might happen, so people can benefit from each other,” he told Reuters.
The pupils at Ogwini high school, which has 2,800 students sometimes crammed into classes of up to 80 to one teacher, certainly appreciated the Dutch visit.
“It’s a nice thing for us to have visitors so special, because there are few people coming from other countries,” said 18-year-old Gumbi Mbalenhle.
“It is what the World Cup is for, for us to share our ideas with other people from overseas to get communication, friends,” she told Reuters.
The fans will no doubt be hoping the Dutch team can repeat the success of “Holland” at the Umlazi tournament. They won, beating South Africa 4-3 in a penalty shootout.
Editing by Jon Bramley