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Now it's time for World Cup to take centre stage

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David Bond | 13:17 UK time, Monday, 10 May 2010

Discovering English football live in far flung corners of the world is now no great surprise. Having won a Queen's Award for exporting its TV rights, we all know how popular (and lucrative) the Premier League is around the globe.

But I have never experienced the climax to a League season in quite the surroundings I found myself on Sunday evening as I watched Chelsea's eight-goal stroll against Wigan.

Thalebo's Place is right in the heart of the Johannesburg township of Alexandra, not as famous as Soweto, but one of the poorest urban areas in South Africa and one-time home to Nelson Mandela.

Inside a packed bar or shebeen, locals watched the climax to the Nedbank Cup quarter-final between Soweto side Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns of Pretoria (Sundowns won 3-1 after extra-time) before switching channels (one of four showing live Premier League games on Sunday) to cheer on Didier Drogba and Chelsea.

The football was accompanied by loud African rhythms, blaring from a jukebox, so I got a real sense of the colour and vibrancy which will be such a feature of this World Cup.

A South Africa fan warms up for the World CupA South Africa fan warms up for the World Cup. Photo: Getty Images

So why am I in Alexandra? Well, for the past week I have been in South Africa filming a report to mark one month to go until the start of Africa's first World Cup. Speaking to people here, there is real pride at that honour. It almost overrides any national rivalry between the African sides that have made it to the finals.

Of course, South Africans want the Bafana Bafana to do well - and many here are incredibly optimistic about their chances - but it is set up to be Drogba's tournament. His image adorns the side of office blocks and poster boards across Johannesburg, while many locals fancy they will switch allegiance to the Ivory Coast should they progress further than South Africa.

Shebeen owner Thalebo says there is great excitement ahead of the World Cup but reveals there is also anger among his regulars at the cost of tickets, which he says are too expensive for most people living in Alexandra. To make matters worse, he says he is expected to pay 50,000 rand (£4,500) for a licence to show live games in his bar during the World Cup. It is just one of a number of stories reflecting a sense of frustration at what poor black South Africans see as the greedy exploitation of their sport.

Despite that, it is clear people are embracing the event. South African flags fly from cars, while the green and gold of the South Africa strip is being worn with pride, especially on Football Fridays, when everyone is encouraged to wear their colours. Merchandisers have apparently underestimated the demand, with reports of shirts selling out as soon as they arrive in stores.

In South Africa - and around the world - Premier League football will have to take a back seat now as the World Cup prepares to take centre stage.

The challenge for South Africa is whether they can use the event to create a vibrant and successful domestic competition, one which could come to rival the almighty English Premier League - and mean the next Drogba will play league football in his own continent.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I can't wait

  • Comment number 2.

    I really do hope that South Africa can perform well at this tournament, it really would be great for the nation. Hopefully they can emulate South Korea and over perform as a host nation.

    As for the Ivory Coast and Drogba, it will be interesting to see how the team will adapt to Eriksson's coaching. He is famed for taking a traditional 4-4-2 into most jobs that he undertakes. Will a strike partner and increased crossing help Drogba? Or will he find himself having less of the ball as he isn't the focal point of Ivory Coast's attack?

    http://engfootyabroad.wordpress.com/ - English Footballers Abroad

  • Comment number 3.

    Quite refreshing to see a more honest view of South Africa, compared to the hearsay that gets published in most European media!

    Maybe a bit more detail and length next time?

    And would it be possible to speak to someone that's not from an area that's heavily linked with apartheid? I'm a South African university graduate and people like myself,that represent educated views are almost never given the chance to express exactly what our country's all about!

  • Comment number 4.

    "Hopefully they can emulate South Korea and over perform as a host nation."

    Hopefully without the help of a string of highly dubious refereeing decisions.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Please excuse me for being pedantic. The BBC coverage of the World Cup has been billed as "The World Cup from the Rainbow Nation".

    However, the trailer features the colour white (which is not one of the colours of the rainbow) and the main graphic only contains six coloured stripes (rather than seven - either indigo or violet is missing, couldn't tell you which).

    If you are going to go with a theme, please do it properly!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Ninety five percent of Africa's inhabitants are behind the five nations that will be representing the continent at the World cup . My fear , is whether these five nations can make the continent proud by going far in the tournament . We got less time to the kick off and both Nigeria and Ivory Coast just got a new coach ! Will the players be able to adapt to these new coaches tactics and methods before the start of the tournament ? Ivory Coast got the payers when it comes to individual skills but they lack team work and this goes to many African countries as well .Until the African teams can start playing team football as it is done in Europe and South America , I am afraid our five representatives at the world cup won't do us any better .

  • Comment number 8.

    Re: Rich (comment 6)

    The reason it's billed as "The World Cup from the Rainbow Nation" is because South Africa is informally known as the rainbow nation. This is because pre 1994 SA was a "white" country.
    Nowdays there are many different races creeds and religions,who all have equal legal standing making SA very diverse and earning it the nickname "the rainbow nation".

    The colours shown are the colours of the SA flag. Needless to say, they dont represent the rainbow. red represents the blood spilt in the struggle; blue, the african sky; green, the bountiful vegatation; yellow the gold; black, black people and white, white people.

    Hope that clears things up somewhat.

  • Comment number 9.

    I am a South African, and usually football does not take precedence over cricket for me. However in the recent months there has be a refreshing vibe that has emerged in anticipatation of the world cup. Every second or third car has a south african flag.

    I personally cannot wait to attend the openeing Match of the world cup at the magnificent Soccer City.

  • Comment number 10.

    As a South African I must admit there is a real vibe around the place and many people including myself can't wait for the world cup to begin. With every day that passes by, more and more people are doing things to show their excitement. Whether it be people carrying flags on their cars, buying sticker books, going to see the world cup trophy, or sporting their footballing t-shirts football fever is well and truly in swing now.

    Nice blog David.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hardyboy7:
    "I'm a South African university graduate and people like myself,that represent educated views are almost never given the chance to express exactly what our country's all about!"

    Well here's your opportunity my friend, I would be interested to read what your thoughts are on SA hosting the world cup and what you think it means for your country and/or the legacy it will leave for your country and the continent of Africa.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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