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South Africa gripped by World Cup fever

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David Bond | 21:13 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010

Almost two decades after South Africa was shunned by the international sporting community, the country on Friday embraced the world with a vivid, colourful opening ceremony and a memorable first match.

South African fans leaving Soccer City might have felt they should have beaten an impressive but wasteful Mexican side, but a 1-1 draw will give even more hope to a country that has been swept by optimism in recent days.

bond_blog_ap.jpgFans leave Soccer City after South Africa's impressive World Cup start - photo: AP

Earlier, Danny Jordaan, head of the South African organising committee, described his happiness that an event so long denied Africa had become a reality.

And a couple of hours before the match started I watched as fans of all ages and backgrounds ran excitedly into the stadium clutching their tickets as if they were made of the gold once mined nearby. Their joy was a marvel to behold and after so many years of covering sport, an uplifting experience.

They had come here determined to prove the world they could throw a party to remember. All the worries about crime and security, tickets, transport and infrastructure melted away in the bright Johannesburg sunshine.

There were some empty seats - a fact that will anger so many South Africans who would have loved to have been inside Soccer City - and the traffic from downtown Johannesburg and Sandton was horrific.

But these were small points and only the most churlish of visitors would have allowed that to overshadow what was a triumphant day for South Africa and for football.

And so the scene is set for a memorable tournament. The warmth and jubilation of the fans, the impressive site of Soccer City and the ceaseless noise of the vuvuzelas have already made this very different to anything we have witnessed before.


  • Comment number 1.

    Tshabalala scored a terrific goal for the home side. South Africa has made a fine start. The Group is wide open and the hosts have made their intentions clear. Well played South Africa.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 2.

    I thought the two games displayed the contrasting faces of the World Cup. S Africa and Mexico battling for every ball yet seemingly unable to finish their dinner (Tshabalala aside) and France appearing to be phoning in their performance on the opening day of the biggest tournament in football.

    I can't help but think that if Uruguay had really went for it they could have taken a lacklustre French team (take note Mexico/ S. Africa!)

  • Comment number 3.

    The 'Calabash' was abuzz for this match! But, world, wait for Bloemfontein, where SA will play FRA, that is our Anfienld!

    Is it just me or did the Mexicans outsing out in the National Anthems?

  • Comment number 4.

    Error: outsing us

  • Comment number 5.

    Loving the World Cup as always. The colours, the excitement, the sport, the drama, the tension, the winners and the losers.

    Only problem is that I can't hear any of it with this horn thing going all the time. 50% of the emotion is conveyed through player, ref and crowd sound and all is currently lost.

    When do we know whether the crowd feels outraged by a situation? When do we feel that an injustice has been done? When do we know someone has been caught offside? We don't at the moment and I just hope the TV companies can do something about it. Noise cancelling technology for constant single pitched sound is there if we want it.

    I've set a Facebook group up to judge whether the demand is there - "all World Cup no Horn"

    Join me!

  • Comment number 6.

    Our South African Anthem does not have an proper intro, causing the people to react late to the opening notes. If they intro'ed the first two bars, the crowd would be ready to sing to the correct rythm.
    The vuvuzela is there to intimidate our opponents. Maybe my beloved Gunners will install some at the Emirates, instead of inviting our opponents to our library for a "nice cup of tea". I prefer the "you have arrived in hell" sound of the vuvuzela to the polite silence at the Emirates.
    Watch the Bloem Celtic suppporters in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, a great spectacle awaits.

  • Comment number 7.

    The opening ceremony, the colourful crowds and first game was a marvellous sight to behold. Very impressive indeed. Well done South Africa.

    Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the constant irritating drone of the vuvuzela. And very sadly, turning the sound down on the tv does not help much as the big match atmosphere is completely lost.

    Vevezela = own goal for the watching/listening viewers.

  • Comment number 8.

    The vuvuzela might be intimidating opponents, but it is ruining the whole spectacle. A constant blare for 90 minutes and you can hardly hear the commentary or the crowd. Noisy spectators are expected at football, but not 90,000 people sounding like a bunch of five year olds with toy trumpets.

  • Comment number 9.

    You people got more ISSUES than National Geographic,you should remember that the Vuvuzela has been used from way back and Fifa has approved the instrument.Im getting tired of this couch potatoes who rarely travel to different countries and exploring different cultures always complaining.The soccer city was blazing with fans from different countries enjoying the tournament,atmosphere and especially when they were blowing the vuvuzela.This tool has been used from different sporting events in mostly african countries so get used to it.Local commentators never complain.Damn bunch of negative toddlers........

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm living in Spain and am really enjoying the locals' approach to the World Cup. They love the fact that they have the 'best team in the world' but they aren't putting their team under too much pressure. It's a really positive environment and after seeing the celebrations when A.Madrid beat Fulham, I can't wait for the game on Wednesday. Spain would be a great choice to host a future World Cup.

  • Comment number 11.

    Nicely balanced report David..I agree with you that the opening game was absolutely incredible and was great credit to South Africa as a nation as well as how the team played.

    Suprised to read about the empty seats as you couldn't tell that from the TV pictures. That is a really big disappointment, but maybe fans were held up in the traffic problems. Disappointing to see the empty seats in Port Elizabeth today too, but they seem to have filled up as the game has gone on. Fans obviously need to try to arrive early.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    HI all. I'm South African and i can also concur, I HATE THE VUVUZELA!!!!
    I was last night at the France Game and it was'nt to bad. But sorry for you if somebody next to you is blowing one of them. No, it has'nt always been a SA tradition. Only the last few years has it become a thing. But mostly up North and West (Joburg and PE). As a south african i am proud of how the WC has started so far. Remember we have hosted the Rugby and cricket WC, but nothing to this magnitude. About the late arrivals: it is a bit strange, it took me 30min to get through the turnstiles last night and 40min to get out the stadium. In the 5 years i sppent in the UK, the games i watched over there, it was never like that. strange. I wander if it was like this in Germany 2006.

  • Comment number 14.

    #11 Apropos the empty seats mentioned in the article: I heard a tv commentator explain that the security officials felt the need to restrict the total crowd to 84,000 as a security and safety measure.The stadium capacity is 94,700. Seems a real pity that 10,000+ spectators were denied an opportunity to see the game but thank G no problems were encountered and a good time seemed to be had by all.

  • Comment number 15.

    I was in the stadium for the opening and I can tell you that there was not a single seat empty, there were empty seats before kickoff but before the actual match the statium was packed to capacity.The reason for those empty seats were because some people were working and arrived after work and Johannesburg has the worst traffic, that is why the government is trying to promote the use of public transport as too many people use their vehicles.with regards to the vuvuzela, believe me once u are in the stadium and the vuvuzela s being blown, it creates a unique setting and an unforgettable experience, u dont get the effect thereof when u watch it on tele, ask all the tourists that was at a stadium and they will tell u.and the noise levels are not only generated by the vuvuzela, south african fans are generally very animated and loud.even the mexican supporters in the stadium couldnt resist blowing their vuvulelaz

  • Comment number 16.

    I dont know about the 40 minutes time to get into the stadium cause it took me literally 5 minutes, surely u cant count the time spent driving to the stadium as "time spent getting into the stadium".the question is how fast were you walking

  • Comment number 17.

    I think S.A. should have won that game if not for the horrendous defense during the Mexican goal-everyone was pulling up perfectly, except for that lone yellow shirt....who covered the offside!
    Anyways, France is out and going home in my book!
    Uruguay + S.A. go through

  • Comment number 18.

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