Rival fans from England and Algeria mix in Cape Town

By Ben Brown
BBC News, Cape Town

image captionEngland fans are in Cape Town ahead of the next World Cup match

It's as though Cape Town has been invaded.

Everywhere you look, England fans are basking in the sunshine, tasting the fine food and wine in the restaurants here, and enjoying meeting other supporters from all around the world.

Occasionally they sing and dance with Algerian supporters.

There is a wonderful bonhomie - both sets of fans, decked out in the flags, clothes, hats and make-up of their national colours, wish each other well and watch other matches on big screens.

One Algerian asks me where I'm from. A little nervously I tell him England, but he just says: "Good to see you, may the best team win."

"It's fantastic," said Ian Potter from Derbyshire. "The Africans have been great hosts. It's been one huge party, a coming together, a football bonanza, and so great to mix with other fans from other countries."

Wealthy fans

Not surprisingly perhaps, there appear to be more England fans here in Cape Town than there were in Rustenburg, the nondescript town where they travelled to watch their team play out a disappointing draw with the United States.

Cape Town offers far more to the visiting supporters. It's easy to fly into, it's South Africa's oldest city and it boasts the glories of Table Mountain and the spectacular cable car ride.

It also has some of the best bars and restaurants in South Africa as well as the stunning scenery of the winelands just a short drive away.

Many of the fans we've come across are wealthy, and it certainly helps to have money when the packages for World Cup flights, hotels and tickets cost several thousands of pounds.

Some run their own businesses and are in South Africa for most, if not all, of the tournament. Others are multi-millionaires, and quite a few are expatriate Britons who've travelled here from all corners of the globe.

But Ian Potter and a group of England supporters wanted to do more than just eat, drink and make merry in Cape Town. They decided to take the ferry out to Robben Island, with thoughts not of football, but of history, racial oppression and injustice.

This was where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for so many years of his life. It's a tourist attraction now, but also a symbol of the horrors of apartheid.

A former inmate showed the England supporters Mandela's tiny cell. It was a haunting and intensely emotional moment.

"It's very, very moving," said Mr Potter. "You cannot believe that in your lifetime things like this have happened. When you come here it does bring a lump to your throat.

"You can't believe the size of the cell and that he spent so much time in there. You have to come here to experience it and just see how bad things were and the conditions that they lived in."

The England fans were also shown the football pitch where Robben Island inmates used to play. "Football was a source of resistance," said Mark Perryman, who organised the trip.

"We come to South Africa for the World Cup, to taste the drink, sample the food and see the sights, but you can't come to this country without engaging in its painful history.

"I can remember watching the TV screens when white people with my coloured skin could vote, represent their country in sport, sit on a park bench and ride a bus, but people who didn't have my coloured skin couldn't do any of those things."

He presented football shirts to former prisoners who were part of "Makana FA", Robben Island's very own football association.

"Makana FA never had their own kit or crest," said Mr Perryman. "They do now, a specially commissioned commemorative kit."

Of course the match against Algeria is crucial for England, especially after their lacklustre draw against the USA.

But the short time these supporters spent on Robben Island was long enough to remind them that there are some things in life that are more important than football - even if this is the World Cup.

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