South Africa cheers despite World Cup knock-out

By Pumza Fihlani
BBC News, Johannesburg

Image caption,
South Africa are out of the World Cup but fans celebrated victory over France

South Africa is the first host country to be knocked out of the World Cup in the first round but football fans in Johannesburg say the country's first win against France has given them reason to celebrate.

"I am proud of South Africa, they played with passion. This was our first win against France. It happened here in our own country, I am really proud," said 36-year old Manley Mthimkulu, minutes after the final whistle.

Some 5,000 football fans had flocked to Elkah Park, a Fifa viewing area in the heart of Soweto, to watch the match which sealed South Africa's fate.

Despite the outcome, many said they were now confident that the standard of football here would improve because the World Cup had been played in Africa.

Others said the 2-1 win against France should be a glimmer of hope that Bafana Bafana (as fans know their team) can qualify for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

"We will qualify for the World Cup in 2014 if we keep playing like we did today. The team attacked more, their defence was tight. They were playing as a team that is why I am proud," said Godwell Mashiloane, 40, a resident of Soweto.

Mbuzeni Zulu, a photographer, said: "Yes we didn't go through, but it is not the end of the World Cup. We are still the host country; it is an honour for us as South Africans and Africans to say that.

"We will support the World Cup and the other teams."

Messages of hope

Hours before the game started, hopes were high as fans arrived in their numbers to watch their national team take on France, for a game many were convinced would yield an easy victory.

Image caption,
Some celebrated but others mourned the end of their World Cup hopes

"France is having problems at the moment, it is all over the news. They are not united, this will be good news for us. We will beat them," predicted Samuel Shezi, a 55-year old plumber from Soweto.

After their loss 3-0 loss to Uruguay almost a week ago, this was South Africa's chance to redeem themselves and once again enjoy the overwhelming support the team started this tournament with.

"After the game with Uruguay we deserve to win this. They need to do this for us," said Zanele Msibi, a hawker in Soweto, before the game.

Messages of hope could be heard on many radio stations throughout the day.

Social networking sites Facebook and Twitter were populated with predictions about the game, many saying South Africa would get the five goals they needed to qualify for the second round.

Image caption,
Will the vuvuzela still be blown at the World Cup?

"It is do or die, Bafana," many posted on their sites.

This theme carried though to the final minutes before the kick-off.

As hundreds of children ran around and played, blissfully unaware of the significance of the day - the tension on their parents' faces testified that this truly was a crucial moment for Bafana Bafana.

"Bafana Bafana need to win this for Mandela. This would be the perfect way to thank him for bringing this World Cup here," said Sibongile Mtshali, 28.

Fever pitch

The fans arrived adorned in the country's colours, with vuvuzelas and flags in hand.

The first half of the game, where South Africa scored both their goals and France had a man sent off, convinced many that a win was within reach.

The park was filled with the loud buzz of the vuvuzela, many fans dancing and leaping into the air with each goal.

"Look at them play. This is the Bafana Bafana I know, we will go through if they keep this up. We have France sweating," screamed Stanley Mohaule, 40, during half-time.

Image caption,
Hopes are now pinned on qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

But France had other plans. They came back stronger and more co-ordinated in the second half, forcing a goal, and this was the beginning of the end for South Africa.

"We should have scored a lot more goals. France was playing with 10 people, we had 11 players," said Given Mkhize, who left the Soweto viewing area minutes after the final whistle.

"Our substitutes came in too late in the game. I am not impressed with the outcome."

Another supporter said: "The coach should not have brought in Teko Modise, he has not been performing."

But thousands of fans remained at the park after the game, enjoying performances by local artists, dancing and celebrating.

It may be the end of the road for South Africa in this tournament but many here said World Cup fever would not die.

"We will still come to the fans parks and watch the other teams play. [I am] looking forward to watching Brazil play and I also love Spain," said Lethabo Mtimkulu, 20.

And cleaner Salemena Kopa, 43, picking up empty bottles and other rubbish at the fan park, said: "The World Cup has not moved elsewhere because Bafana did not win, it is still here. We will still enjoy it. Viva World Cup, viva!"

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