No sign of enthusiasm fading among S.Africans as host team eliminated

14:50, June 24, 2010      

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Two South African supporters wait prior to a Group A match between France and South Africa at the 2010 World Cup football match in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on June 22, 2010. (Xinhua/Chen Haitong)

South Africa is out of the tournament, but played valiantly in a 2-1 win over the shamed French.

I made the 331-kilometer journey to the northern city of Polokwane to watch the after-noon game with the locals at the official Fan Fest park and to attend the Argentina versus Greece match at the stadium in the evening.

Sports journalist Rhandzu Mthombeni told me the reaction among Bafana fans to their team's early exit from the competition would be mixed.

"Some would have sacrificed their wife, children or mothers to qualify for the second round," said Mthombeni, a radio and television commentator for the South African Broadcasting Coorporation (SABC).

"The enthusiasm for the tournament won't fade. We see the World Cup as our baby and want to make it successful. Even if the international fans didn't come, we would support your teams for you," she said.

In fact, it took just an hour for Polokwane locals to recover their party spirit as they joined in the dancing and singing with the Greeks and Argentines. The city is on the doorstep of the Kruger National Park, one of South Africa's most spectacular wildlife and nature attractions.

SABC radio producer Tebogo Magubane told me Polokwane people are enjoying SABC's simulcast broadcast of all 64 matches in 11 official languages. He said Polokwane is the heartland of southern Africa, where there is a mix of cultures and an eclectic environment. There is a lower level of literacy here and the people are salt of the earth, but many successful figures come from the province, including the country's deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, he said.

"Ordinary fans are experiencing history being made and we feel at the center of the world right now. What's there not to love about the experience? People here can only afford what we call a 'loose cigarette.' We have all saved up to buy our team jerseys and we are riding the wave of patriotism," Magubane said.

At the Argentina-Greece match, locals happily mixed with visitors. When Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved?" played, the place was rocking.

Source: Global Times

Special Report: World Cup 2010


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