Football Fringes

11 Jun

The spirit is everywhere, especially on the roads!

Squirreled away in the media centre in Eldorado Park, I haven’t really been able to experience much of the excitement around the 2010 FIFA World Cup directly, but even from a distance the excitement is infectious. Today is the opening ceremony and match between South Africa and Mexico and I woke up to the sounds of vuvuzelas at around 6am this morning. On the way to Soccer City I passed fans with meticulously decorated cars and wide smiles on their faces  making their way to the game – five hours early!

Bafana Bafana’s last public appearance was on Wednesday, June 9 when they waved from an open bus as it made its slow way from their hotel  through excited crowds in Sandton. On the outskirts of the parade route, across the road from Sandton City, a crowd gets into the spirit.

Later that evening, a crowd gathered in upmarket Nelson Mandela Square to catch a glimpse of Shakira at the Sony tent, where, together with Freshlyground, she launched a music video for the official tournament anthem, Waka Waka in 3D. Video appears at the end of this post. Seeing the Square, usually frequented by the exclusive upper class set, filled with fans from across the world blaring vuvuzelas and packed tightly together in a celebration of the moment, was fantastic.

It’s almost impossible – even for the staunchest skeptics and cynics – not to be swayed by the cheering crowds and enthusiastic fans. It is so great to see a smile on people’s faces, to see them excited about something and united in celebration. Yes, it’s temporary – a fleeting moment of joy. But it’s something, it’s a great memory, and I do believe it will sustain us for some time.

View of Soccer City from International Broadcasting Centre entrance

My photographs or videos don’t do all this justice of course, but this collection of photographs in the Boston Globe captures a lot of the emotion surrounding this event. Be sure to also follow the Reuters World Cup live blog for frequent news and sports updates. And for a touch of humour, read this open letter to foreign journalists by Peter Davies. He laments the fact that many journos will not be exploring much of South Africa due to security concerns. His recommendation: “Bottomline. Get out there and breathe in great lusty lungfuls of this amazing nation. Tuck into our world-class food and wines. Disprove the adage that white men can’t dance at our throbbing, vibrant night-clubs. Learn to say hello in all eleven official languages. Watch at least one game in a township.”

But if you’re going to dance – probably wise to leave the Shakira moves at home!

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