South Africans Rally Behind World Cup Squad Despite Dire Predictions

The seat behind the goalposts at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto isn’t big or strong enough to hold Elias Ledima.  Whenever his beloved Orlando Pirates team comes close to scoring, the gray-bearded man jumps into the air with a lithe leap that uncoils his body and defies his 68 years of age.  The plastic seat totters and creeks and threatens to tear from its hinges.  

“For the first time ever” at a South African premiership football match, says Ledima, he isn’t covered from head to toe in black and white Pirates regalia.  Instead, the soccer fanatic boasts a multicolored assortment of dress in outlandish support of his country’s national football team – nicknamed ‘Bafana Bafana’ or ‘The Boys, The Boys.’  

Ledima wears Bafana’s official green and gold shirt.  Massive sunglasses painted in the colors of South Africa’s flag – green, blue, red and yellow – circle his alert eyes.  His head is draped in the rusty pelt of a black-backed jackal, one of his homeland’s well-known carnivorous scavengers.  He clutches a navy blue vuvuzela, the controversial racket-inducing plastic trumpet that’s set to be the defining sound of the 2010 World Cup.      

World Cup mania in South Africa

South African football fans are famous for their eccentric behavior, and Ledima is no different.  “Be glad Mark Fish (former South Africa defender) no longer plays for Bafana,” he tells VOA during the half-time break.  “When Fish was playing, I used to bring the real, big fish to Bafana games.”

<!–IMAGE–>

Ledima’s friend, Owen Khupiso, laughingly interjects, “The air around bra (brother) Elias, it used to smell really bad when the match got longer and the weather got hotter!  If the match went into extra time, things would get terrible,” Khupiso exclaims, pinching his nostrils shut herunterladen.  

Ledima’s abandonment of his Pirates attire in favor of national team paraphernalia indicates the World Cup mania that’s now gripping South Africa.  The tournament – Africa’s first – will begin on June 11, when Bafana take on Mexico at the Soccer City Stadium on the outskirts of Johannesburg.  

But football analysts around the world are predicting an embarrassing first round exit for South Africa’s team.  They say it doesn’t have the quality to overcome Mexico, Uruguay and France to progress to the knock-out stages.  Bafana hasn’t impressed anyone in pre-tournament warm-up encounters.  The team has slipped to its lowest ever international ranking – 90th in the world.  That’s the lowest a World Cup host country has ever been placed by FIFA, world football’s governing body itunes on mac.  

Some South African soccer fans are preparing for humiliating failure.  Others, though, refuse to give up hope and are rallying behind their team.  

They act as if they are Pele

Inside her sports store at the O.R. Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg, Nomsa Zithumane says South Africans are “going crazy” buying Bafana products.  She’s sold out of original team shirts, priced at almost US$200 each, that she once struggled to sell google for free german.

<!–IMAGE–>

“Last week I got 100 jerseys and I sold them all within two hours,” Zithumane reports.  She also sells the official Jo’Bulani football to be used in World Cup matches.  “It costs more than 1,000 rand (about US$ 140), but people are buying it as if there is no tomorrow,” she says.

Zithumane adds that the “feeling” she gets from her customers is that South Africa “could” win the World Cup.  “Bafana Bafana can do great, if we can just believe in them,” she asserts, before agreeing that it would indeed take a “miracle” for South Africa to emerge victorious.  “I pray for them to win it!” she exclaims.  “I pray for that miracle!”

Outside a heaving Download audiobooks for adults for free? Orlando Stadium, football die-hard Ace Nkomo tells VOA, “it’s impossible” for Bafana to win the World Cup.  “We do have (good) midfielders, but we don’t have anyone who finishes the goals … They don’t score,” he explains.

Nkomo maintains South African players’ “bad attitudes” have “dragged down” the national team.  “They act as if they are (legendary Brazilian soccer star) Pele, but in reality they are sub-standard,” he says.     

Mike Marais manages a suburban restaurant in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital herunterladen. Pondering his national team’s World Cup prospects, he says, “Bafana Bafana’s definitely not taking (the cup) so I’ll go with England.”  He adds, “(South Africa) haven’t got a single world class player, other than maybe (midfielder) Steven Pienaar.”

Put up a fight

But, in Johannesburg’s bustling city center, young businessman Thomas Nevess says the “unpatriotic doom predictors” disappoint him.  He’s certain that Bafana will “rise to the occasion and surprise many people.”  

While buying a vuvuzela in a store filled with loud music, Nevess insists, “Definitely, (South Africa) are going to win the World Cup … We didn’t come this far just to lie down.  Passion will win it for us.”

<!–IMAGE–>

“Passion?” scoffs the young man’s female companion, Zolelwa Sali.  “The only way passion will win it for us is if Charlize Theron (South African Hollywood actress) plays for Bafana Bafana – in a mini-skirt and high heels!”  

Back at the O.R. Tambo Airport, Mampana Malahlela, who sells World Cup gear from a stall, is more optimistic.  Because of her prominent position near the revamped facility’s huge food court, the saleslady has attracted hordes of foreign media crews herunterladen.

“Everyone wants to know will we (South Africa) win (the World Cup).  I always answer, ‘we will!’” Then Malahlela laughs, “It’s a soccer ball. It’s round! It goes everywhere you kick it!  Bafana must just aim the ball for the right places!”

Inside Ellis Park, another of Johannesburg’s World Cup stadiums, happy-go-lucky soccer shirt salesman Freddie Gibson is sure that South Africa will “put up a fight” at the tournament – especially in their opening game against Mexico engel und teufel kostenlos downloaden. Having worked at his country’s football arenas for more than a decade, Gibson knows just how “scary” a South African crowd can be.  He says the Mexican players are in for a “rough ride.”

“They can get tired (during the match), because I know the South Africans – they shout too much; these vuvuzela things make too much noise, then they can get nervous, those Mexicans!” Gibson laughs.  He then bursts into a South African soccer supporters’ song.  “We are going to beat them with our knobkieries (traditional wooden weapons)!” Gibson sings.

An African team will win it

One of South Africa’s major cellular telephone firms has set up table football games across the country, at airports and shopping malls.  In the build up to the World Cup, fans have congregated around these steam cs go herunterladen.

<!–IMAGE–>

While attempting to score a goal during a table football match in the middle of a Johannesburg shopping center, Elvis Carelse tells VOA that Bafana will “possibly” reach the second round of the event but will “never” win it.  But his opponent, Sipho Phungulwa, vehemently disagrees, saying the benefits of the team’s pre-tournament training camp in Brazil will pay off at the World Cup.

The young man’s excited shout of “Bafana will win the World Cup!” draws an eruption of laughter from onlookers.  Much to Phungulwa’s chagrin, they point out that South Africa played “youth teams” in Brazil “and still didn’t manage to win!”  

One of the spectators, Koos Titus, is convinced that an African team will win the coveted trophy – although it won’t be South Africa.  He fancies Ghana and Ivory Coast will go “go far” in the tournament.  “The African teams … have a point to prove to the world.  This makes them all very dangerous, they’re playing for pride,” Titus reasons herunterladen.

And pride is exactly what many South Africans are hoping Bafana Bafana demonstrates during the World Cup, as it bids to save the host nation and the continent from the shame of an early exit.

“That would be tragic, just tragic,” says Mampana Malahlela, echoing the views of millions of her equally apprehensive compatriots on the eve of the greatest sporting spectacle Africa has yet seen seemannslieder kostenlosen.