Driving around Johannesburg, you’ll see perhaps a third of all cars decorated with flags and quirky mirror-socks. Shops are decorated, the streets have been cleaned (well, they tried) and billboards everywhere only refer to the big event.
We have our tickets for the opening ceremony and the South Africa vs Mexico match on Friday (R490/€50 each in the cheap seats), and we’re really excited to go – though more for the atmosphere and seeing Nelson Mandela (newspapers report he’ll attend the opening) than the match itself. But with South Africa’s team unexpectedly doing quite well in the friendly games over the past weeks (even beating Denmark), we secretly hope to experience an amazing party when they win. If you’re watching on Friday, look for a Polish and a Dutch flag waved from the third row of the top blocks, left above Soccer City’s western goal (that’s probably the one in the shade) – we’re waving at you.
Despite all the negativity surrounding the choice for South Africa, there’s a real sense of pride in the Joburg air. They yet have to kick off, but with ten amazing stadiums finished, the new high-speed Gautrain rail connection to the airport running (since yesterday, a new public bus transport system in place and especially with renewed faith in the national team, the sky really seems the limit on this sunny Wednesday.
Today is the day it really starts – schools closed for the winter, fans are arriving in droves, the first journalists have been robbed, and at 12:00 today the streets exploded with the merry farts of hundreds of vuvuzela horns. Bafana Bafana (‘the boys, the boys’ as the national team is know) paraded in a bus around the wealthy suburb of Sandton with thousands of people cheering, while all over the country people had were asked to go outside at 12:00, wave flags and make some noise for the boys. And so they did.
At Melville’s Campus Square mall, I did my bit by buying a flag, and got this picture of a schoolboy hooting for his country. He needed some practise, but I’m sure he’ll have enough opportunity over the next month.
Ke nako… it’s time!