If you have been wondering where your favourite blogger has been lately, check the FIFA World Cup opening game and search for a slightly hysterical, whooping and whistling fan — that would be me! Last week, the long and seemingly arduous wait finally came to a dramatic end as the world turned their full attention to South Africa and watched the first kick off to several weeks of some of the most exciting football matches ever. And yes! I was fortunate enough to be invited by a close friend to watch the opening game between South Africa and Mexico — live in Johannesburg!
The excitement started as soon as we touched down at O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, where we were greeted by the very boisterous blowing of vuvuzelas that have brought as much controversy as elation to the game. Not one to be left out of the fun, I immediately purchased one and quickly discovered it was not as easy to blow as it looks. But a little practice soon got me on track!
The atmosphere in Johannesburg that day was one of pride and jubilation as Africa welcomed thousands of different races and nations to its continent. I couldn’t help getting caught up in the hype as I watched many fans dressed in colourful football jerseys and funny hair wigs waving excitedly as we drove past on our way to the stadium.
Traffic was pretty heavy as thousands made their way to Soccer city stadium to watch the game, but the length of the drive was forgotten as soon as we drove up to the breathtaking stadium. Built in the shape of an African dish known as a calabash, it drew gasps of admiration from thousands of the spectators.
Security was tight but very organized. Before long we stepped into the stadium and were just in time to watch some of the opening concert. I had stayed up the previous night learning the official South African dance for the World Cup known as the diskie. Though still a little rusty, I imagined I got a few admirers as I shook it like Shakira (or maybe those were looks of amusement at my awkward dancing!)
Finally, the players came onto the pitch and the crowd went wild cheering and blowing those vuvuzelas. In that moment I looked around at all the different smiling faces and felt a shared sense of oneness. Colour, race, financial status no longer counted as we all turned to the field and cheered on the players. Everybody present had a passion for the game and that was all that mattered.
It was a brilliant 93 minutes and I’m embarrassed to confess that the entire football lingo I had mastered was forgotten. All I could do between blowing the vuvuzela and cheering wildly was to shout, “Kick him in the shin if you have to! Get that ball I say!” Mexico and South Africa drew and everyone was happy as we slapped each other good naturedly on the back and discussed the interesting moments of the game. I also got a chance to talk about my beautiful country Zambia and was pleased to see people’s enthusiasm as I talked to about the possibility of visiting Zambia.
I left South Africa feeling a great sense of pride in our continent. The world has a chance to experience the beauty of our land. And of course, our African teams have not disappointed as they have battled it out with the best of the best. I end in the words of a serious African football fanatic, “It would seem African pride and passion for the game has prevailed over the world’s football favourites’ talent and celebrity status.” Kingston K.
Note: Johannesburg is just an hour and a half flight to Livingstone, the capital city of tourism in Zambia. Check our website for lots of interesting places you can visit in between games during this World Cup season, or as a stopover on your way home.