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World Cup: The view from the beach

Glenn Moore

fanfest 200x300 World Cup: The view from the beachIt really does not get much better than this. Fifty yards in front of me the waves break from the Indian Ocean onto Durban’s shoreline. On the beach in between there has been an audience of 27,000 watching, spellbound, as Bafana, Bafana attempted to stay in the competition.

I am in the city’s Fan Fest, the only one in South Africa to be sited on the beach. Durban is blessed with an enviable winter climate as the city’s World Cup slogan, the ‘warmest place to be’, underlines. The Fan Fest has been a huge success. For the quieter matches people lie in the sand, watching; on the busy occasions, like this, it is standing room only. Today’s crowd, according to city officials, takes the total attendance this World Cup past a quarter of a million. There is a huge screen, a bar, and lots of places selling food of every type, from Zulu mielie-meal to Afrikaner boerewors, to the local speciality, bunny chow (a hollowed-out loaf filled with curry).

But for 90 minutes this afternoon all the attention has been on the screen. When South Africa score the place erupts and the sound of vuvuzelas fills the air. Hope abounds, and rediscovered pride. However, as darkness falls France get a goal back and the dream dies.

The tournament will undoubtedly lose a little zest because of that even though the signs are that Bafana Bafana’s valiant attempt has rejuvenated the public’s enthusiasm for the team and, by extension, the World Cup. Loyalties are being transferred, to Brazil and the remaining African teams. Nigeria, one of the latter, is on the big screen next. So while many yellow-shirted supporters drift away thousands stay on the beach, dancing to local bands while waiting for kick-off.

I head off to cover the Nigeria-South Korea game, which is being played in Durban. On the car radio there is a phone-in. One fan comes on to congratulate Bafana, Bafana for their efforts and thanks the fans “including the whites”, who have supported them.

It is a salient point. One of the more memorable images of the afternoon is of a sea of South African flags being waved to K’naan’s World Cup anthem, Wavin’ Flag. The audience was notably multi-cultural. The mind went back nearly 20 years to a cricket match in Pietermaritzburg, just up the road from here. India were touring, the first country to do so after the end of isolation following Nelson Mandela’s release. It was an ugly afternoon, marred by fights between Afrikaners and South Africans of Indian descent, and ending in a near riot. Much of the trouble had been provoked by ostentatious flag-waving, of the old apartheid-era Prinsevlag flag, and of the ANC flag. South Africa’s future looked grim back then. Seeing South Africans of every hue waving the new flag today was heart-warming.

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