"Ghana are going to make it – they're going to make it to the Final and I pray they're going to take the Cup home." Mimi Areme will be an excited spectator at Soccer City tonight when her native Ghana take on Uruguay seeking to become the first African side to make the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup™. But if Mimi will have her eyes fixed on the field, the fans around her may be forgiven a quick glance in her direction – after all, it is not every day you sit beside Miss Ghana.
The marketing graduate from the Volta region in eastern Ghana is here in South Africa along with other past and potential future Miss World contestants, representing the competing countries at the FIFA World Cup™ and helping to promote the host nation. "The place is good, the people are lovely and I love the food," said Mimi who has been based in Johannesburg since the tournament began. "The organisation is perfect and I'm loving every bit of it. It's a very special time. The whole world has got to know about South Africa and what they are doing.
"We've been here for almost a month now but I've heard that back at home it's madness," added Mimi who will represent Ghana at this year's Miss World pageant in October. "More Ghanaians are trooping into the country to watch the team and support the team and hopefully they’ll bring the Cup home." Mimi, who cites Asamoah Gyan, Andre Ayew and Kevin Prince Boateng as her favourite players, joined her colleagues representing the eight quarter-finalists in a light-hearted penalty shoot-out competition at the Sandton Convention Centre on Wednesday evening. It would be fair to suggest that the beautiful game gained a whole new dimension for the watching members of the international press – especially the number who queued up for photographs with the women afterwards.
Mimi did her bit for Ghana by finishing runner-up to Argentina in this mini-World Cup and she is hoping "the men are going to do the same" by reaching the Final here in Johannesburg on 11 July. The same sentiment applied to Mae Strelkov from Argentina who joked that the fighting spirit of her favourite player, Carlos Tevez, had "perhaps rubbed off on me here" after she walked away with the mock-trophy.
Mae, from the northern province of Salta, was hoping it might act as an augury for an Argentine triumph for real – especially given defeat for Diego Maradona's men would send her home too. As Mae explained, each time a team is eliminated their representative departs too. "We are knocking each other out," said the tourism student and part-time model. "If Argentina go out this weekend, I'll leave, but perhaps I'll be here till the 11th. A lot of people say it's going to be tough. The truth is I've not had a chance to see many of Germany's games but I've got a lot of faith in Argentina – they're playing really well so I'm very hopeful."
For Mae, this is the first time she has been out of Argentina and she cannot speak more highly of her South African adventure. "It's amazing the way the people have welcomed us here, they're so friendly. I've seen some incredible scenery. I had the opportunity to go on a safari and it was one of the best things I've ever done." As for the match-day experience "the sound of the vuvuzelas is something completely new for me and on top of that, you really feel the emotion of everyone in the stadium watching their country play, it's very exciting. I've been living a dream."