In the Soweto township, just outside Johannesburg, football is still used by many youngsters as means to get themselves away from poverty and avoid the daily harsh realities confronted by society. Football has authored many rags to riches stories so much that many boys you encounter on the streets dream of being a professional footballer one day.
The likes of Lucas Radebe, Jomo Sono, Doctor Khumalo, Teko Modise and many others are local heroes amongst aspirant youngsters. However, Wandile Zwane, 10, has a different dream. He does not really want to play for Bafana Bafana because, by his own admission, he is not talented enough.
He does, however, have one burning footballing desire; to see some of the world's biggest stars when they descend to the tip of the African continent next month for the FIFA Confederations Cup which kicks-off on 14 June. South Africa will entertain Asian champions, Iraq in the Opening Match. While he understands the importance of being patriotic and rallying behind the country's senior national football side, he has divided loyalties, as Ronaldinho is his hero.
Wandile is unlikely to come closer to the Brazilian star and is hoping that he will be amongst thousands of football enthusiasts whenever the Seleção play their games in South Africa. "I want to see Ronaldinho in action," he told FIFA.com. "He is one of the best players in the world. I have watched him a lot on TV, but to see him in person will be a dream come true. We are all excited about meeting the famous players in our country."
His friend, Katlego Molatedi, however, does not share his sentiments. He adores the Spanish team because, he insists, they play with passion, skill and dedication. He was overwhelmed when they won UEFA EURO 2008, and fully expects them to win another tournament in 2009.
"Although I want them (Spain) to lose against Bafana Bafana, I think they are the best team in the world and I'm really looking forward on watching them play," he said. "I like their keeper, [Iker Casillas] and [Fernando] Torres. They are some of the best players in the world. I want to support a team that plays football the way its played here in the townships and that's Spain."
Then there is 12-year old Mpendulo Sibeko. Unlike Wandile and Katlego, he only has one name on his lips: Teko Modise, who he nicknames ‘the magician'. "He reminds me of uDokotela [Doctor Khumalo]. He has so much vision and creativity. You look at the way he has been playing lately, he has been one of our best players at the moment."
While these youngsters clearly have different tastes and preferences, what they share is a similar passion for the game and great expectation of the tournament dubbed the ‘Festival of Champions'; an event touted to be the dress rehearsal of the ultimate prize - the 2010 FIFA World Cup™