Sporting fever grips SA
African football enthusiasts are renowned for their flamboyant and colourful way of celebrating when demonstrating their passion for the beautiful game. And, if you find yourself in South Africa during the next few weeks, you are likely to encounter a group of fanatical colourful sport loyalists clad in their favourite regalia.
The bright colours and enthusiastic sound of the vuvuleza are powerful reminders to any onlooker that the country is currently gearing itself for more sporting fever and euphoria which is likely to reach fever pitch in the next few weeks when some of the world's most gifted footballers descend to the tip of the African continent to participate in the FIFA Confederations Cup tournament starting from June.
The tournament, dubbed the ‘Festival of Champions' will see some of the best teams in the world travelling to South Africa for the dress-rehearsal of next year's 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Current world champions, Italy, South American champions, Brazil, European champions, Spain, Asian Champions, Iraq, Oceania champions, New Zealand, African champions, Egypt and the team that South Africa 2010 LOC CEO, Danny Jordaan refers to as ‘the champions of the heart', South Africa, battle for supremacy in the two-week long event.
South African sporting legend, Mark Fish shares the excitement of the fans. "I think the people are really getting into the spirit of the tournament and that is wonderful news for us and our build-up to both tournaments," said the former Charlton Athletic defender. "What we need to see now is good football on the field and hopefully our own team, Bafana Bafana will do us all proud."
There will also be plenty of sporting action in South Africa at that time as the country will also be hosting the rugby British Lions Tour. "SA Rugby expects up to 50,000 British and Irish Lions travelling to South Africa in June. There is also a strong indication that a number of these supporters will stay behind and explore the sights and sounds of our beautiful country and remain for the FIFA Confederations Cup.
"The Lions tour and Confederations Cup are two fantastic opportunities for South Africa to showcase its sporting infrastructure and its readiness to host world class events, as well as showcase our world renowned hospitality. We looking to welcome these visitors and we know they will leave South Africa with found, long lasting memories," SA Rugby Lions Tour Project Manager Andre Homan told FIFA.com.
The current Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament, which has attracted capacity crowds all around the country, has set the tone for sporting enthusiasts, who are expected to attend the FIFA Confederations Cup matches in their thousands.
"Although cricket and rugby are big here, there is no way you can compare that with football and the atmosphere you will find in big football matches," said Mzukisi Mmntong, a lifelong football fan. "I think this is one of the few opportunities in this country where you will see rugby and cricket supporters flocking to the stadiums to support Bafana Bafana."