US team spreads Confederations Cup cheer
South Africans have been revelling in getting to see the superstar FIFA Confederations Cup participating teams and players up close, this before the tournament has even gotten underway.
The atmosphere around the country's four host cities is certainly heating up, despite this week's chilly weather, as the teams begin preparing for the tournament, with the teams' open to public training sessions giving South Africans a memorable chance to catch their sporting heroes in action.
Tshwane/Pretoria teenager Kutullo Makgatho could hardly believe her luck as she got to watch the United States team practice at the Pilditch stadium on Thursday.
"I've never seen such a big team from overseas before, it's really exciting," said the 17 year-old, who was among over 400 locals who watched the team's training session.
And Team USA and their coach Bob Bradley were clearly equally pleased to be back in South Africa again, having first come to the country in 2007 for the Nelson Mandela Challenge - a game that ended with the USA beating South Africa's Bafana Bafana 1-0.
"That trip opened our eyes to what South Africa is all about and now it's great to be back. It's a wonderful opportunity to play against the world's best teams and to experience South Africa again," said the US team's spokesperson Michael Kammarman.
Shortly after the training session, the young crowd from the stands were invited to come down to the field to meet the USA team. In their hundreds the boys and girls clamoured around the players, shaking their hands, getting their t-shirts signed and posing for photos.
The excitement in the air was palpable. After having well known LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan sign his t-shirt, 14 year old Durall Marlow said excitedly: "I'm going to frame this." Even a few adults joined in the skirmish for autographs, with one women proclaiming that the prized signature was "for my son."
In between attending to a small crowd of admirers US midfielder, Freddy Adu, commented on South Africa's readiness to host big sporting tournaments.
"The airport check-in was smooth and the facilities are amazing. When people ask me whether or not South Africa can do this, my answer is easy".
The USA faces tough competition in the FIFA Confederations Cup tournament, with their four-team group comprising world champions Italy, two-time FIFA Confederations Cup winners Brazil, and African champions Egypt.
Undeterred by the challenge ahead Kammarman's sage words were "to be the best, you've got to play the best."