Soweto comes alive
Never before has South Africa hosted a tournament like the FIFA Confederations Cup, never before has the country's national team battled the world's best football side on home soil, and never before has Bafana Bafana advanced to the semi-finals of a FIFA tournament. For this historic evening there was no better place to witness the nation's brand of football fever than Soweto.
Soweto is situated south west of the Johannesburg CBD, and boasts a third of the city's population, two of the country's biggest football clubs (Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates), and has been home to Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African football star, Lucas Radebe.
From as early as 11am yesterday morning, in anticipation of the monumental match, a community festival, encompassing South Africa's Youth Month and the FIFA Confederations Cup, was held in Thokoza Park, Rockville. The festival included football matches, an arts and crafts fair, and public performances.
"We are using the Confederations Cup to bring everyone together and looking forward to 2010. This helps our youth; we get together, get to know one another and help each other, all of this is around soccer," said Siphiwe Msebe, an organiser of the youth festival.
Once the sun had set the games of the festival came to an end. With the music still playing, families and friends gathered together to watch the South Africa - Spain clash later that night.
"People are happy to be here. There are families with their blankets and camper chairs here to watch the game. The Confederations Cup has brought us all together, we are here as a community to support our team even if we can't get to the stadiums," said Thulani Shongwe, a community leader in Rockville.
The excitement of the game was felt all over. In Orlando West, is a popular tourist destination, called the Soweto Backpackers. Joachim Knab is a young German, just out of school and currently working as a volunteer coaching children football. "I'm staying in Soweto, and never expected this, I never expected the Confederations Cup to be such a big event in South Africa... You can feel the atmosphere ahead of the World Cup."
Besides South Africa's loss last night, people were celebrating their teams placement in the semi-finals and looking forward to doing all of this again, as fans, as friends, as a community and as South Africans.