There was a tear in many an eye in Mangaung/Bloemfontein on Tuesday night as South Africa beat France but failed to qualify for the last 16 at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. But although the host nation won’t be going any further in the tournament, all is certainly not lost in South Africa.
“Bafana Bafana are out of the World Cup but they won the hearts and minds of all South Africans and the whole world tonight,” said 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa (OC) CEO Danny Jordaan after the game.
“Yes they did not make it past the group stage but they did what the country asked of them – they played with pride, passion, skill and commitment, they gave their best. They did the national team jersey and every single South African proud and we want to thank them for what they’ve done for this country,” he added.
The atmosphere in the stadium was electric – the vuvuzelas blared and the fans sang and danced from start to finish, leaving a watching world in no doubt about the passion of the South African fans who supported their team right till the bitter end.
Siphiwe Tshabalala, who scored the very first goal of the tournament during the opening match at Soccer City, thanked the fans for their support during the tournament. “Even though we didn’t qualify, we just want to thank them (the supporters) for their support and for finishing on a high,” said Tshabala after the match.
“For me it was a dream come true to play in the World Cup and I’m happy I have achieved that, not only for us soccer players, but for the nation as a whole. We really benefitted from the World Cup because a lot of jobs were created and the economy was improved,” he added.
His teammate Siboniso Gaxa urged South Africans to continue supporting the tournament.
“To be quite honest, it’s the first time that South Africa is united like this. Football has brought South African people together which is amazing. I want to thank them – I’m very grateful that we’re surrounded by such people and to everyone who has been supporting us, thank you very much, and I hope you’ll keep on supporting the World Cup.”
There seems little doubt that they will. Even though that is the last the FIFA World Cup will see of Bafana Bafana it is certainly not the last it will see of South Africans. Among the fans this is still very much South Africa’s World Cup.
“I am excited after that match, it’s a good result,” said Lesiba Siebola from Limpopo after the game. “I am very proud of South Africa, this is good preparation for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012. And the World Cup is certainly not over, there are still many more matches, many more people to meet and many more stars to see,” said Siebola who is now heading to Johannesburg to watch Germany play Ghana at Soccer City on Wednesday night.
“Of course I will be celebrating tonight, South Africa have beaten France who are previous World Cup winners,” says local resident Crosby Nyangintsimbi. “Yes we are out but this is a football not a war and we will go out and enjoy tonight with the French and all the other fans who are here in our city.”
For Johannesburg resident Trevor Bapiste the World Cup is just beginning. “It’s now time to support South Africa. We’re still the host nation and we’re just going to go from here and support our favourite teams and enjoy the amazing experience.”
Bapiste is looking forward to his next game which is a round of 16 encounter. “I think we’re in for a very interesting quarter final and semi final stage – there’s been so many upsets – you can’t even say who’s going to get through”.