Durban lives and breathes football. The venue for Sunday's Preliminary Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, the port city also hosted the 133rd Soweto derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. And FIFA.com was in town to watch the big two play out an enthralling 2-2 draw.
Passion in the streets
As any fan travelling to a big game will vouch for, the final stages of the journey to the stadium can stretch on forever. There is still an hour to go before kick-off time and the silhouette of the West Stand of the already packed Kings Park looms in the distance. In their anxiety to get to the party, three Pirates fans in a white car curse the slow-moving traffic.
Just then, a couple of Kaizer Chiefs supporters, shirt and vuvuzela (trumpet) in hand, dodge their way between the cars and buses, oblivious to the risks involved. For a European fan the musical instrument may be an unusual sight, but the sound of blaring trumpets is one that will be heard the whole day long.
The growing sense of excitement and anticipation is understandable. For many Durban folk this is their first ever South African derby. "I'm from here and I've never seen a Pirates-Chiefs match before," says Destin Makoena, who is sporting an eyecatching black and gold Chiefs hat for the occasion. "I can't wait for the game to start and for us to win. I want the whole world to know how much we love football in South Africa."
Another fan barely able to contain himself is 25-year-old Martin
Khanyezi, who explains why the game is able to generate such
passion so far away from the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto.
"They are the two most popular clubs and this is the biggest
footballing city in the country. It's like a River-Boca match
being played outside Buenos Aires: the stadium would be full
wherever you go. And for Durban, this is like Christmas coming
The pre-match crowd estimates were spot on, with 60,000 fans inside Kings Park by kick-off. But what really catches your attention inside the ground is the rainbow of colours in the stands. There is no crowd segregation here, with fans from both sides standing happily side by side, a sight not often seen in the world's major leagues.
The two teams may be going through their warm-up routines on the pitch but the entertainment is on the terraces, where thousands upon thousands of people are dancing in unison to the music emanating from the loudspeakers. A Chiefs fan stationed opposite the halfway line gamely tries to start a Mexican wave. After four attempts he achieves his aim, with a little help from some Pirates fans, and everyone applauds. Harmony in the stands there may be, but as Pirates fan Lungami Khumalo reminds me, there is a hugely competitive football match still to play. "We'll win 2-1 today," he predicts confidently.
With only 20 seconds gone, however, Lungami is dumbfounded when Mabhudi Khenyeza shoots home on the turn to put the Chiefs ahead. The diehard Pirates fan sticks to his prediction none the less, even when the Chiefs almost double their advantage. As the half wears on the Pirates start to come into the game, thanks in no small part to the efforts of midfield dynamo Teko Modise, who has the fans on their feet every time he gets on the ball. "Teko is South Africa's big hope for 2010," explains Martin Khanyezi, not without good reason. The No 11's tireless promptings get their reward when Excellent Walaza levels things up just before the break.
With the tooting vuvuzelas cranking up the decibels, the second half proves even more of a spectacle. That man Walaza pops up again, prompting Lungami to cry, "I told you so, I told you so" as he raises his arms in celebration, crossing them in imitation of the pirate emblem on the club's flag. Unbowed, the Chiefs faithful respond with their V for victory sign. Their heroes are on the back foot, though, and the fans bay for the replacement of their struggling left-back, gesturing frantically at the coach to make the change.
Revitalised by the introduction of Motaung Junior Kaizer, the son of the club's founder, the boys in black and gold get back on level terms though Artur Mooki. Debra celebrates while boyfriend Cyril bemoans the Pirates' luck. "They're not going to beat us again, are they?" he whispers as he leans over to kiss her. But the score remains unchanged, and when the final whistle blows the music starts up and the fans sway to the beat once more. "Can you imagine the party we're going to put on in 2010?" Nkosenye Kituwse asks FIFA.com. "We are so proud to be hosting the World Cup I can tell you."