In the outskirts of Cape Town lies the area known as the Cape Flats, a place that had been associated with poverty, unemployment and other social problems in the past.
However, it is also here that some of the country’s most decorated football stars were born and crafted their way to the top. One of the most notable of these players is Benni McCarthy, who started his football career in the area before joining the professional ranks. He went on to become one of South Africa's most famous football stars internationall as well as the first South African to win a UEFA Champions League medal (with Porto).
Now, Cape Flats is scripting a new story for itself as it prepares to welcome throngs of visitors who will flock to the tip of the African continent for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The Blue Flag Backpackers was opened last month in the heart of the Cape Flats - the first of its kind in this community - and it's expected that football fans who visit the Mother City during the world's football showpiece will make a pit stop in this area. The Cape Flats consists of areas such as Bishop Lavis, Steenberg, Hanover Park, Bonteheuwel, Manenberg and other surrounding areas.
Owner of Blue Flag, Jerome Hofmeester believes that his place will change a lot of perceptions about the Cape Flats. “We always say that this World Cup is an opportunity to change mindsets. We need to create an awareness that the townships and places like the Cape Flats are not as bad as many claim they are. I hope this backpackers will contribute towards that,” Hofmeester said.
“Being here is different from your normal backpackers, because you are in the heart of a very busy community. What is important is that when people come to South Africa, they get the South African feel and experience something different,” he added.
While being amongst Capetonians in the Cape Flats might be a new kind of experience for visitors, there are a number of things one can do in and around the area while in Cape Town. FIFA.com has gathered some of the best.
Visit the famous Langa township
Close to the Cape Flats is the Langa township, which rose to international awareness during the apartheid era as one of the most vibrant areas during the struggle against apartheid. In 1985 a shooting took place in Langa township that became known as the Langa Massacre. The incident was one of the moments that brought to the world’s attention the situation in South Africa, sparking an international outcry.
Drop by at Mzoli's braai place
This is one of the most popular braai (barbeque) places in Cape Town. Here, you will find the mixture of both township dwellers and suburban folks who all assemble at this popular joint for the traditional meat and cuisine.
Learn the local lingo
In the Cape Flats and the surrounding townships, the most spoken languages besides English are Afrikaans and Xhosa. Afrikaans is spoken in the Cape Flats while Xhosa is predominantly used in the townships in Cape Town. Both languages are amongst the 11 official languages in South Africa.