The first feature you see as you enter the relatively unknown small town of Kimberley are 32 colourful national team flags that are hoisted along the city’s busiest street, Long Street.
These flags are symbols of the hosts and the 31 other teams and supporters that will descend on the tip of Africa over the next 50 days leading up to the world's biggest football extravaganza, the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. And Kimberley's locals are ready to catch the World Cup fever that is currently sweeping throughout South Africa.
The small town of Kimberley came alive on Wednesday as some of Africa’s most famous football stars, including the celebrated Nigerian Jay-Jay Okocha along with domestic heroes Doctor Khumalo and Lucas Radebe, to help locals and top officials celebrate the 50 days countdown to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“It’s good to be here. I have been to South Africa before but never to this town. To be honest, I had never heard about Kimberley until now, but I like it,” said Okocha, the midfield maestro who stole the hearts of many football fans during the 1998 FIFA World Cup with his famous step-over and skill.
The Nigerian is in South Africa as part of Africa’s build-up to the first-ever FIFA World Cup on the continent. Excited fans, who came in numbers to the local Galeshewe Stadium, tried to get a close glimpse of the celebrated footballers. Khumalo and Radebe are the obvious local favourites – both players who starred during Bafana's most celebrated period in their history when the country successfully hosted and won the 1996 CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
In this town, which is situated in the Northern Cape, the nostalgia of that victory keeps coming back to the fans, and they believe that the country’s national side can replicate the heroic performance of what has been termed the “golden generation” of 1996. “We don’t have any top flight football here and we will not be hosting any games during the World Cup, but I can tell you, I’m excited to see all these guys here. As we get closer to this tournament, most are realising just how lucky we are to be alive at this moment in our country, to be part of such a historic occasion,” said football enthusiast Quinton Fabiane.
Looking to Bloem
While Kimberley will not be hosting any 2010 FIFA World Cup matches, they are going to be a base camp for one of the teams coming to South Africa, Uruguay. The city does not have any professional football side nor does it ever attract big matches. The last, and only time, they watched a top-flight football match was when a locally-based Bafana Bafana side travelled to play a friendly against Madagascar.
The nearest Host City to Kimberley is Mangaung/Bloemfontein, which is just an hour’s drive. This will give some travelling fans an option when they are looking for accommodation who will be attending matches at the Free State Stadium.
South African president, Jacob Zuma, who was at the 50 days celebration, told the crowd to embrace the FIFA World Cup. “What is happening in our country at the moment is quite a marvel to watch. The nation is seized with exhilaration and great anticipation. This harmony should define us and resonate in a wide rage of spheres even outside football,” Zuma said.