It will not only be in the stadiums that South Africans will be showing their support for the World Cup and the national team, Bafana Bafana. Already South African drivers are displaying their patriotism, with the national flags proudly displayed on cars around the country.
Add to this the Football Friday campaign, which has seen South Africans don their national football jersey on the last working day of each week, turning the streets into a sea of green and gold, and it is easy to see that the country has united in celebration for the month long football feast.
Some fans have gone far beyond the call of duty though, with just a jersey and a flag not offering enough of an outlet for their passion. Ran Neu Ner, the CEO of the Creative Counsel group, has decided to brand his black Mercedes SLK 350 convertible sports car in the colours of the South African flag.
“I’m a soccer fanatic and a South Africa fanatic,” admits Ner. “I was just so excited by the idea of the World Cup coming here that I had to find a release, and do something radical. So I did this.”
It took only a day for Ner to turn his car into a giant flag, and although the vinyl stickers are not permanent this can be taken under consideration. “If Bafana Bafana win the World Cup this year, I’ll make it permanent.”
Ner, who is attending as many matches as humanly possible, is daring other South Africans to follow his lead.
“I challenge anyone to beat what I have done... I am excited about the support, but we can do more. I’ve been around the world watching football and I can tell you that our supporters are some of the best; we are alive and have a great spirit in the stands. We must show this to the world.”
For Ner the 2010 FIFA World Cup is something unique and should be embraced as such. “All the marketing tells us ‘The World Cup in South Africa is a once in a lifetime experience’, but it really is, never again will it come back here while we are alive. We need to get behind our people, our players and our country, to make this a World Cup to remember.”
The International Marketing Council (IMC), which is charged with promoting South Africa abroad, is pleased by the increase in national spirit.
“We have been calling on all South Africans to actively participate in campaigns like the Fly the Flag and Football Fridays,” said Miller Matola, CEO of the IMC. “We are thrilled with the response so far. South Africans are passionate about football and we anticipate support is likely to further increase the closer we get to kickoff.”
Matola sees the tournament as an opportunity to build a greater sense of ‘South Africaness’, one that will last long after the final whistle has been blown.
“With more and more South Africans flying the flag, wearing their football jerseys and proudly singing the national anthem, I have no doubt that the beautiful game will further build national pride and unity.”
Tumelo Mbalati, from Johannebsurg has recently invested in a South African car flag and wears his yellow Bafana Bafana jersey religiously. He feels that flying his flag and wearing his national colours is the most effective manner of demonstrating his patriotism and his support, for both his team and the tournament.
“I bought my South African car flag when my friends and I decided to attend Bafana Bafana’s friendly match against Namibia. On the spur of the moment, overcome by the excitement at the rare opportunity to watch the national team in action, we all went and purchased the flags,” said Mbalati.
“For me, flying my country’s flag everywhere I go and wearing the Bafana jersey is the least I can do to show that I’m backing my country, through the national team, to succeed at the World Cup.”
Brian Pale, who places great importance in wearing his national colours, shared the same enthusiasm. “I feel a sense of pride when I wear my Bafana jersey. I feel one with the team. I expect us to prove to all the sceptics that South Africa is more than capable of hosting an event as big as the World Cup.”
With South African football fever growing every day, some fans know how hard it can be to find a suitably sized Bafana Bafana jersey. “This is an indication of the eagerness shown by South Africans to own a piece of the World Cup and support Bafana Bafana,” said Pale.
Zobuzwe Ngobese, PR Manager at FIFA Partner adidas, confirmed that there has been great demand for the Bafana jersey at consumer level. “The orders that we have received from retailers have almost exceeded our expectations. But we had anticipated that with the launch of the Football Fridays and other campaigns the demand for merchandise would increase remarkably”.