After three disappointing draws, Cape Town got the wake-up call it had been waiting for on Monday as Portugal thrilled a 63,644-strong Green Point crowd with a seven goal sizzler.
There to cheer his favourite team on to their best ever World Cup performance was Tanzeel Gamieldien. A few decades ago his father would not have been allowed to watch a local football match at the site where the world-class Green Point stadium now stands. Today, in a new democratic South Africa, host of Africa’s first ever World Cup, Tanzeel walked onto the pitch hand in hand with captain Cristiano Ronaldo and instantly became the envy of millions of seven year-olds around the world.
“When I get back to school I will tell my friends that my holiday was great, especially when I walked into the stadium with Ronaldo. I don’t think they will believe me though,” said the young Gamieldien. “Ronaldo was very relaxed in the tunnel before the game and even went and hugged one of the boys who started to cry when he saw him.”
His friend Jayden Rose has made sure that his moment in history was well documented. “My mother already called to say that they showed more of me on television than any of the other children. I will watch it as soon as I get home as my uncle recorded it,” said the ten year old Rose who held the hand of two time Portuguese goal scorer Tiago.
Chilambo Seyuba is proud to have been one of the six girls who had the opportunity to be part of the excitement. “Inside the tunnel I just stared at Ronaldo because we weren’t allowed to move. I am so excited to be here and to have been given this opportunity,” said the wise young ten year old who, even at her tender age, seemed to know that this is the kind of experience that doesn’t come round every day.
Gamieldien, Rose and Seyuba are just three of more than 1400 young South African and international children between the ages of six and ten who will be given the opportunity to escort the players onto the pitch at the 64 matches as part of the McDonald’s Player Escort programme.
But they were far from the only children in the stadium, as parents made the most of the five-week long school holiday’s and travelled from around the country to cheer the hugely supported Portuguese team on. Portugal has no shortage of local support in South Africa with an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 South Africans of Portuguese descent.