Mangaung/Bloemfontein may be among the lesser known of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ host cities but in its last World Cup match on Sunday, it was the centre of attention as England took on Germany.
Cries of ‘Deutschland’ and ‘England’ reverberated through the packed Free State stadium and the streets of the city as English and German fans waved their national flags surrounded by the familiar sound of vuvuzelas.
The match – which saw Germany win 4-1 – was something city residents have rarely witnessed.
“Germany and England are two of the major teams in the world. There are a lot of talented players on both sides, and to have two teams like this playing here is really amazing. As you can see from the vibe around the stadium, this is more than just major for Bloemfontein,” said Claudio Kistoo, a frequent visitor to the city who lives in nearby Kimberley.
Alice Pula, a Bloemfontein resident said she would never forget the occasion. “This game is one of the biggest that has ever been held in Bloemfontein. We feel so grateful to be part of such a big event. Moving forward, this is going to be part of our African history and we will never forget it.”
Pula said she enjoyed the atmosphere created by thousands of German and England football fans who constituted a large part of the audience. “I really don’t know what to say - they are fantastic people. They’re very interesting and the way that they were singing in the stadium was great to be part of.”
She hoped Mangaung/Bloemfontein’s success as a World Cup host would attract more tourists to the city. “Because Bloemfontein is such a small city, people were not aware of it. Now we are going to have more tourists because they have seen what we are capable of and what we can offer to everyone.”
Meanwhile jubilant German fans who saw their side proceed to the Quarter Finals spoke highly of their experience in the city and the country as a whole.
“It has been wonderful,” said Alex Lemard who came all the way from Bavaria to follow the German team in their World Cup journey. “All the people here are very friendly. Everybody is smiling and everybody is helpful. You don’t have that at home in Europe.”
Conny Kroeher from Germany, who arrived in South Africa two weeks ago and has visited Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein so far, agreed. “The atmosphere has been great. The English outnumbered us for sure and they make a great party, but I think the Germans also make a great party. And then there’s the locals - I see them cheer for a German goal and I see them cheering for an England goal and I think that is really cool.”