Young and old packed the newly refurbished Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto, as Brazil, who arrived in South Africa on 27 May, took to the pitch for a public training session.
Waiting at the gate for the bus to arrive, hundreds of residents waved a mixture of flags and homemade banners, while a group of girls had photocopied pictures of Kaka with the words, ’Please marry me’, printed on the bottom. Combined with the distinct sound of the vuvuzela and a sea of South African and Brazilian flags, the Selecao were certainly treated to a warm South African welcome, even before their first World Cup match.
Clad in his Brazilian jersey, 18-year-old Thabang Mekgwe stared with disbelief at the team on the pitch. “Brazil is my favourite team, my mother bought me this jersey for the tournament.”
“Their ball game is very interesting, all of these players are great. I believe they are going to the final, I'm watching the winners train here.”
After finishing an exam today, Mekgwe was informed by one of his teachers that tickets were available for the training. “I was too late, when we got to the police station all the tickets were gone, but I came anyway and a very kind woman gave me a ticket outside.”
Mekgwe is amazed by the opportunity of watching Brazil train in his home stadium. “I can't believe they are here in Dobsonville. I thought I would watch them on television until I die and never get to see them in the flesh. It's unbelievable.”
People queued for hours to pick up their free tickets at the local Dobsonville police station. With the rush many fans had to rely on friends to pick up their tickets.
“I had to ask a friend to get mine for me, but I am glad, it's my first time watching VIPs in a training session,” said 26-year-old Jerry Ntamo. “Brazil is one of my best sides and I never imagined I would see them in my lifetime, never mind here in Dobsonville.”
“After arriving here and seeing Brazil on the pitch I feel like the World Cup is really here,” said Ntamo.
In his full kit, with green vuvuzela, and a massive Brazilian flag, Bheki Mwelasa (36) is an ardent fan of the South American team. “I heard about the training session on the news this morning and I went straight to work and begged my boss to let me come, he knows how much this means to me, and here I am.”
“I am a hundred percent Brazil fan. I like their attitude toward the sport, they are true stars,” said Mwelasa. “It is a gift from God to watch the most talented players in the world train here.”
For Mwelasa the training session brought home the reality of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. “My best team has arrived and now I am seeing them train and it feels great. For me the World Cup starts today.”