The friendly city of Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth gave thousands of football fans – as well as Organising Committee CEO Dr Danny Jordaan – an exuberant welcome as the first World Cup match kicked off in its new stadium.
“I wanted to be here, to see the first World Cup match in my own city in the very stadium that has the name of Nelson Mandela,” said an evidently proud Jordaan of the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium, which cuts a impressive picture with its white, sail-like structures.
For Jordaan it was something he thought impossible while growing up in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth during the years of Apartheid. “When I grew up here, this was a white area. I couldn’t come here. To stand here and be part of the organisation of the World Cup in this area, in this stadium – it’s incredible to see. This match reflects how far we have come.”
For the local and foreign fans in the stands, the feeling of camaraderie broke all international boundaries, as hundreds of Korea Republic supporters cheered and chanted, shouting “Dae han min guk” the Korean word for “Korea”, as their sports idols gave a gutsy performance, holding Greece off to a 2-0 win.
“It’s fantastic, the way that everyone is just bonding,” said Nelson Mandela Metro University architecture student, Elke le Roux, as Greece and Korean fans did a little jig in the stands, rallying up deafening support from the crowds as a chorus of vuvuzelas synchronised perfectly with the tune of a Korea Republic fan band.
Five Korean musicians – dressed in full traditional clothing, colourful face-paint and playing traditional Korean instruments – are celebrating the end of a year long trek around the world to promote Korean culture and history.
“This – coming to the World Cup in South Africa – is the grand finale of a worldwide trip. It is so fantastic to be here. We are glad to be here to witness this wonderful situation,” said Korean flute player Jin-Won Chung, a mechanical engineering student from Seoul National University, who is enamoured by the “noisy but amazing” vuvuzela.
“We came here with our costumes and our music to show the world Korean culture. We are also trying to protect the heritage of the beautiful island of Dokdo by creating awareness. We have already travelled to North and South America, Australia, Europe and Kenya. South Africa is the last and best stop.”
The Greece fans also came out in their droves to support their team. A group of 13 Johannesburg-based Greece supporters chartered a flight to Nelson Mandela Bay for the game. “We are following Greece around the country. We watched the opening match yesterday, and now we are in Port Elizabeth today,” said Melina Lambiakis, from Bedfordview.
When asked what inspired the countrywide tailing of the Greek team, Lambiakis said if you are Greek you have no choice but to support your country. “We are just compelled to support.”