The centre of Johannesburg was alive with football fever yesterday as Nigeria went up against Argentina in their opening 2010 FIFA World Cup encounter.

Fans from both sides were in a jubilant mood at Ellis Park stadium but they are not the only ones feeling the spirit of South Africa’s World Cup.

For Albiceleste superstar, Lionel Messi, the atmosphere in South Africa is something he has rarely seen before.

“Since we arrived here we have felt the affection of the South African people and the atmosphere in the stadium is great,” said the Argentine footballer. A sentiment shared by his captain, Javier Mascherano. “It is very good here. There is some noise with the vuvuzelas but the atmosphere is fantastic”.

Following their team around the country for the next month, the numerous Argentine fans are just as celebratory in their reaction to the warm South African welcome, with many even feeling like superstars themselves.

“Everything is spectacular. It has exceeded our expectations and wearing the Argentinean jersey makes you feel like a Hollywood actor. Everyone stops you, they hug you and they want a picture with you,” said Gabriel Pippo who is staying in Tshwane/Pretoria for the tournament and therefore just a stone’s throw away from the Argentine base camp and training ground.

The Argentine fans wowed Ellis Park yesterday with their colourful banners and flags, drummer bands and chanting that went on long after the final whistle had blown.