It was a rhythmic cacophony of vuvuzelas, drums, beating sticks and chants of South Africans, Portuguese and Ivorians alike as a 37,034 strong crowd joined forces to fight off a particularly cold and wet evening at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in the coastal host city of Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth.
Portuguese Jose Gibau (24) was taken aback by the rhythm that emanated from the stadium. “I am so excited to be in South Africa. Especially at my first game in Port Elizabeth – they really do have the friendliest people. It does not get any better than this,” said Gibau who had a shaky first start with South Africa’s popular vuvuzela.
“I am a first time vuvuzela user - I even hurt my lip blowing on it now,” he said as he continued to try and perfect the instrument.
While fans of Cote d’Ivoire and Portugal travelled many kilometres to support their teams, locals also donned fan kit in support of their fellow Africans, or in contrast, in support of the Portuguese who first sailed to the “Baia da Roca” or (until recently) Algoa Bay in the 1400s en route to the spice islands or India.
“Of course I know about the history here with Portugal, but the main thing for me right now is the exhilarating game here and the atmosphere,” said Portuguese fan Jose de Freitas.
Quantity surveyor Phila Matshaya, 30, and his friend, entrepreneur Ronnie Matabese, 31, are 100 per cent behind the African hopefuls.
“When I heard that Cote d’Ivoire was playing against Portugal, I got the first available tickets. This is the biggest game here, I had to be first in line. So I’ve been waiting a couple of months for this moment. I can’t believe it’s finally here,” said an excited Matshaya.
Matabese said as they headed to the game to show support for their African brothers. “It’s another African country, we have to support one another because we want to keep the cup here in Africa, and Cote d’Ivoire has that chance. I would love to see an African country in the final,” said Matabese.
“The other reason, of course is Drogba,” he said, referring to the perennially popular Ivorian forward.
“It is just fantastic here. Everyone is playing their drum, singing or blowing the trumpet (vuvuzela). We may be supporting different teams tonight but together we celebrated,” said avid Portuguese fan, Lucas de Sousa after the final whistle.