South Africa unites as World Cup gets underway

From Table Mountain to Soweto, the pulsating chants of traditional songs and the blasting of plastic horns sounded the start of the first World Cup to be held on African soil.

Several people were hurt in a crush at the start of a live broadcast of the tournament's opening game at a viewing site for fans in Johannesburg, witnesses said, but the mood at dozens of fan parks across the vast country was joyful.

"It has united the nation ... the rainbow nation has gathered together," said 36-year-old teacher Disebo as she joined in the chorus in the usually quiet city of Bloemfontein, which lies in the country's Afrikaner heartland.

As tens of thousands of fans with tickets descended on the showpiece Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg for the opening match, many more were getting into the party mood in their home cities.

Massive television screens have been set up to make sure ordinary South Africans can watch Bafana Bafana (The Boys) take on Mexico in the opening game of the football festival.

"There's no place to be in the world except South Africa. The vibe is in Johannesburg," said Eddie van Rensburg, 28, at a fan park in the Melrose Arch office development just outside the city.

At another site in a downtown square, three people were hurt as fans broke through a security fence to catch a glimpse of the 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) kick off, Reuters witnesses said.

In Johannesburg alone, about a dozen fan parks and viewing sites have been set up, able to cater for some 100,000 supporters.

South Africans hope the World Cup marks a new chapter for a country troubled by crime, AIDS and racial division 16 years after the end of apartheid, and patriotic spirits were running high.

"It's incredible that 20 years ago South Africa wasn't even allowed to compete in international sport and now the whole world is focused on us," said Claire Davidson, a 26-year-old conference organiser in Cape Town.

The 25,000 capacity site has been set up just outside the historic City Hall where Nelson Mandela delivered his first speech as a free man after his release from prison and with a stunning backdrop of Table Mountain and palm trees.

Stewards were letting supporters in gradually to avert a repeat of the crush that injured six people at the site at a concert on Thursday.

Street vendors were making the most of the crowds, doing a brisk trade in barbecued chicken and sausages.

"The World Cup is making us some cash," said Thulani Mazula, 18, wearing an apron as she grilled sausages in the Motherwell township just northeast of Port Elizabeth. "People with full stomachs make better Bafana Bafana supporters."

Barefoot children kicked soccer balls about nearby, some wearing wigs and home-made team jerseys.

As kick off neared, fans queued outside the fan parks in their thousands.

"I couldn't sleep last night because of the excitement and the noise," said Tiisetso Mohapi, a 25-year-old businessman at a fan park set up in the central square of Bloemfontein.

At a nearby bar, black and white fans mingled in a joyous mood.

"It's the nation coming together, black and white," said Lluwellin-lee Peyper, 26. "Everyone in the world is watching us and we want to show them what South Africa is really like."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory