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Searching for it — not quite feeling it — in Polokwane

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- Searching for it — not quite feeling it — in Polokwane The fan fest sounded like a wild party with the vuvuzela horns booming through the empty streets of Polokwane town, one of the smallest of 10 venues for the first World Cup on African soil. Everyone must be there, we thought as there was little going on for a Saturday night in the northern South African town. Even the local Nandos restaurant on the main street shut by 8 p.m. But on closer inspection the soccer fan fest — loud as it was — was also pretty deserted. Soccer fever has yet to reach Polokwane. A sleepy town of just 500,000 people, it was hard to imagine Polokwane, which means place of safety, would host its first World Cup soccer match in less than 24 hours. In Johannesburg or Cape Town you could definitely “feel it”. Here we weren’t so sure. Driving through the town’s eerily deserted streets searching for a restaurant where we could eat and watch the soccer, we discovered that was not an easy find. It was also hard to imagine what long-term benefit the town would see from being a host city. While for the four matches to be played in Polokwane the few hotels on offer for tourists were full, in between there were plenty of rooms at the inn. No team was staying nearby which would bring with it the paraphenalia of adoring fans or news-hungry media and the associated business. Those playing were flown in for pre-match training, again the day of the match and ferried back straight after. Police closed down the roads near the stadium on the edge of town the night before. But those fearing traffic similar to the four-hour long queues witnessed in Johannesburg trying to get to Soocer City need not have bothered. The streets were empty, the car parks empty and — just 30 minutes before kick-off — the stadium was half empty. By the second half, the stands were just about three-quarters full, though the blasts of the vuvuzelas compensated for the missing supporters. The Peter Mokaba stadium almost looked like they hadn’t had time to finish painting it, with the stark grey concrete of the outer wall in direct contrast with Soccer City in Johannesburg’s brightly coloured exterior. The inside was still coated in construction dust and most of the refreshment stands remained shuttered and closed during the match. Just two hours after the players left we found ourselves the lone figures in a dark stadium struggling to see the keyboard as we tapped out the finishing touches to our stories. Even the name of the stadium was controversial. Mokaba was the African National Congress (ANC)’s youth league leader who, like his current counterpart Julius Malema, was fond of the phrase “Kill The Boer,” which upset many Afrikaners. Ironically there’s not even a local soccer team to make use of the sparkling pitch. Residents said the Rai Stars disbanded long ago and the nearby promising Black Leopards team are based more than 150 kilometres away in a less than World Cup standard stadium. <http://www.blackleopardsfc.com/10_stadium_info.htm> The Dynamos train 100 kilometres away. Neither team play in the country’s top league. “You can’t help thinking this huge stadium will just be derelict and empty in a few years time,” said one hotel worker.

Polokwane StadiumThe soccer fan fest sounded like a wild party with the vuvuzela horns booming through the empty streets of Polokwane town, one of the smallest of 10 venues for the first World Cup on African soil.

Everyone must be there, we thought as there was little happening on a Saturday night in the northern South African town centre.

But on closer inspection the soccer fan fest — loud as it was — was also pretty deserted. Soccer fever had yet to reach Polokwane.

A sleepy town of just 500,000 people, it was hard to imagine Polokwane, which means place of safety, would host its first World Cup soccer match in less than 24 hours. In Johannesburg or Cape Town you could definitely “feel it”. Here we weren’t so sure.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

‘You call this noise? What is a million vuvuzelas?’

SOCCER-WORLD/By Ruona Agbroko

If it hadn't been for Nigeria's goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, the 1-0 defeat to Argentina could have been much worse for the African side. That is one reason why the Nigerian supporter contingent, even if outnumbered by the Argentinian fans, remained upbeat throught the match.

The green-white-green stripes of the Nigerian flag were seen on toddlers, their parents and even foreigners at Ellis Park Stadium in central Johannesburg.

Work stops when Bafana is in town

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They stood in the winter sun for up to two hours just waiting to catch a glimpse of their nation’s hope, Bafana Bafana. Some swopped their usual tie and shirts to don the South African National football jersey. Those who tried to work, it seems, eventually left their work stations and joined in the trumpet blast that gripped Johannesburg’s business hub also known as Sandton.

SOCCER-WORLD/

They blew their vuvuzelas, sang Shosholoza, blew the vuvuzelas some more and finally…..the green double decker bus carrying the national team emerged. Bafana Bafana supporters showed their love to the team ahead of their World Cup Opening match against Mexico on Friday. The players, led by captain Aaron Mokoena, could be seen perched atop the open bus taking pictures of the fans below and waving at them.

Money will talk louder than any vuvuzela

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The debate around the vuvuzela was always going to generate big noise but for some South African commentators it has become almost a neo-colonial conflict.

The noisy trumpet, which dominates the sound waves around the stadiums during the Confederations Cup, has got a lot of people covering their ears.

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