I love football (soccer for the Americans in the audience) and have “my” teams I support in Portugal and England, however my knowledge on the local football scene is limited to the Soweto derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. The argument can be made that the lower quality of soccer in South Africa has dissuaded a lot of people to follow the local game, but the national should still be followed and supported, however that is not the case as not too many white folks can name players of the national. Unfortunately I am guilty of that as well but it is something which I intend to slowly put right.
In November last year, one of Raquel’s colleagues invited us to join them for the Bafana Bafana versus Spain match which would take place at South Africa’s Footballing cathedral, the FNB Stadium. This would bring the number one ranked football team against Bafana Bafana, who haven’t always been the darlings of South African sport. The predictions were dire and everyone was certain Bafana were going to be mauled by the Spanish and record another humiliating experience in world football.
Regardless of what predictions lay ahead, the vibe at the FNB stadium was phenomenal. Understandably anyone who loves football gets excited when the world and European champions come to town, especially when the very same stadium was where the Spaniards obtained their world champions title (which I attended and wrote about in this post).
In the midst of this exciting atmosphere, South Africa threatened the Spanish with quick counter attacks, but the world champions had the edge over South Africa and controlled the game without really creating chances. The longer the game went on, the more the South African fans were growing in confidence and believing that the home side might come out of the game unscathed.
That all changed in the fifty sixth minute, as South Africa’s Bernard Parker put Bafana in the lead after some sustained pressure causing the stadium to erupt as South Africa’s fans suddenly felt that they might be making history. Thirty odd minutes later the crowd burst into song and dance as Bafana beat the World and European champions.
If you take into account that football remains a predominantly ‘black’ sport in South Africa, the number of white South Africans who made the trip out to Soweto to see this game was quite impressive (excuse the ignorance as it might be normal, but this was my first football match in South Africa aside from the world cup final, so it was surprising for me to see).
It was an extremely fun experience and has definitely whetted my appetite to attend another football match in South Africa (I think the Soweto Derby might be quite a good one!).
*Photos were taken with my iPhone as I forgot my camera battery at home!