South Africans Celebrating Before Start of World Cup
June 10, 2010JOHANNESBURG (AP) - Never mind that the World Cup hasn't started yet. South Africans celebrated Wednesday as if their national team already won the trophy.
Wrapped in flags and tooting vuvuzela horns, thousands of fans danced in the streets as the Bafana Bafana greeted fans in Johannesburg.
After years of anticipation, the country of nearly 50 million has gone soccer crazy and is counting down the hours until Africa's first World Cup gets under way Friday.
South African Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani expressed thanks for the support, but also cautioned that the team “has to stay focused for the task ahead.”
South Africa kicks off the tournament against Mexico on Friday and must also face 1998 world champion France and Uruguay in Group A.
It's a challenging group and South Africa risks becoming the first host nation to exit a World Cup in the opening round. South Africa has never advanced from the group stage.
That hasn't stopped South African supporters, including President Jacob Zuma, from dreaming of a World Cup final, just 16 years after the nation's first post-apartheid election.
Speaking to the players ahead of a training session Wednesday, Zuma said he hoped the team was “in combat mode” and aiming to win the tournament.
“The Cup has landed in Africa for the first time and it landed in South Africa,” Zuma told the team. “It should stay here.”