African welcome wins players’ hearts

21 June 2010

Whatever their fortunes on the pitch, players from the competing nations at the 2010 Fifa World Cup™ are enjoying the experience off it. The temperatures might be low, but the visiting teams are feeling the warmth of the African spirit.

Visiting players and supporters across South Africa have been greeted by colourful scenes of fans dancing, singing, embracing and, of course, blowing the ubiquitous horn that has been a new discovery for many, the vuvuzela.

Nigeria striker Yakubu Ayegbeni was full of praise for the host nation, saying: “This is a great country, and the people have been right behind us since we arrived. I think this can be one of the greatest World Cups in history.”

Doing Africa proud

Ghana midfielder Stephen Appiah believes that South Africa’s organisation of the tournament is doing the whole continent proud. “We have always said that Africa can host tournaments like this,” he said.

“I have heard a couple of interviews and you can see how proud South Africans are, how proud Ghanaians are, how proud Nigerians are and how proud the African continent is, because this is a historic World Cup.

“That shows that there is unity and that they don’t think of South Africa alone, but they think about the African continent,” Appiah said.

“And it’s the first time the World Cup is held in Africa, so we are really happy with what we are seeing here. We thought it was not going to be like what we have seen. Let me say congratulations to South Africa as they have done a marvellous job.”

For Cote d’Ivoire midfielder Didier Zokora, the highlight so far has been the opening ceremony at Soccer City in Johannesburg. He said: “I watched it in my room and said to myself, ‘This World Cup has really started in Africa’. There was a lot of emotion for me when I followed that game. It’s something very important for me.”

‘The people here have been very friendly’

Slovakia defender Marek Cech said the decision to take the tournament to South Africa had already proved to be the right one. “I have really enjoyed it. I am really surprised about the organisation and everything.

“The people here have been very friendly, and up until now we’ve had no problems. I think it was a great idea to have a World Cup in Africa.”

Germany midfielder Sami Khedira was equally enthused. “The people all like their football and cheer us on, which gives us a good feeling,” he said.

Kaka thanks South African fans

Brazilian superstar Kaka thanked the thousands of South Africans that attended their opening match against Korea DPR on an incredibly chilly evening in Johannesburg last week.

Despite sub-zero temperatures, the packed Ellis Park stadium, with attendance figures reaching 54 331, was swarming with Brazil fans – both international and local – decked out in the distinctive yellow and green.

The famous Brazilian number 10, real name Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, said: “It’s very good to be back and we are very happy for the support we received from South African people during the match.”