28 June 2010
South Africa’s “Surf City” was the place to be on Friday as fans streamed in by the thousands for one of the most anticipated matches of the 2010 Fifa World Cup group stages, Brazil versus Portugal. While the match itself did not live up to the hype, the city of Durban certainly did.
Since the start of the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, over 300 000 people have visited the Durban Fifa Fan Fest™, situated at New Beach, just 3.5 kilometres from the spectacular Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Durban’s tropical climate has certainly contributed to the success of the Fan Fest, but a major revamp of the Durban beachfront and surrounding area has also seen local residents and domestic tourists streaming back to a beautiful part of town that has been neglected for too long.
The festivities around the stadium started at midday on Friday as fans made their way along the beachfront to the stadium, soaking up the sun, sea and beachfront atmosphere. And while the chilly winter nights have seen fans heading back to warm pubs to watch the evening matches in some of the other cities, fans in Durban on Friday night were in no hurry to go home.
Instead, they joined the thousands of fans that had not been lucky enough to get a ticket for the stadium at the Fan Walk and Fan fest for the Spain vs Chile clash at Loftus in Tshwane/Pretoria.
“Durban is certainly where it is happening,” said 22-year old Justin Rodrigues from Johannesburg. “You simply walk out of the stadium and are spoilt for choice when it comes to where to watch the next game.”
Within a couple of hundred metres of the stadium is the Sun Coast casino public viewing area, followed by miles of beachfront hotels, cafes and bars, packed to capacity with delighted fans, and then the Fan Fest itself, situated right on the beach among palm trees, with the Durban surf crashing in the background.
The Brazilian supporters were very impressed with Durban’s carnival atmosphere. “It feels like we are at home, the beach reminds me of Rio and the people are great,” said Seleçao supporter Fillipo Domingues. “We hope to learn a lot from this World Cup, and by the time 2014 approaches, we will be ready,” .
Local residents have also been swept away by the two-week long party. “The Fan Fest has enabled the people of Durban to speak one language,” said Sandile Ngubo. “It is true when they say soccer unites people. I watch most games at the Fan Fest, and the atmosphere is out of this world.”
‘A country of its own’
Deven Moodley agrees. “Since the World Cup started, the beach has felt like a country on its own. I have met so many people here, and we all have fun. It feels great.”
Another local resident, Karabo Khumalo, said: “Watching the games at the Fan Fest has been a total bliss, even though Bafana Bafana is out. A lot of people are supporting other teams too. The mood hasn’t changed at all.”
The World Cup has certainly brought a new sense of pride to the people of Durban.
Fatima Dangor, a medical student who has watched four matches at the Fan Fest, is very impressed with the upgrades in her hometown. “It’s much nicer, there’s a wider space to walk, it’s lit and feels safer.
“The World Cup has really uplifted Durban – it has increased tourism, many of the potholes on roads have been filled, and we have a new stadium and a new airport,” said Dangor.
Farnaaz Shaikjee, who has been working at one of the many local food stands run by her mother, agrees. “I think it’s so great. It’s improved the infrastructure for the residents of Durban, infrastructure that won’t be here for just one month.
“Tourists can see what a beautiful city we live in and locals can enjoy it as well.”