14 June 2010
It was all systems go in Rustenburg on Saturday night as football’s version of the American Revolution played out in front of nearly 48 000 fans at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
While England squared off against the USA on the pitch, in the stands it was a contest between the two biggest packs of travelling fans to the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The USA leads the pack in terms of international ticket sales, with 142 000 tickets sold for the tournament, followed in a close second by the United Kingdom with 104 000 tickets sold.
On Saturday, the Royal Bafokeng Stadium and the town of Rustenburg were awash with the red and white of St Georges Cross and the red white and blue of the American flag.
Old rivalries might have been renewed on the football pitch, but in the pubs and bars of Rustenburg new friendships were being made. Fans were heard learning to speak Setswana (the local language) and how to blow a vuvuzela.
And the word dumela – Sestwana for “hello” – was among the most common phrases to be heard.
‘People here are so warm and friendly’
For Alex Zakipour, 14, the World Cup is the beginning of greater things. It is his first World Cup and his first visit in Africa.
“I am here with my father and we have been here for a week. This country is so great. I visited places like Soweto, where I was at Maponya Mall, and I also saw the house of the former President of this country, Nelson Mandela.
“People here are so warm and friendly,” said Alex. “I thought the welcome was reserved for Johannesburg only, but I am surprised with the welcoming we received here in Rustenburg.
“We are here until next week Tuesday and I am enjoying every moment. After this experience, I will not miss the next World Cup”.
‘I want to come back next time’
Another excited fan was a five-year-old Tre Scherz from Leeds in England. Dressed in red and white, she could not hide her excitement.
“The food here is perfect and I am having fun,” said Tre. “I am here with my father and my grandmother, and we are having fun. We travel a lot and meet people. I want to come back next time.”
The local language might have been popular, but it was the Rustenburg food and drink at the PH Network Cafe outside the stadium that attracted England and USA fans Daniel Dade, Christine Drysdale, and Helen and Gerry Kane.
“The World Cup in South Africa made us to meet,” said Drysdale. “I am very happy I met Gerry and Helen. They are very nice people and we are going to visit them in the States. People in Rustenburg are very friendly and I am enjoying my stay. We had a braai (barbeque) and made a few friends from Portugal, South Africa, United States and even Botswana.”
‘The opposite of what I read in the media’
Teri Dukel from Cincinnati in the United States had the privilege of doing something for less privileged South Africans when she donated school uniforms to needy learners in Soweto.
“I am happy I have done something for some people,” Dukel said. “We bought school uniforms for some learners. We moved around and identified a school where we asked for names of children who might need some assistance.
“People in South Africa are friendly and I can’t believe what I was reading in the media is actually the opposite of what is happening here,” said Dukel.
Rustenbug residents were equally excited to have so many guests in their city.
Tshepo Pule had a chance to braai with Stephen Clark and Matt Henry from England.
“These guys are so amazing,” said Pule. “Rustenburg is buzzing with red, white and blue. This is a moment I will never forget.
“I have been teaching them some Setswana words like ‘dumela’ (hello), ‘ke a leboga’ (thank you), ‘dijo’ (food), and ‘tsamaya sentle’ (go well). It is a great privilege to have these two top countries in our village. They are friendly, and we are taking care of them.”