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Confederations Cup Highlights Exuberance of South Africa Football Fans


Millions of people have followed football's Confederations Cup in South Africa. The first such Cup to be played on African soil it is considered a warm-up for the World Cup next year, which is expected to draw an estimated 400,000 foreign fans for what is promising to be a truly African experience. One aspect of this experience is the enthusiasm of the South African football fan.

South African football fans are among the most exuberant in the world. For them a match is a party and, win or lose, they celebrate with song, dance and noise.

Saddam Maake bills himself as the number-one football supporter of the South African team. He attends most of the games, dressed from head to toe in the team colors of yellow and green. He also sports a large hat with images of football players and their names on it and he wears oversize yellow glasses.

"I like soccer," said Saddam Maake. "I am a soccer slave. I drink soccer, sleep soccer, eat soccer. That is why I love soccer."

Among fans who like to dress up a favorite accessory is the Makarapa. It is made from a "hard hat" used in the mines and worked into elaborate headdresses.

Alfred Baloyi is an artist and football fanatic. He made the first Makarapa 30 years ago after he saw a fan hit on the head by a bottle thrown during a match.

"When I go to the stadium I wear it to save my head," said Alfred Baloyi. "So when days go on [as time goes by] I paint it. I go to the stadium. When I am there, the people they like it."

The hats became so popular that he began selling them. Over time they became more elaborate. Now, Baloyi carves images out of the plastic shell. He bends them over an open fire so that they stick up. And he paints them according to the client's particular team colors.

They sell for $20 to $80 and some of the more elaborate Makarapa's look like peacock's tails on top of their owners' heads.

Baloyi makes the hats at his home in a shanty town outside Johannesburg. He can make up to three hats a day. His designs are also used by a group of 25 artists who produce 2,000 hats a month for clients around the world.

A special dance has been created for the Cup. It is called the Diski, local slang for football. A mix of hip-hop and line dancing, it mimics the moves by soccer players on the field.

Another football fixture, the Vuvuzela or stadium horn, is more controversial. It is a long, plastic trumpet that plays a single note.

Some players and TV announcers have complained about the horns, which from a distance sound like a hive of angry bees. The critics say they are distracting and want them banned from the World Cup.

World Cup organizer Rich Mkhondo says officials will examine the issue, but adds the horns are part of the African football experience.

"We, in the organizing committee of the World Cup in South Africa, regard the Vuvuzela as a symbol of our celebration, whether in a party mood or in any celebratory mood," said Rich Mkhondo. "We hope that any discussion on Vuvuzelas will actually reach a conclusion that they remain as part of our culture and part of our celebrations."

The head of the world football governing body, FIFA's Sepp Blatter, agrees. He says foreign teams must get used to the Vuvuzela because they are part of the South African experience.

Many foreign fans say they like the horns because they celebrate football which in Africa means making noise.

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