News / Africa

Famous South African Street Rocks Ahead of World Cup Kick Off

Vilakazi Street will be the scene of much celebration as the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa unfolds
Vilakazi Street will be the scene of much celebration as the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa unfolds

Multimedia

Audio

Schoolboys, their disheveled uniforms streaked with dust and faces dripping with sweat, boot a football across the road. Young children saunter along the sidewalk, blowing plastic trumpets, the shrill sound piercing the high, thin air. Vehicles flying the flag of South Africa speed past, hooters blaring, drivers' fists punching the air. Drummers pound out a furious rhythm on their instruments, accompanying a choir that sings "Ke nako, Ke nako" ("it is here") in a local Sotho dialect.

Hordes of foreign football fans from all corners of the globe - from Argentina to Algeria, from Greece to Ghana - look on, and eagerly snap photographs of the unfolding scenes.

With Africa's first football World Cup set to begin, there's a carnival atmosphere in Vilakazi Street. This is South Africa's most famous road, situated in Orlando West in the middle of the country's biggest township, Soweto. Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world to have been home to two former Nobel Peace Prize winners. Both former South Africa president Nelson Mandela and human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu once sheltered here, trying to escape the apartheid police.



Now, with just hours to go before hosts South Africa meet Mexico in the tournament's opening game at nearby Soccer City stadium, Vilakazi Street is packed with football supporters ... And a shadow of its former violent character.

"It's hard to believe that just more than 20 years ago this place was on fire, with apartheid soldiers shooting our people, and us people fighting back with stones and the petrol bombs!" exclaims Orlando West resident Zacharia Moloi. He continues, "Now here we are, hosting the World Cup, with the whole world happy to be in Vilakazi Street! There's a party here now! Life is truly a miracle!"

Bafana are stars

Moloi laughs when asked what he's doing roaming Vilakazi Street in the middle of the day when he should be at work, at a panel beating company across town. "I am here to see all the foreigners like they are here to see me; the relationship is of mutual benefit!" he cackles.

Turning to the World Cup's first game, Moloi says "emotion" will allow South Africa to beat Mexico. "Bafana Bafana [a nickname for the South Africa team] are going to win this game, convincingly - maybe by three goals," he states.

Moloi says South Africa "cannot fail" to win the opening match because "millions of people at home and around the world" are behind Bafana Bafana.

In a side street nearby, 9-year-old Bonginkosi Dlamini is playing amongst rubble remaining from recent renovations in Vilakazi Street. He has no doubt that his beloved South African soccer squad will win the World Cup. "Because they are clever," he smirks.

Dlamini's friend, Thebe Thafeng, says Bafana will first "deal" with Mexico, and then go on to even bigger things. "Ah, it will be nice! We are going to take the World Cup because [South Africa] are skillful ... They're stars - like [midfielder] Simphiwe Tshabalala!"

Mexicans "for breakfast"

As some English football fans cheer from a restaurant balcony overlooking Vilakazi street, Sakhile Nkomo juggles a football theatrically. "We want to prove to everybody that Africa is ready for [World Cup] 2010. It's time. It's here. Feel it," he says.

The young man is especially looking forward to seeing international soccer superstars "in real life - not just on TV. I want to see [Brazilian midfielder] Kaka! I will do anything to see Kaka," Nkomo tells VOA.

He says Bafana's recent friendly results - beating Colombia and Denmark, teams ranked far higher than it - is "total proof" that South Africa's destined to do well in the football extravaganza.

"There will be no favors. We are going to play our normal football and we are going to beat Mexico 2 - 1," Nkomo emphasizes. "After we beat Mexico, we will beat Uruguay and then maybe draw with France [in the group stages]. We will make quarter finals, at least. We will not allow all these world teams to play on our soil, and then we are not there in the later tournament stages ourselves."

Outside the gate of Phefeni Senior Secondary School half way down Vilakazi Street, Hegliece Mazibuko says South Africa's going to "thrash [those Mexicans]; we are going to lash them!" Then, the school caretaker laughs and adds, "Mexico is our breakfast!"

Mazibuko dismisses every neutral's favorite to take the trophy, Brazil, as the most dangerous threat to South Africa. "Brazil is playing the tricky soccer like us but we [unlike the Brazilians] don't jump on top of the ball! We touch that ball! We marinate it!"

He says Bafana are going to "stroke that ball around like it is a baby's bottom! Finesse will win us this World Cup! And when we need power, we also have it, in the form or our deadly quick striker, Katlego Mphela."

Mazibuko is adamant, "The World Cup will remain here in South Africa."

"It's impossible"

But, Zacharia Moloi, as confident as he is of South Africa beating Mexico, maintains that Bafana still aren't good enough to win the tournament.

"We are facing very good teams. Last time around, we didn't even qualify for the African Nations Cup; our domestic teams are failing in the African Champions League; our players don't play in the world's best leagues," Moloi laments.

"Maybe, by some miracle South Africa will make it to the semifinals - but no further," he said. "It's impossible!" Moloi scoffs, when a passerby interjects to suggest that Bafana could lift football's most coveted prize.

"It's between Brazil and Spain to lift the World Cup," he asserts.

But for many South Africans, their country has already triumphed - even if Bafana Bafana fails at the tournament's first hurdle. In less than two decades, the country has risen from being a pariah state, to hosting what could well turn out to be the biggest sporting spectacle ever witnessed.

And South Africans of all generations haven't forgotten their homeland's bitter history … As well as its stark present.

"When I moan that I have no ticket for a World Cup game, my mom reminds me that I have food to eat, while millions of kids in South Africa do not," Nkomo whispers.

"It's only football; it's only a game," he mutters unconvincingly, tossing the ball once more before his scuffed school shoes, and disappearing into the hazy distance.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid