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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid