News / Africa

Nigerian Fans Catch World Cup Fever in Johannesburg

Nigerian fans parade through the Hillsborough neighborhood of Johannesburg before their team's first game in the World Cup tournament.
Nigerian fans parade through the Hillsborough neighborhood of Johannesburg before their team's first game in the World Cup tournament.

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Jeff Swicord

World Cup Fever has taken over the city of Johannesburg.  Pubs and restaurants are filled with fans watching the matches.  But the atmosphere is even more electric when an African team is playing.  We spent the day recording the sights and sounds of Johannesburg's Nigerian community as they watched the Nigerian team take on Argentina in the first round.  

As Nigeria and Argentina prepare to meet on the Pitch, an impromptu pre-match parade through the streets of Hillsborough, the heart of Johannesburg's Nigerian community.

This World Cup has special significance for the people of Hillsborough.  It is the first on African soil.

Philip, who is on his way to the stadium told us having the World Cup in Africa is one of the greatest moments of his life. "I spend money to buy my ticket and I will be the happiest person to go to the stadium today and watch the football and see my brothers there," he said.

Despite football being the most popular sport in Africa, ticket sales across the continent have been less than expected.  Many told us, even here in Johannesburg, it is difficult to get a ticket.  We met Prince, the Secretary of the Nigerian Union in South Africa at a Nigerian pub in Yoeville. "I think there should be another system of getting tickets sold to people.  It is not that easy, you know what I am saying," he said.

For those who cannot get a ticket, pubs like this one are the venue of choice.  Here at the The Green House, the party started early, and the drink was flowing freely.  That made for some unusual predictions from the crowd.  Charles Umeh was among them. "We know already that Nigeria has won, we are just looking for the replay," he said.

The crowd breaks into a Nigerian folk song as the teams come out to the pitch.

Nigeria gets off to a good start and almost scores.

But a few minutes later, Argentina answers with a goal.

By half-time, the mood in pub has grown somber.  Some, like Ike, are hopeful.  He remembers what happened when the two teams met at the Atlanta Olympics. "They were one goal up, we still come back.  They give them penalty or controversial penalty, we still come back and later we win the match," he said.

This time it was not to be.  Argentina holds on to win.

It was a tough night for Nigeria on the pitch, but a good time to be a football fan in Johannesburg.  This party goes on late into the night.  There will be more matches tomorrow.

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