News / Africa

Win or Lose, African Fans Celebrate Africa World Cup

World Cup Fever has taken over South Africa.  Pubs and restaurants across the country are filled with fans watching the matches.  But the atmosphere is even more electric when an African team is playing. Members of Johannesburg's Nigerian community are enjoying the tournament.

Nigerian football fans, many dressed from head to toe in their green and white national colors, staged an impromptu parade through the streets of Hillbrow, central Johannesburg, before their football team's match against Argentina (Friday).

Thousands of Nigerians live and work in South Africa, far from their families.  But, when they get together, the food, the music and the conversation make it feel like home.

This World Cup has special significance here.  It is the first football World Cup on African soil.  And, because host South Africa was automatically qualified, six African teams are participating for the first time in history.

This is giving African fans a lot to cheer about.

Philip, who did not give his last name, was on his way to the stadium.  He says seeing 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.

Nearly three million tickets have been sold to the 64 matches being played in nine cities.

Eighty-five percent of the tickets were sold to people living in South Africa.  But ticket sales in other African countries were lower than expected.

The secretary of the Nigerian Union in South Africa, Prince Adesina, speaking at a café in nearby Yeoville, said the system was too complicated.

"It's very, very strenuous. I think there should be another system of getting these tickets sold to people. It is not all that easy," he said.

FIFA, the world football association, marketed most of the tickets on its web site, saying this would make them available to people everywhere.

But many people in Africa do not have access to computers or do not have the bank credit card needed to buy products through the web.

Toward the end, FIFA did sell tickets over the counter in some South African cities and demand was high.  But, for many, it was too late.

Others said that even the cheapest ticket, about $20 and available only in South Africa, was too much for their budget.

But those who could not get a ticket still celebrated in the fan parks, on the streets and in the cafes and pubs.

On the night of Nigeria's first World Cup match, the party started early at the Green House pub.  The drinks flowed freely.

That made for some ambitious predictions from fans like Charles Umah.

"We know that already Nigeria has won the game.  We are just looking for the replay of the game," he said.

As the teams came out onto the pitch, the crowd sang a Nigerian song. And, when Nigeria nearly scored, pandemonium broke out.

But Argentina scored a few minutes later and held on to win by a score of 1-0.

Although the mood was dampened somewhat, Adesina said it still was a wonderful experience.  He said African fans should come together and root for the African teams.

"When Ivory Coast is playing I'm going to be on [wearing] Ivory Coast jersey.  I'm going to support all the African teams.  And, we want to make sure that the cup is retained in Africa," he said.

He said such unity would be one of the legacies of the World Cup.

The loss did not stop the party. The celebrations continued into the early morning hours. For, although it was a tough night for Nigeria on the pitch (playing field), it was still a good time football fans in South Africa.

And all agreed that, with nearly one month to go before the final on July 11, there will be many more opportunities for their teams to score and for fans to celebrate Africa's World Cup.

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