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African Football Fans Celebrate Opening Day of Confederations Cup

In South Africa, about 50,000 football fans Sunday packed a stadium in Johannesburg to celebrate the opening of the Confederations Cup. Millions more also gathered in cafes, restaurants and homes to watch.

South African fans groaned in disappointment as their team came close to marking a goal against rival Iraq, but could not score on several opportunities.

The match ended in a nil-nil draw leaving some fans disappointed.

But not so Saddam Maake, who bills himself as the number-one fan of the South African team. Dressed from head to foot in team colors of yellow and green and sporting an outlandish hat and oversize glasses, Maake believes his team can go all the way to the finals.

"I would like to see my team, South Africa, meet Italy or Brazil in the final, because that would be a marvelous one [game]. But we must try to support our players, to encourage them, cheer them and [at] the end of the day we will be the winner," said Maake.

Fans from many other African countries also shared in the excitement. Timo Bashiya, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said the first Confederations Cup to be held in Africa was a source of pride for all Africans.

"You now we have been waiting for this event for more than four years, for the first time happening in Africa," said Bashiya. "So this is the moment. Believe it or not. It is happening today."

Host South Africa and World Cup champion Italy are playing the winners of the six continental cups: Brazil, Spain, Iraq, Egypt, New Zealand and the United States.

Musa Abubakar, from the Ivory Coast, says during this tournament all Africans feel they are South African.

"All of us, we are part of South Africa. And I think the South Africans are going to give us the best and are going to show us the best football. And we think, we hope, that South Africa is going to win, win that cup," he said.

The football world governing body, FIFA, announced four years ago that the Confederations Cup and the much larger World Cup would be staged in South Africa. The government has been building or refurbishing 10 stadiums, expanding the transportation network and building additional hotel space.

Organizers have also had to counter persistent concerns about security. But Musa Ali, from Zanzibar, Tanzania, said that after opening day it is clear that these concerns were unfounded.

"The preparation was good. Everything, I think, is OK. The stadium, you can see, it was cool. Everybody was happy. People they were scared about crime, but everything is under control. People are walking freely to the hotels," said Ali. "They are coming outside, no problem, doing their shopping as usual, exploring. Everything is under control."

The first round of the tournament is to be completed by Sunday. The top four teams that emerge will then compete in elimination matches leading to the final, one week later.