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FIFA Fan Parks a Hit In Johannesburg

A dance troope performs near an outdoor FIFA-sponsored fan park in Johannesburg, South Africa

There are many ways to watch World Cup matches in South Africa. The lucky people have tickets to the games. For others, there are cafes and pubs that show the action on television. Also popular are the fan parks in Johannesburg and other cities across South Africa that have been set up by FIFA, the international soccer organization.

There are three in Johannesburg. The one in Newtown, near downtown, is the largest. Fans gathered one afternoon to watch Germany play Serbia on a giant screen.

Local resident Thebe Moabelo said he came to share in the spirit of the World Cup with complete strangers.

"It is so nice. We are watching soccer. I don't even know his name, but I can just say, 'Yo, what is the score my man?' You see that? Don't even got to ask me what my name is," said Moebelo.

Edson Zidana says the crowd makes him feel he is in the stadium.

"Oh, it's always better to watch when there is a big crowd here with everyone around," said Zidana. "Unlike at home, the atmosphere is more conducive. It's more fun when you have it together with other people."

The fan parks have been so popular that shopping malls, sports clubs and public parks have set up fan sites in their neighborhoods. The fan parks also are places to have fun between matches, including a soccer area for kids to practice their moves. There are street performers, such as dance groups, and others that play traditional African music.

Many fan parks also showcase other aspects of African culture. Arts and crafts are particularly popular with visiting fans.

Ester Githinji sells beaded headbands from different parts of South Africa at one of the stalls.

"In South Africa, every color signifies each tribe," said Githinji. "If you look at something like this, these are Swazi."

She also has a collection of handmade African dolls from some of South Africa's nearly two dozen ethnic groups.

"In South Africa there are many tribes. So, the people of Ndebele dress like this. These are their colors, and this is how you can tell this is a Ndebele from a Zulu," said Githinji.

And, of course, there is always plenty of food. One of the most popular dishes is a local sausage called boerewors. Meter-long lengths of it are grilled over open coals then cut into individual-size links.

Victoria Mabayi is cooking another traditional dish, baked bean salad.

"You grate carrots. You fry onion and then you put carrots inside. And then you mix it with baked beans in the can," noted Mabayi.

The main attraction, though, is the football. On this day, Germany suffered a surprise loss to Serbia. After the match the crowd heads for the food stalls. There will be another match soon. In the meantime, the fun continues.