South Africans in joyous mood as Cup opens

Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:21pm EDT
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By Helen Popper

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - From Table Mountain to Soweto, the pulsating chants of traditional songs and the blasting of plastic horns sounded the start of the first World Cup to be held on African soil on Friday.

At least three people were hurt in a crush at the start of a live broadcast of the tournament's opening game at a viewing site for fans in Johannesburg, witnesses said, but the mood at dozens of fan parks across the vast country was generally joyful.

Fans kept on blowing their vuvuzela horns even after a Mexican equalizer held the host nation to a 1-1 draw in the opening match and a torrential downpour was not enough to dampen spirits in the city of Bloemfontein.

"It has united the nation ... the Rainbow Nation has gathered together," said 36-year-old teacher Disebo as she joined in the chorus in the usually quiet city, which lies in the country's Afrikaner heartland.

As almost 85,000 fans with tickets watched the opener at the showpiece Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, many more got into the party mood in their home cities.

Massive television screens were set up in dozens of fan parks to make sure ordinary South Africans could Bafana Bafana (The Boys) take on Mexico. Other supporters packed into bars and cafes.

"A draw is better than a loss so there's still hope to be top of the group ... the country's spirit is what it's all about," said Shaun Jooste, 30, who watched the game in a bar in Johannesburg's business district.

Two boys and a girl were hurt at one downtown fan park in the city as fans surged forward at the start of the game, pushing over a security fence, witnesses said.   Continued...

<p>Spectators react during a public screening of the opening match of the 2010 World Cup in Motherwell township outside Port Elizabeth June 11, 2010. REUTERS/Howard Burditt</p>