Bafana Bafana fever unifies Afrikaner heartland

Tue Jun 8, 2010 10:45am EDT
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By Angus MacSwan

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (Reuters) - Bloemfontein is a city which honours South Africa's difficult history with pride but its people believe the World Cup will bring a new spirit of reconciliation.

The Free State of which it is the capital is the heartland of the Afrikaners -- better known for their passion for rugby -- and was the main battleground of the 19th Century wars between the Boers and British.

The African National Congress, which led the struggle against apartheid that culminated in Nelson Mandela becoming South Africa's first black president in 1994 -- was founded in the Bloemfontein township of Batho in 1912.

But with days to go before the World Cup gets underway, the usually quiet "City of Roses" is getting ready to enjoy a feast of football.

The lamp posts are decorated with vuvuzelas -- the plastic trumpets beloved of the South Africa fans -- and shop racks are overflowing with yellow replica shirts of the Bafana Bafana national team.

"I feel it here, I'm swimming in the World Cup," said Tseko Motuang, a vendor in a downtown market.

Stall-holders reported a good trade in shirts, wool hats, scarves, flags and vuvuzelas. Customers were both black and white, Tseko said, belying the notion that whites were only interested in rugby and cricket.

Tseko and his friends will get to see South Africa play in Bloemfontein on June 22 when they take on former winners France.   Continued...