Thousands go crazy for South Africa World Cup team

Wed Jun 9, 2010 9:47am EDT
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By Agnieszka Flak and Diana Neille

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of South Africa fans danced and chanted in the streets of Johannesburg on Wednesday, cheering their team as World Cup excitement reached fever-pitch two days before kick-off.

Clad in yellow shirts, scarves and hats and blowing their loud vuvuzelas, people of all ages joined a public parade to cheer on the team said to have helped unite a country still divided 16 years after the end of apartheid.

"I have never experienced this type of vibe in my life before, not even for the 1994 elections," said Brenda Barratt, a 59-year-old, referring to the country's first democratic vote.

Toddlers, students, construction workers, business executives and some in wheelchairs lined the packed streets to get a glance of their Bafana Bafana players as they trundled through the crowds in an open bus.

"Look at these crowds! This is what reconciliation is all about," said Simon Muthelo, 48, waving his "11 players, 1 heartbeat, 1 trophy" placard.

The cacophony of hooting was echoed across the country as other fans, celebrities and politicians, joined the "United for Bafana" campaign, two days before the team kicks off the one-month tournament in a match against Mexico.

Ranked 83rd in the world and once tipped to be the worst host team yet in the 80-year history of the World Cup, Bafana Bafana surprised critics with a run of 12 unbeaten matches owing to intensive training by wily Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Most say the team have a good chance of at least advancing to the next round after facing Mexico, Uruguay and France in the Group A matches.   Continued...

<p>South Africa's national soccer team "Bafana Bafana" celebrates on the streets of Sandton during a parade in Johannesburg June 9, 2010. The 2010 Soccer World Cup kicks off on June 11 at Soccer City stadium with the match between South Africa and Mexico. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh</p>