Tamaryn Smith, media correspondent for Hyundai
The most awaited day in football came with a little extra adrenalin for us, when a friend’s precious ticket was whipped off the car dashboard and out of the open window by the gusting wind as we waved our flags in the festive snake of Soccer City traffic. He, the driver, bailed straight out the vehicle in moments of sheer panic – as did several other empathetic car occupants who dashed around in the wind with him in a frantic search – real SA gees! A little granny pointed to the upside down ticket on the roadside in the nick of time, restoring sanity as we headed on to the great calabash.
Massive character puppets guided our way into the stadium, where we were enveloped by vibrant colour, sombreros, green and gold gees, fever pitch excitement…and ah, the VUVUZELA!
The festivities were definitly not restricted to the stadium. Thousands of fans gathered at Hyundai Park at Suncoast in Durban, just one of three sponsored Hyundai Parks in South Africa.
South Africa’s World Cup chief Danny Jordaan calls this a defining moment in our history, right up there with the release of Nelson Mandela and going to the polls for the first time. The sheer excitement of being part of that moment is now palpable in every vuvuzela blast. Soccer City has become the holding pen for the world’s biggest vuvuzela orchestra, ready to spur on Bafana Bafana, the only team who is accustomed to the constant background roar.
Festive fans are gathering at the Hyundai Parks set up at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, Suncoast Casino in Durban and the Italian Club in Johannesburg, which are set to be filled to capacity. Lucky fans in Joburg and Cape Town will win the opportunity to be whisked off in the Hyundai Fan Van to the actual games today, and we wait to hear who they’ll be.
Hyundai Park at the V&A was packed with football fans for the opening match.
The festitivities at Hyundai Park at the Italian Club in Bedfordview.
Hyundai has already brought a group of South African children to experience the excitement as part of their FIFA Ticket Fund initiative and we see the excited group in the stands. Hyundai is partnering with Lapdesk to give vital desks and tickets to the games to children all over the country. Today, the faces of the 20 children from Othandweni Childrens Home are beaming with joy at being part of this once in a lifetime experience. “Its great to be here, we feel very special,” says young Erashma Zefanias from
Othandweni Childrens Home enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Opening Ceremony
. Othandweni manager Phineas Phiti says, “This is fantastic. It really is an opportunity of a lifetime. Through Hyundai, we managed to see and experience this. The kids are so happy.”
The historic opening ceremony kicks off with polite requests to hold back on blowing so the performers including R Kelly and the Soweto Spiritual Singers, legendary Hugh Masekela, Nigerian star Femi Kuti, Algeria’s Khaled, and South Africa’s own Hip Hop Pantsula could be heard as they perform with 1,581 others to make the opening ceremony a memorable display. Unfortunately, the request itself couldn’t be heard above the already non-stop trumpeting!
Praise poet Zolani Mkhiva is a powerful, singular image of the spirit of Africa in the middle of the field, and he is answered by a group of drummers sending thrilling goosebumps through the crowd with “The Calling.”
The Mama Africas who line up in the directions of all the other stadiums provide a spectacular display, no perfectly synchronised movements here – but round, warm, natural African energy and exhuberance that beams a welcome to the world.
Next – “It’s Africa’s time to shine” resonates through the stadium. A giant Dung Beetle rolls a huge blow up football, reminiscent of the Hyundai Goodwill Balls that have been collecting messages in all the participating nations. South Africa’s Timothy Moloi performs a stirring rendition of the anthem “Hope”, replacing opera singer Siphiwo Ntshebe, who in a cruel twist of fate lost his life to meningitis before having his opportunity to take a World Cup stage.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu doesn’t seem to have stopped dancing since he entertained the world at the opening concert, and cameras zone in on him doing the Tutu rock clad head to toe in Bafana gear as TKZee and Hip Hop Pantsula sing “Shibobo.”
Femi Kuti delivers for Africa, followed R Kelly singing “Sign Of A Victory” with the Soweto Spiritual Singers in dazzling silver garb as national flags flash.
Sepp Blatter and Jacob Zuma, the dignitaries of the day, come onto the pitch with the words “The spirit of Mandela is in Soccer City.” Sadly, in a tragic development, Nelson Mandela’s great grand-daughter, Zenani Mandela, was killed in a car crash on Thursday night. The great leader, who has played a massive role in bringing the tournament to our shores, was understandably not able to attend. President Jacob Zuma conveys his message, “The game must begin, enjoy the game.”
Zuma then officially opens the 19th World Cup as the vuvuzelas rise to a deafening crescendo. TV cameras beam images of dancing fans with their SA style oversize glasses, African garb and Makarapa hats out to the world. It’s going to be tough to select the Hyundai Fan of the Match with everyone in the stadium in high spirited contention.
In the first half, the Mexicans repeatedly prove that tequila is not their only shooter with repeated strikes on goal. None find their mark though, thanks to Mexican misses and some brilliant work by goalie Khune who will surely dive and deflect his way into football legend. South Africa seems to be very narrowly holding on, with a real feeling amongst the press contingent near me that a Mexican goal is imminent. Stats are being shared – Mexico have played the opening match of the World Cup on four occasions, losing three and drawing one. Also, no host nation has ever failed to get beyond the group, nor lost their opening game!
Bafana Bafana is repeatedly giving the ball to the Mexicans as the sombreros in the crowd nod and pitch with delight. What seems to be the first goal of the match is nullified as Vela is offside. PHEW! The Mexicans are rattled and the next header shot at goal is way off.
The sheer decibel level of thousands upon thousands of vuvuzelas being blown with abandon was certainly leaving a lasting impression on the contingent of international journalists around me who were trying to hear themselves think. By the second half seemed to be taking its toll on the Mexicans and they jog out of the tunnel steely-faced. They’re having the opposite effect on Bafana Bafana and they stream out in a far more attacking mood. I’m certainly missing the loud affection of the boooooo sound for popular player Booth and hope to see him start in later games.
There is far more movement into South Africa’s half now and excitement reaches fever pitch as it’s South Africa’s turn for striking opportunities and the hosts start tackling and retaining possession far better than the first half.
LADUUUUUUUUUMA! South Africa score and it’s a legendary shot from Tshabalala in the top corner! Game on! Bafana Bafana then miss two glorious opportunities to score another through Modise.
The Mexicans take it and finally score in the second half. Bafana boys are still hanging on beautifully though and dancing around the battle-weary Mexicans until the nail-biting final minute where a powerful strike from Mphela cruelly hits the post. AHHHHHHH!
The final whistle blows at 1-1, with Khune, Tshabalala and Pienaar in particular now truly registering on global football radars and earning their green and gold host team a true place as serious contenders. Soccer City disgorges happy fans who stream out dancing and yes….still blowing those Vuvuzelas. South African and Mexican fans are backslapping and happily clustering together for those memorable group pics.
All in all, the opening delivered a memorable experience in the brand new stadium, and with France and Uruguay ending in a 0-0 draw last night in Cape Town, Bafana Bafana’s chances just got better.
Hyundai – we bring the teams, you bring the gees!