A cold reception for South Africa?
There are whispered rumours swirling around the South African capital regarding tomorrow night's match between the hosts and Uruguay at Loftus-Versfeld Stadium. Concerns exist that the hordes of Bafana Bafana supporters who turned out in the Soccer City sunshine for Friday afternoon's World Cup curtain-raiser will refuse to brave the forecasted below-zero degree temperatures to cheer on their side once more in the second match of the African nation's campaign.
Early indicators suggest the speculation is just that: speculation. Fifa have reported the match is sold out and local newspapers are claiming the nearby OR Tambo Airport is, this afternoon, expecting an influx of internal flights that will "bring thousands of fans together from across the country".
However, world football's governing body is already investigating why a large, visible section of 800 seats at Friday's opening match in Soweto remained empty, while stewards' strikes in Cape Town and Durban and train drivers' protests in Johannesburg are causing logistical problems.
The attendance at the 42,000-capacity stadium in Tshwane tomorrow night will go a long way in confirming exactly how loyal this country is to their national side. The euphoria and ecstasy that followed the South African midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala's opening strike against Mexico last week was tempered only by Rafael Marquez's late equaliser.
The vuvuzelas fell silent for a second as the Bafana fans exhaled in angst, but moments later the chants and cheering returned - make no mistake, the belief that Carlos Alberto Parreira's side can safely negotiate the group stages is less pipe dream and more genuine faith.
Unbeaten in 13 matches, the team has experienced a frantic turnaround from laughing stocks to national heroes and Parreira is determined to prolong the patriotic party. The Brazilian believes four points would successfully secure their progress to Round Two, meaning victory over their South American opponents should turn the capital into a carnival. His goal-scoring midfielder agrees.
"A win against Uruguay will virtually seal our passage into the second round and make the nation even prouder," Tshabalala said. "They have been behind us all the way and we need to repay them by getting through to the second round."
Published: June 15, 2010 04:00 AM