Fans give cup kick-off thumps up

BESSIE Mazibuko gave up church for football yesterday to join a stadium of buzzing fans for the kick-off of Bafana Bafana's first Confederations Cup match.

BESSIE Mazibuko gave up church for football yesterday to join a stadium of buzzing fans for the kick-off of Bafana Bafana's first Confederations Cup match.

"I didn't even go to church today - I was so happy to come here," said the clerk while having her face painted with the South African flag for the tournament regarded as a dry run for next year's first African World Cup.

The Soweto resident was one of the first fans to filter into the 52500-seater Ellis Park stadium yesterday amid final touches for the opening ceremony and match kick-off between the hosts and Iraq.

Wearing zany football outfits of refashioned miners helmets and carrying vuvuzelas, the arrival of the opening match after five years of preparation was a proud moment for South Africans.

"It's finally here. It's happening," said Lesego Madingwane, an engineer from Johannesburg.

"This is a curtain raiser for the World Cup - should we get this right, then the World Cup won't be a problem."

Carrying a plastic replica kudo horn, plastered with pictures of South African football stars, Sandrick Mdaka had a hand-sized vuvuzela stuck in his refashioned plastic helmet that fronted a picture of Bafana Bafana midfielder Steven Pienaar.

"It's very important to be seen having a World Cup here. Our country, now, we can see that we are going somewhere."

Despite Bafana Bafana's mixed fortunes on the field, South Africans were optimistically patriotic.

"Bafana Bafana have got a chance," said Solley Mphahlele, a driver from Tembisa. "South Africa is going to win. The cup is going to stay here in South Africa," he said. - Sapa-AFP

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