Cel­e­brat­ing a World Cup days be­fore kick-off is a global first

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES - SAMEER NAIK

THE FOOT­BALLING world watched in awe as tens of thou­sands of South Africans gath­ered to show their sup­port for Bafana Bafana this week.

Sand­ton, the fi­nan­cial heart of Joburg, came to a stand­still as fans thronged the streets. The scene was repli­cated across the city and across the coun­try, from Au­gra­bies to Zeerus as fans of all sizes and shapes, hues and creeds put on their sup­port­ers’ kit and came out at noon to blow their vu­vuze­las and sound their hoot­ers in an un­prece­dented show of sup­port for the team and ex­cite­ment about the World Cup.

Now an­a­lysts are tip­ping South Africa to host the most suc­cess­ful World Cup the world has ever wit­nessed.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2010 Score­card, which is an in-depth anal­y­sis of world cup prepa­ra­tions, South Africa has ex­ceeded all ex­pec­ta­tions thus far and has al­ready leapt past Ger­many in terms of prepa­ra­tions and ex­cite­ment.

Dr Niko­laus Eberl, 2010 an­a­lyst and CEO of Brando­va­tion, said the week’s cel­e­bra­tion had sent shock­waves through­out the world.

“The cel­e­bra­tions on Wed­nes­day were to­tally un­prece­dented. Never be­fore have the host coun­try’s fans ever cel­e­brated be­fore kick-off. We were shocked at what had un­folded through­out the coun­try,” said Eberl.

He added that ahead of Ger­many’s World Cup in 2006 very lit­tle ex­cite­ment was cre­ated.

“In Ger­many there was a damp­ened mood. It was very dif­fer­ent com­pared to SA. Peo­ple were anx­ious, moody and were very un­happy with the na­tional team’s per­for­mance,” he said.

Eberl added that the only time that the nation had come to­gether was af­ter Ger­many had passed the group stages.

“Only eight per­cent of fans backed their na­tional team so there was no vibe at all com­pared to that of South Africa. Peo­ple be­gan be­liev­ing in their team once they passed the group stages – be­fore that peo­ple were more anx­ious than ever,” said Eberl.

“South Africans showed the world that they can host a tourna- ment of any scale. It shows how much lo­cals care about their coun­try and how proud they were, it was fan­tas­tic and came as a shock to many of us,” he added.

Not only have the cel­e­bra­tions and ex­cite­ment spurred on Bafana Bafana, but Eberl said Fifa were back­ing the na­tional team now more than ever.

“Fifa have now come to be­lieve that the host team can get very far in the tour na­ment. They have wit­nessed the en­tire coun­try back­ing Bafana Bafana and they now have ex­tra faith in the team,” said Eberl.

Coach Car­los Al­berto Par­reira also won the world body’s ap­proval.

“Fifa have so much be­lief in Bafana be­cause Car­los has led them to a 13-game un­beaten streak,” said Eberl.

Ger­many’s open­ing cer­e­mony was a com­plete dis­as­ter at the start of the tour­na­ment.

“Fifa were forced to cut down the open­ing cer­e­mony for the 2006 World Cup to only half an hour be­cause they feared the grass would burn. Franz Beck­en­bauer was also dis­al­lowed from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the open­ing cer­e­mony and it was a dis­as­ter,” said Eberl.

“Fans booed Sepp Blat­ter when he came out to speak and pro­duc­tion had to be halted dur­ing the open­ing. Fans were also dis­ap­pointed that they could not drink Ger­man beer in the sta­dium so it was a dis­as­ter,” he added.

Eberl be­lieves SA is on the right track to host the most suc­cess­ful tour na­ment wit­nessed.

“South Africa shocked the world, and showed ev­ery­body that the coun­try can host a suc­cess­ful tour­na­ment. The World Cup is a cat­a­lyst for na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and lo­cals have come to­gether to prove all dis­be­liev­ers wrong,” said Eberl.

He be­lieves that the to­geth­er­ness seen this week would unite South Africans for the rest of their lives.

“Thirty-one days of na­tional eu­pho­ria are more than enough to change the be­hav­iour of all South Africans. Over the course of the World Cup South Africans will grow even closer and it will have last­ing ef­fects well af­ter the World Cup,” said Eberl.

“We are pretty cer­tain that South

the

world

has Africa will host the best World Cup ever held,” he said.

Mean­while Bafana coach Car­los Al­berto Par­reira voiced his con­cer ns over Wed­nes­day’s cel­e­bra­tions, call­ing them a dis­trac­tion.

The Brazil­ian told Su­perS­port that the pa­rade had the po­ten­tial to dis­tract his play­ers and did not send the right mes­sage, with some peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing as if South Africa had won the World Cup.

“I have never seen some­thing like this in my life,” Par­reira, a vet­eran of eight World Cups, said.

“We do not need this two days be­fore a big match.”

So concerned was the Bafana coach that he barred play­ers from tak­ing part in the open-bus pa­rade, usu­ally re­served for vic­tors.

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