COLUMBIA — It was a long-awaited day for many South Africans. The first World Cup to be held in Africa began Friday morning.
Naphtali Mokgalapa, an MU graduate student from Pretoria, South Africa, said he was excited about the 2010 South Africa World Cup.
“It’s like history,” Mokgalapa said. “For me, it’s amazing to host the World Cup in my lifetime. It’s also for Africa as a whole.”
At about 8:30 a.m., soccer fans from seven different countries started to gather at The Blue Fugue to watch the opening game, South Africa versus Mexico.
Mokgalapa, wearing a South African jersey, was with two of his friends from Turkey and Peru to share the historic moment. The South African flag was pinned around his shoulders to show his support for the country.
“Soccer is like life in South Africa, like in Brazil,” Mokgalapa said. “It unites people and helps us forget about troubles in our country.”
When Mokgalapa heard South Africa’s national anthem on TV, he sang along, holding the flag. He wished he were back home celebrating the “biggest sporting event in the world, maybe in the galaxy.”
“It would’ve been crazy with more people and more shouting,” Mokgalapa said.
Among the excited fans was MU professor Mamadou Badiane from Senegal. Although Senegal didn’t qualify for the tournament, Badiane came to watch the opening game. Badiane said he wants to support all of the participating African teams, and he said he hopes Senegal will become the second country to host the World Cup in Africa.
Eight Mexican soccer fans also joined the watch party. They were dressed in the colors of their national flag: green, white and red. One of them wore a sombrero.
During the first half, they couldn’t take their eyes off the screen. They called their favorite players’ names and some reacted as energetically as the players.
When South Africa’s Siphiwe Tshabalala's scored after his flashy dribbling, Mokgalapa waved the national flag over his head. He cheered as if he were part of the South African audience at the stadium in Johannesburg.
Mexican fans seemed disappointed.
“I’m sad because we are losing,” Elmer Jimenez from Mexico said after the first goal.
Besides their immediate reaction to the South African players’ fouls, they remained silent during most of the second half until Mexico’s Rafael Marquez scored an equalizer goal 12 minutes before the end.
They put arms around each others' shoulders and started to shout, “Mexico, Mexico, Mexico.” It was their turn to wave their national flag.
Mokgalapa said he didn’t understand how the two South African players were unable to stop Marquez. South Africa’s offside trap went wrong, he added.
Mexican fans became excited about the game, but it ended with no more drama. South Africa and Mexico tied 1-1.
“I wanted Mexico to win today,” Victor Cruz from Mexico said. He said he feels sad because it was the opening game.
The fans left the bar, hoping (their respective teams would win the upcoming games.
“We still have two more games to win,” Mokgalapa said.
South Africa will play against Uruguay on Thursday, and Mexico will play against France on June 18.