Uruguay urged "Go Forward" by bewitched Kimberley
When the Uruguayan squad left their hotel in Kimberley to head for the World Cup quarter-final with Ghana in Johannesburg, staff and guards at the gate bid them farewell singing "Shosholoza".
South Africa: When the Uruguayan squad left their hotel in Kimberley to head for the World Cup quarter-final with Ghana in Johannesburg, staff and guards at the gate bid them farewell singing "Shosholoza".
It is an old South African rail-gang song that has been adopted by soccer and rugby fans and urges: "Go Forward, Go Forward".
The gesture was all the more poignant as not only did Uruguay trounce hosts South Africa earlier in the tournament but they take on the sole surviving African side in Friday`s match.
Indeed, there has been an air of romance about Uruguay`s whole South African adventure led by former schoolteacher Oscar "El Maestro" Tabarez.
The glory days when they won the World Cup in 1930 and 1950 are distant memories. The small nation of three million people has long been overshadowed in sporting and other fields by its giant neighbours Brazil and Argentina.
Now La Celeste have a chance of reaching the last four for the first time in 40 years while powers like Portugal, France, Italy and England have fallen by the wayside.
"We are following the instructions of coach Tabarez and we are confident we can reach the semi-finals and give joy to our people," striker Diego Forlan said on the eve of departure from their Kimberley base camp.
Forlan, now 31, has been a key part in Uruguay`s success, scoring two goals and forming a good partnership with Luis Suarez, who has netted three.
Uruguay can also count on a robust defence marshalled by Diego Lugano that has given away only one goal in four games. The backline will be without the injured Diego Godin and Tabarez has summoned Mauricio Victorino as his replacement.
The gritty warrior spirit that has served Uruguay well in the past was exemplified by yet another Diego, this one Perez, known as "The Russian", who gashed his brow against South Korea but played on with a bandaged head and a bloodied shirt.
Perez was not getting carried away by the excitement and said Uruguay must still lift their game to beat the strong, swift Ghana in Soccer City.
"We really suffered (against the Koreans), we really had a lot of problems and it is imperative that we improve a lot if we are to qualify for the semi-finals," Perez said.
Still, in training this week, the squad looked in high spirits, joking and joshing with each other.
Should Uruguay reach the semi-final, they could face Brazil if their fellow South Americans beat the Netherlands.
That would inevitably lead to talk of 1950, when Uruguay beat a superconfident Brazil in Rio de Janeiro to win the World Cup -- a result that still hurts Brazilians old enough to remember it.
A small group of Kimberley residents waved farewell to the Uruguayans from across the road as the bus left the hotel on Wednesday evening for the airport, the players clutching flasks of traditional "matte" tea.
The mining city and the squad have clearly bonded.
Charmaine Visser, manager of the Victorian Guest House, was wearing a sky-blue Uruguay scarf given to her by coach Tabarez when they met.
Hair salon owner Philinda Golden said she had trimmed Forlan`s blond locks during his stay.
"The country is supporting Ghana, because they are African, but in this city, everyone is for Uruguay," Philinda said.