Fan zones frozen out as African teams disappoint

Updated: Jun 19, 2010, 00:24 AM IST

Johannesburg: Freezing weather and disappointing results for South Africa have left fan zones deserted across Johannesburg this week in stark contrast to the last World Cup in Germany four years ago.

Last week, the parks boasting massive screens showing matches across South Africa`s largest city were heaving with fans some of whom had travelled up to eight hours to "feel it", partying all night with vuvuzela horns blasting and testing the nerves of nearby residents.

But one week into the tournament, a cold spell of weather added to a disappointing defeat by South Africa to Uruguay on Wednesday have left only a few dozen die-hard believers, wrapped up warm and huddled together braving the outdoor parks where temperatures have hovered around zero degrees.

"South Africa is not doing so well, nor are the other African teams," said Ndumiso Mdlongwa, a 28-year-old waiter.

"This is why there`s less people."

In 2006 when the finals were held in Germany, tens of thousands of fans partied deep into the night throughout the country in the fanzones which proved massively popular and an enduring memory from the tournament.

Bitter Taste

Livingstone Galeta came from Malawi to the World Cup and said his favourites South Africa did not just lose to Uruguay, they were thrashed 3-0, which left a bitter taste.

"There was not even a consolation goal from Bafana Bafana that would have offered us some hope," he said.

South Africa`s World Cup organising committee spokesman Rich Mkhondo said he was sure fans would continue to support the competition.

"South Africans will remain good hosts and we urge them to do so until the end of the tournament," he said.

The six African teams in the competition have failed to capitalise on huge support from the host fans and many fear a country from the continent may not make it into the last 16, which would devastate fans.

Algeria lost apparently their easiest group match against Slovenia, Cameroon were defeated by Japan and Nigeria gave Greece the gift of their first World Cup goal and win.

"We just need one big African win to get the party going again," said Jon Lebro, 24, adding he had high hopes for Ghana`s Saturday match against Australia in Rustenburg.

In some fan zones, volunteers and staff outnumbered those enjoying the soccer and half-time music. Even for Nigeria`s match a day earlier, few made it out to support their African brothers.

"If an African team got to the final, this place would be unrecognisable -- completely full," said translator Kelvin Aku.

But some are still optimistic Africa`s luck could turn. "The ball is round and it can roll anywhere," soccer fan William Radebe said with a wink.

Bureau Report