In the stands, World Cup unites African fans

Rustenburg: Ghana`s fans all
wore red, yellow and green and waved the national flag as the
team took on Australia, but they spoke different languages and
came from countries across Africa.

At Rustenburg`s World Cup stadium, African fans said they
felt united by football and eager to cheer for a team from the
continent to take the trophy. So far, Ghana has about the best
chance of making it to the next round, after defeating Serbia
and drawing against Australia.

"This is my first time in this country and I love it,"
said Newman Odartia Mills, from Odokor in Ghana, who has been
on a three-month spiritual retreat in South Africa.

"This Cup honestly has united us as Africans. I am
surprised to see many people to support Ghana, people I can
tell are not Ghanaian," he said, dancing with four friends and
blowing vuvuzelas.

He drove seven hours from Durban to see the Black Stars,
the only African team to register a win so far.

South African Miriam Nkele came to the game wearing her
national Bafana Bafana jersey, but with Ghana`s flag painted
on her cheeks.

"I support my continent. These are my brothers and
sisters, I must support them. My only hope is that at least
two (African) teams must progress to the second round," she

Despite the enthusiasm in the stands, Mills said more
could have been done to promote the World Cup in Ghana.

"There was no marketing, no special packages advertised,
tickets nothing," he said. "Also I don`t understand why
everything was done over the Internet, knowing very well most
Africans don`t have access."

World Cup boss Danny Jordaan raised that very issue with
FIFA, as ticket sales to African fans fell well below
projections -- a fact blamed on the Internet-only sales scheme
on a continent where half the population doesn`t even have

"We want this World Cup to be an African World Cup, and
yet so far all the African teams involved are not coming to
the party," said Jordaan.

About 40,000 tickets were sold to fans from the rest of
the continent, of the roughly three million up for sale,
according to Rich Mkhondo, spokesman for the local organising

But after Ghana beat Serbia 1-0 last weekend, South
African Airways had to increase its flights from Accra to meet
the demand, with four chartered flights each carrying 350

"We had an increase in demand for flights, especially for
charter flights, and had to upgrade some of our airplanes to
bigger ones," said airline spokesman Fani Zulu.

And ticket sales on the continent can be misleading, as
many African fans came from the diaspora in Europe or North

"I wouldn`t miss it for anything, I planned and saved for
this trip," said Michael Ankobia, a 30-year-old mechanical
engineer from Ghana but working in London.

Egyptian Tadesse Bekele, who works in South Africa, said
he`s enjoyed the pan-African spirit at most of the games where
the six teams from the continent have played.

"I went to the Nigerian game in Johannesburg, and it was
nice to see just green and white, not nationalities," he said.

"Everyone is talking about how this tournament has united
South Africans across colour lines, but they haven`t mentioned
how we as Africans have come together to support one another.
Even white Africans support African teams."


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