Soccer is more than a game to billions of people around the world; it is a source of immense national pride. In South Africa, soccer was introduced to the colonies by their conquerors. African players, and their fans, took the sport as their own, driven to beat the Europeans at their own game. While it may have originated elsewhere, soccer is, in many ways, a truly South African game. So elegant in its simplicity, so egalitarian in its play, all you need is a ball and some willing participants. And there are many, many willing participants here!
South Africa hosted the 2010 World Cup Games, the first African nation to do so. Games were played at 10 venues, including 5 newly constructed stadiums. The eyes of the world were on South Africa as teams competed for the honor of being the best at the world’s favorite sport. While the 2010 World Cup has long been won, soccer remains a terrific draw for visitors to this African nation.
The architecture itself is impressive, as is immediately apparent when visiting FNB Stadium in Soweto. “Soccer City” as it was called during the 2010 Games, has 94,000 seats and is one of the biggest stadiums in the world. Visitors can enjoy soccer matches, rugby games, concerts, and tours in the stadium. It is fast becoming a favorite South African attraction. There are other venues scattered across the country, and they offer some of the best playing surfaces in the world.
When attending a game, be prepared for as much action off the field as on. Safety is always a consideration, but fortunately, South African fans tend to be very welcoming and jovial. Of course we all like our teams to win, but rioting and chaos is not part of the experience here.
Instead, fans are loud and exuberant. They often accompany game play with vuvuzelas, or plastic horns. If you watched the World Cup on television, you remember their distinctive sound! When the national team, or Bafana Bafana, play, many fans wear replica shirts and proudly paint the national flag on their faces. Whether watching the national team or the many local teams, the same level of excitement is apparent. Enjoy – and make some noise!
In 2010, over 309,000 foreign visitors arrived in South Africa for the World Cup. Ninety percent said they wanted to visit again. If you come for soccer, chances are you’ll fall in love with the country’s many other charms!