AFCON 2013 kicks off | Africa | DW | 18.01.2013
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AFCON 2013 kicks off

As the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Johannesburg, organizers hope for good performances on and off the pitch.

The AFCON logo in a flowerbed with people walking Photo: RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Africa Cup 2013

Organisers and soccer fans alike says there's no doubt that some superb matches can be expected from Africa's best teams. As the tournament gets underway, the mood in Johannesburg and the rest of South Africa has so far not reached the frenzy seen during the 2010 FIFA World Cup which South Africa also hosted. But fans from all over the continent and farther afield have been flocking into the country in time for Saturday's opening ceremonony. The tournament slogan "The beat at Africa's feet" also promises plenty of action.

The Cape Verde national team

Cape Verde's Blue Sharks have qualified for the first time

Ahead of the first game between South Africa's Bafana Bafana and the Cape Verde national team, the Blue Sharks, South Africa's Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was confident that his country was ready to step into the sporting spotlight again. "Get yourselves started wherever you are. The time has arrived. It is here - we need to get this party started!" he announced.

Soccer fans will need no second invitation, they are raring to go, many of them equipped with the deafening vuvuzelas that were such a feature of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. With the first day's double bill of South Africa versus Cape Verde followed by Angola versus Morocco, they should be well served.

Among the fans who've made the trip to South Africa is Robert Asongwe from Cameroon. His own national team got knocked out earlier on but that doesn't seem to have diminished his excitement that AFCON is here again.

"Though Cameroon did not qualify for AFCON 2013, it doesn't mean we will not support. No! We'll go out and have fun. It's entertainment," he told DW.

There has been some criticism that tournament organizers could have done more to drum up interest within South Africa.

South African fans with flags and vuvuzelas

No soccer game in South Africa is complete without the vuvuzela

Johannesburg resident Mandla Dube told DW, "I just don't have time to watch soccer. I don't care. May be I will watch some games but not all of them, that l know." That may well change if Bafana Bafana make it through the early stages.

Security officials have been working hard to ensure that the tournament goes off smoothly. Lieutenant General Elias Mawela, who heads the National Joint Operational Intelligence Structure, says they have left nothing to chance.

"Movement from the airport, movement from the stadium, from the hotel to any place where the teams and officials are going to, at places of interest where fans gather such as restaurants, places of tourist attraction, we have ensured that we have put in place security," he said.

Transport organizers also say fans travelling to the different stadiums have no reason to worry. According to Lucky Montana, the Chief Executive Officer of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, "We've put everything in place. Park your vehicle for free at the station, it will be safe, and jump into a train. We think it's convenient for people so that you forget about congestion and you get there on time to the games."

Now all eyes are fixed on Africa's soccer stars to showcase the continent's best talent.

South Africa's Dean Furman clashes with Poland's Artur Sobiech

South Africa's Dean Furman (left) says fans won't be disappointed

South African midfielder Dean Furman promises that they won't disappoint their fans. "We want to go all the way. There is no point being in the tournament if we don't have the confidence all the way, so we have our beliefs within the group, we want the nation to get behind us. We want to give them a team to be proud of and we feel we can have a great tournament," he said.

The final will be played in Johannesburg on February 10.

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