South Africa back to the pitch after jittery start | Africa | DW | 23.01.2013
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South Africa back to the pitch after jittery start

Bafana Bafana's clash with Morocco could reignite South African fans' enthusiasm for the Africa Cup of Nations ( AFCON). Hosts South Africa opened the tournament with a tepid goalless draw against Cape Verde.

African soccer fans, including South Africans, are expected to be out in force on Wednesday, singing, dancing, whistling and blowing their vuvuzelas. Despite a slow start on Saturday, fans have been flocking to pubs, sports clubs, soccer betting halls and street corners cheering on their favorite teams.

Those teams are starting to display vigor and stamina, justifying their presence on the list of Africa's 16 best teams.

Although no goals were scored in either match at the start of the tournament at Soccer City in Johannesburg, the second day's game between Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana, revived soccer fans' passion for the game when they put in a sterling performance that left them deadlocked at 2-2.

soccer fans celebrating the AFCON games in Johannesburg. DW/Thuso Khumalo , Johannesburg

Soccer fans cheering their favorite teams

On the same day Mali beat Niger one nil to become the first team to collect three points. Africa Cup defending champions, Zambia's Chipolopolo Boys lost popularity after they drew 1-1 with Ethiopia, who were down to ten men after their goal keeper had been red carded for a professional foul.

The tournament's favorite, Nigeria, was also dealt a blow after Burkina Faso knocked down their defense in injury time leveling the score line at 1-1.

As teams start to give their best so they can sail through the group stage, Nigerian soccer fan Chima Adebayo says they are now starting to enjoy the Africa Cup events.

"This is a really game man. It's really entertaining the people. We are really enjoying ourselves."

But as fans flock to beer halls, pubs, sports clubs and soccer betting halls to watch their teams playing, there are constant outbursts of emotion when they defend their teams from criticism.

One soccer fan who refused to be identified by name was bitterly critical of South Africa, but said "Congo you know how to play, you know how to play Congo." The DRC drew unexpectedly 2-2 against giants Ghana.

A challenging tournament for organizers

The empty stadiums have caused concerns for the organizers. Most matches have drawn in just a handful of fans. AFCON Local Organizing Committee Chief Executive Officer Mvuzo Mbebe admits there have been challenges. He is, however, pleased that there have so far been no problems with security or with the transportation of fans to match venues.

"I think we have said before that we do concede that marketing has been quite a big challenge. We cannot just blindly copy the world cup," Mbebe said. "It's a totally different tournament with its total different challenges," he added.

soccer fans celebrating the AFCON games in Johannesburg. DW/Thuso Khumalo, Johannesburg

Hundreds of soccer fans are flocking to sport bars to watch the tournament

Despite the games still being at group stage, fans are already speculating on possible winners. Prince Ajede says he has no doubt that Ghana will take the cup.

"We are lions. We are African best. The cup is already in Accra. Can't you see? You don't have eyes? I'm sorry for you. If you have eyes you will see the cup going after all."

Whoever wins, fans agree that by the time the 2013 AFCON tournament ends on February 10, they will all have enjoyed some excellent African football.

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