Shout-Africa SPORTS – SOUTH AFRICA – Whatever their fortunes on the pitch, players from the competing nations at this FIFA World Cup™ are enjoying the experience off it.
The temperatures might be dropping but the visiting teams are feeling the warmth of the African spirit. It certainly had an immediate impact on France midfielder Yoann Gourcuff who, recalling the welcome Raymond Domenech’s squad received when arriving on South African soil, said: “We had a fantastic welcome when we arrived. It brought us all a smile and gave us some fresh energy, seeing all the people who were waiting for us.” Germany midfielder Sami Khedira was equally enthused. “The people all like their football and cheer us on, which gives us a good feeling,” he said.
Visiting players and supporters across South Africa have been greeted by colourful scenes of fans dancing, singing, embracing and of course, blowing the ubiquitous horn that has been a new discovery for many, the vuvuzela. Nigeria striker Yakubu Ayegbeni was full of praise for the host nation, saying: “This is a great country and the people have been right behind us since we arrived. I think this can be one of the greatest World Cups in history.”
Ghana midfielder Stephen Appiah believes that South Africa’s organisation of the tournament is doing the whole continent proud. “We have always said that African can host tournaments like this,” he said. “I have heard a couple of interviews and you can see how proud South Africans are, how proud Ghanaians are, how proud Nigerians are and how proud the African continent is because this is a historic World Cup.
For Côte d’Ivoire midfielder Didier Zokora, the highlight so far has been the opening ceremony at Soccer City in Johannesburg. He said: “I watched it in my room and said to myself, ‘This World Cup has really started in Africa’. There was a lot of emotion for me when I followed that game. It’s something very important for me.”
The final word goes to Slovakia defender Marek Cech who said the decision to take the tournament to South Africa had already proved to be the right one. “I have really enjoyed it. I am really surprised about the organisation and everything. The people here have been very friendly, and up until now we’ve had no problems. I think it was a great idea to have a World Cup in Africa.”