South Africans urged to embrace football fever

JOHANNESBURG - World Cup officials, worried about a lack of enthusiasm over next year's tournament, launched a campaign on Friday to spark "football fever" by urging South Africans to wear football shirts to work once a week.

Officials from world governing body FIFA earlier this year complained about a lack of buzz ahead of the World Cup, the most watched sporting event on the planet, which is being held in Africa for the first time starting next June 11.

The local organising committee called on supporters to wear shirts of the national team Bafana Bafana every Friday until the tournament starts.

"An initiative that aims to build support and enthusiasm as the countdown to Africa's first FIFA World Cup gains momentum, Football Friday aims to encourage South Africans to wear the jersey of the national football team, Bafana Bafana, every Friday," the committee said.

It also called on South Africans to fly more flags and to learn the national anthem, a mixture of languages that many English and Afrikaans-speakers still don't know properly, 15 years after the end of apartheid.

Football is much more popular among black South Africans than whites, who still favour rugby, and the World Cup is seen by officials as a new opportunity to bring the races together.