SA loves Brazil and England

The weather didn’t read the script. The day that the Brazilians debuted at the 2010 World Cup, the temperature went into freefall. The balmy weather and winter sun that had seemed so apt to host the beautiful football of the South Americans was suddenly chased away by howling winds blowing up from the Cape.

At Soccer City one such gust took down the perimeter fencing, and in nearby Soweto, Anton Ferdinand’s planned visit to meet young footballers was postponed because of “adverse weather conditions”, with the winds deemed too strong for the keepie-uppies of a Premiership football star. Yet despite the weather, at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, the locals turned out in their thousands to support the Seleção.

It seems that every South African’s second team is Brazil. “We grew up looking at them as our heroes and now they are playing on our doorstep, so we can’t help but root for them,” explains 25-year-old Ralph Williams from Pretoria, who travelled to Johannesburg in his Brazil scarf for the game. “I have a passion for Brazilian football and I’m over the moon about seeing them.”

Henrique Faioli and Sabrina Cabeschi are two Brazilians who have lived in South Africa for the last two years and from their unique perspective they have seen many similarities between the two cultures that might make it logical for the local population to identify with their homeland.

It was no surprise to them that the South Africans turned up decked in Brazil scarves and flags. “I think the two countries have the same energy,” says Sabrina. “It’s the energy of having this mixed blood and mixed culture. I think South Africa will be just like Brazil in two generations.”

“We can feel this very strongly from the black South Africans,” adds Henrique. “It’s like a wish that in the future South Africa becomes how we see Brazil today, with the culture and the colours mixed from a long time ago. We think they see this future for their country.”

For Ralph Williams, the desire to get behind Kaka and the Samba Boys is less a cultural phenomenon and more to do with the way the Brazilians play the beautiful game. “I come from a mixed race so maybe you can say we relate to the Brazilians in that way, but the love of soccer is universal and for me personally, it’s just a football thing.”

Ntokozo Sithole and Allister Openshaw also share that belief. Arriving at Ellis Park together from their hometown of Benoni, Ntokozo is black and Allister is white, but both agree they are cheering for Brazil for purely football reasons. “They play with flair and that’s what you want to see, because the Brazilians will guarantee you goals,” says 34-year-old Allister.

Lucky Manuel is a 28-year-old student from neighbouring Zimbabwe, currently living in South Africa. Wearing his Brazil hat and clutching his vuvuzela tightly, he's thrilled to have the chance to see his heroes play. “As soon as the World Cup was announced I wanted to come and see Brazil,” he says, “but it’s all about the kind of soccer they play. I think they’ll go on to win the World Cup if we support them and I’ll be making lots of noise with my vuvezela.”

Nayan Gowan and his son, nine-year-old son Sudheer, have turned up for the game in their Brazil jackets and carrying the country’s flag. “I don’t think many people are aware of the African roots of some Brazilians, as the country is a mixture of many different cultures,” says Nayan, “but I believe their playing style is the reason that they are supported here. I believe Brazil and England are the two most popular teams with South Africans at this World Cup.”

One thing that every South African agrees on is that their would be no test of loyalties if the Brazilians were to face Bafana Bafana at any stage in the World Cup. “Then Bafana Bafana would win, no doubt about it,” says Ntokozo.

The South African World Cup has already produced more than it fair share of bizarre and absurd stories, like the strange case of discrimination against chickens.

Apartheid may be long since over here but while French fans were able to take their symbolic rooster into the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town for the match against Uruguay, Nigerian fans were refused entry at Ellis Park in Johannesburg for their green-painted chickens. “No animals are allowed into stadiums,” a World Cup spokesman was quoted as saying, but it seems in South Africa at the moment, chickens are relegated to the back of the bus.

FIFA’s policy of trying to control every aspect of the World Cup continued with the threat to arrest 30 women dressed in orange mini-dresses at the Holland-Denmark game at Soccer City. The women were questioned under suspicion of breaking FIFA’s strict rules on ambush marketing.

Their offence? Wearing ‘Dutchy’ dresses with the tiny logo of the Bavaria Beer Company stitched onto the hem. “The orange dresses are part of a marketing and PR campaign already running in commercials of the brewery exclusively in the Dutch media and, as such, are recognisable items associated with the brewery in question,” said FIFA. Most fans seemed happy with the dresses...

The World Cup has had bigger problems than that to deal with. For just a short while the construction company behind the overhaul of the Loftus Versfield Stadium was threatening to prevent the use of the stadium in a dispute over payment, but they withdrew their High Court action just in time for the stadium to host its first World Cup game.

Other threats have come from the stadium workers in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, whose protests about poor pay led to the police taking over the security at those stadium.

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