Africa is a World Cup
Two of the people I’ve been following as they write about the world cup are Derek Catsam and Sean Jacobs, from the FP blog and Africa is a Country respectively. On the question of how South Africans are following the other African teams:
In each of the games involving an African team, whether in person at the stadium or at a fan park, the spirit has been spectacular. The crowd was nearly unanimous in its support for Ivory Coast yesterday, though the vast bulk of those fans were South Africans. The only sign of North Korea support that I saw came in the form of hipster irony on the part of a group of four Americans who are a pretty good embodiment of why my country has such a lousy reputation overseas. But the Ivorians in the crowd were incredible. In one section there was a group of several dozen, maybe a couple hundred, who spent the entire match singing and dancing along with a ubiquitous drumbeat from several of their members. The rest of us seemed to draw energy from them. Each goal saw an eruption, but it simply was not enough, and Didier Drogba and company will go home again, disappointed but far from shamed.
One thing I noticed while in South Africa last week, apart from the fickleness of South African fans, were the cold reception for African teams. I can only speak for Cape Town where I traveled last week to see some first round matches–I scored tickets to 3 matches in the end–but locals are more inclined to support “traditional powerhouse” teams. It may because they were just realistic or it is a function of television (the English Premier League and European Champions League dominate football on TV, while the local leagues are badly organized). However, African players star in those leagues (Drogba, Eto’o, etcetera). And it is well known that South Africans display high levels of xenophobia against other Africans (there is a rumor going around of renewed attacks against African migrants once the World Cup is over). South Africans are also uncomfortable about their continental identity. I can’t count how many looks I got for variously wearing a Ghana or Cameroon beenie or jacket in a mall or my Algeria scarf to the latter’s game with England. Oh, and finding paraphernalia of any other African team apart from South Africa proved quite a mission.