Archive for the ‘World Cup 101’ Category

Winner and Losers of WC2010 Part 2

July 29, 2010

A friend of mine, who just got back from London, messaged me now and commented that Joburg “seems strangely quiet.”

Did the World Cup really happen??

When I started typing this blog on Sunday late afternoon, it was exactly two weeks ago since I was in ‘football’ heaven, excitedly weaving through the masses at Soccer City, match ticket and last Bud (thankfully!) in hand, for the greatest extravaganza South Africa has even seen… the World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands. This was the final act, the last stomach-twisting turn on the thrilling roller coaster which was Africa’s first world cup. And what a world cup it was!!

Against all the ‘supposed’ odds, as those naysayers prophesised, South Africa pulled off one of the greatest events in the long history of the World Cup. Why was it so great? In my opinion, the world didn’t know what to expect (if anything low/negative expectations), and such is the psychology of the mind, when one has no expectations it can only go up from there! Almost akin to a quiet night out with a planned early bedtime, which turns out into the biggest alcohol-induced bender of thrills, spills and crazy interactions in places you have never seen or been to before. The kind of night when you wake up, head throbbing the next morning, and with blood shot eyes  you smirk into the bathroom mirror and slowly whisper to yourself “what a night, what a great fucking night”. And I think that is exactly what every South African, foreign visitor and journalist thought on Monday the 12th July, the morning after the final:

what a night, what a great fucking night!!

Now almost two and half weeks later, I am sitting at my dining room table, which is only just large enough to play host to streams of paper and files of work which literally had to ‘take a hike’ during the month long festival of football. Whilst I sip my freshly brewed cup of Milo, a song by Arcade Fire plays in the background, somewhat aptly named ‘Antichrist Television Blues’ as the 24/7 football channel on Supersport is a fading memory, I am sensing how ‘strangely quiet’ Joburg seems.

So, a couple of weeks after the fact, after my initial Winners blog, it is a good time to ponder who were the losers of the World Cup? Hmmm, when I think about it, were there actually any real losers to this world cup?

Perhaps it was the superstars who were supposed to light the field alight with their world class skills, and their even bigger ego’s. Ronaldo, Rooney, Messi, Kaka are a few of the players who come to mind who arrived at this world cup and were punted to be its headline acts. As the building-wrapped billboards and seemingly Hollywood-directed TV commercials would make us believe. But that didn’t happen (Did Ronaldo even play??) But are they losers? I think not! They are all home now, earning their fat salaries, being pampered by their supermodel wives or girlfriends and jetting off to practice in whatever supercar there $150,000 a week salaries have bought them this week. So they didn’t exactly get a winners medal draped around their neck. No sir! These guys are Winners!

Perhaps it was football itself who was the real loser? Seeing game after game of players diving around the field in a manner that would make Olympic high divers proud, or the acting of the players feigning injuries with such masterclass and passion that I heard they were going to bring Simon Cowell in as a studio guest to rate these ‘performances’. Or, and this is what I hated the most, the players surrounding the referee in manner akin to assault whenever a  decision went against their team. FIFA promoted the ‘Say No To Racism’ campaign before certain games, a noble effort, but what moral message was all this ‘simulating’ sending out to the kids, the clichéd leaders of tomorrow? Dive, roll, or swear your way to get ahead? Certainly didn’t do much for promoting the beautiful game! But is football the loser? I think not! It’s just 2 weeks till the kick off of the English Premier League and I couldn’t be more excited! The world is addicted to football (ok, maybe not the Yanks, but they can have their baseball!) and come World Cup 2014 in Brazil, Mr Blatter is going to rake in another $2billion, hopefully including a few bob for my match tickets!

Perhaps the figurative losers were Netherlands for doing their best imitation of Bakkies Botha by trying to thump the Spanish off the field during the final after playing so attractively in every other game? Perhaps the losers were the people, on those Durban-bound flights, who missed the semifinals? Perhaps the losers were some traders or hospitality vendors who lost money as the business didn’t come their way? Perhaps it will even be South Africa itself, who might not take the lessons it learnt to heart and build on this fantastic momentum?

When I really think about it there were no real losers of this world cup. There was no troubling breaking news, there was no massive crime wave, nor tourists left stranded without accommodation or transport. Perhaps an isolated story here or there. This isn’t Utopia afterall. The Dutch will always be regarded as purveyors of entertaining football, those unlucky travellers stranded in Durban will hopefully remember the rest of their magical trip, there were plenty vendors who did great business, and South Africa was the most popular phrase in the world for 4 long weeks (followed closely by “vuvuzela”)  – where else can the Ministry of Tourism get great coverage like that!

Ultimately, the unlucky losers are us poor sods, who two weeks after the World Cup, have been dragged back into a normal sense of reality. Gone are the throngs of previously unheard of foreign accents clogging the restaurants and bars; the jovial acceptance of the daily nuances that bothered us so before; and the adrenaline rush caused by the anticipation by the next game to go to or watch. This place was pumping!! Back is the impatient Joburg attitude; the daily cursing at the taxi’s weaving illegally through the peak hour traffic; and the nervous anticipation of what Julius Dilemma is going to spurt out next… Xenophobia anyone?

Zapiro, The Times, 14 July 2010

When I started this blog I was sitting on a couch at the impressive Hyde Park Hotel Bar, daydreaming out the window and wandering to myself “Did the World Cup really happen??”  The setting sun caught my eyes, forcing me to squint. As I refocused onto the purple hue of dusk, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of Joburg encapsulated by the glory of an African sunset, one of the city’s most endearing and loved characteristics.

Woza! Tomorrow is a new day and, with or without the World Cup, a new adventure awaits. Afterall, this is Joburg… a place where anything but the expected happens…

Mzansi Fo Sho!

And the winner of WC2010 is…

July 8, 2010

So Paul the psychic octopus is batting 6 for 6 by correctly predicting Spain’s fantastic victory over the Germans last night. Paul’s impressive skills didn’t sit well with the Argies after they got thumped by the Germans in the quarterfinals. And now it seems that, after being the pearl of adoring German fans eyes, Paul’s popularity has taken a turn for the worse in his homeland and his once adoring fans are now suggesting Paul should be fried, barbecued or turned into a seafood salad or paella. Schweinhund!! Calamari anyone??

The oddly quiet Julius Dilemma (even he has to comply with the rules of the Republic of Fifa) has been very impressed by Paul’s abilities and Paul is to be headhunted for the position of Chief Political Aide to Malema. Hayibo might be satirical, but not many people would be surprised! Eiiishhh!

If you are a Back to the Future fan, you probably received and forwarded the emails doing the rounds that the 6th of July 2010 was ‘Back to the Future’ day, the date Marty McFly and Doctor Emmett Brown visit in their time-travelling DeLorean. However, the whole thing is apparently a hoax, (hope you didn’t plan any big BttF parties!), and the real future date per the movie is actually 21 October 2015. Great Scott! Some people have way too much time on their hands – like this blogger – but the positive news is that this gives us 5 more years to invent the hover-board!! Radness!

Talking of Paul the psychic and of predicting the future, one man who has stuck his neck out on the line and HAS predicted the winner of the WC2010 is Ilan Smith, the Illusionist (note: not Magician). Ilan, a mate of mine, was recently heard on the big 3 of mlungu radio 94.7 Highveld Stereo, Radio 702 and 5Fm, <click on the links to hear the broadcasts> predicting the 2 finalists (before the quarters were played!), and the winning score of the final match. The fact that the radio stations aired his predictions live on radio is impressive enough, but if he is right than even Paul the Octopus and Doc Brown has to bow down to the king of the future. Ilan hasn’t been making international waves yet like the mollusk, but he is seriously talented so catch him live on the radio monday morning after the final to see if his predictions were correct. If so, then Ilan better watch out for Julius! Eiiissshhh!!

Pity Ilan wont tell me his predictions, because at 11/10 Spain look a good bet to be first time winners…

Espana Fo Sho!!

PS: JUST IN: Paul the psychic octopus has predicted Spain will win the final

Don’t blame Uruguay!!

July 6, 2010

I am sitting on the plane to Cape Town en route to watch my 11th (gotta milk it!) game of this World Cup – the semis between Holland and Uruguay. Prior to opening my laptop to type this blog, I forced myself through a tasteless cup of airline coffee (I am a self-professed coffee snob) whilst trawling through the morning papers. One article in The Times particularly caught my eye, titled “Fifa gets soft with Suarez”, in which I learned that Fifa has given a light sentence to Luis Suarez (the Uruguayan striker sent off for the last minute handball against Ghana), and only banning him for 1 game for his red card indiscretion. Fifa decided not to extend this automatic one game ban further. The article further stated that “instead of paying the price for his cynical play…Suarez has been hailed as “heroic” in his South American homeland”.

South Africans hate the Uruguayan’s….

I use the word ‘hate’ in context with the many conversations I have had with friends and colleagues the last few days: on the dejected train ride home from Soccer City after the game, on the fairways of the golf course the next morning with knowledgeable fanatics, and the surprisingly many conversations with the ‘new’ football experts the world cup has created in the last 3 weeks – most of them female, and most of them knowing only 2 footballers prior to the WC2010… Beckham and Ronaldo! (Let that be the lasting legacy of this World Cup, female football fans who will NOW appreciate their men spending countless hours on the couch on a Saturday afternoon watching 3 football matches in a row! Long may it last!!)

All these conversations had one thing in common – the utter derision for the Uruguayan football team who’s “cheating” knocked out our adopted and beloved Ghana out  of the World Cup. Add that to the 3-0 thumping Uruguay (rightly) gave Bafana in the group stages and you can begin to understand why ‘we’ hate Uruguay.

But you know what, given the same scenario in reverse – a last minute free kick to defend – any other team would probably would have done the exact same thing as Uruguay i.e. placing 2 defenders on the goal line to save the ball from the crossing the line. And by save, I mean using whatever appendages necessary, including hands. If you look closely, Uruguay had 2 guys on the line, and both of them had their hands in the air to catch any ball that came their way. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing. Suarez just happened to be the lucky/unlucky player.

This world cup has cemented the fears of many football purists: that the cost of losing is a much HIGHER price to pay than maintaining the spirit of the game, and playing with a high moral standing i.e. all that SPORT is supposed to stand for. For me personally it is taking away the enjoyment of the game … and makes me appreciate rugby and, ironically, the gentleman way it is played that much more (BOKKE!!)

There is only one outfit to blame for this lack of immorality and cheating that has riddled the game, sadly illustrated waaaay too much during this current world cup – not Suarez, not Uruguay, or the many other footballers playing for the dive or goading the ref to red card the opposition. Blame FIFA. They have created this environment, and refused to do anything about it over the last few years. Look at their treatment of Suarez for example – instead of using an opportunity to make an example of this massive flaw in the rules of the game, they have rewarded him and his team by allowing him to be available for the final if Uruguay make it (and he is a key player). An example has been set by FIFA, and footballers the world over – from the best professionals in the best leagues in the world, to, unfortunately, the school kids playing for their junior teams – have taken note and will imitate and do the exact same thing as Suarez did for Uruguay.

In my opinion, an even worse incident was the German goalkeeper against England for not acknowledging the goal that crossed the line. The keeper stated after the game that he continued playing as if nothing had happened in order to deceive the referee. It worked. If the goal stood the whole dynamic of the game could have changed in favour of England, rather than Germany powering on to thump the English. FIFA should have banned the German keeper for the rest of the World Cup based on his admissions.

However, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for the world’s most popular game. FIFA has finally recognized the need for video technology, and hopefully the distasteful actions by the many ‘respected’ ambassadors of the game during the crowning glory of Fifa football, the World Cup, will finally push FIFA to use it. I think post-match citing for cheating should be introduced as well, ala rugby, to discipline players who get tackled yet roll around on the ground as if they had just been right-hooked by Mike Tyson just to get the opposing player sent off.

So… everyone said Suarez was cheating. He wasn’t. He was just bending the laws created by FIFA to give his team the best advantage possible. Yes it was immoral, yes it was hurtful for the supporters of Ghana, but objective achieved and Uruguay marched on to the semi-finals. As I said, given the reverse scenario, Ghana would have done the same thing. And what would have happened then? I will tell you: the 80,000 odd supporters of Ghana in Soccer City that night (including me), and the thousands around the world, would have rejoiced at the Ghana player who would have saved that goal and treated him as a hero!

And what would have that said about us??

Plain landing soon, football to watch!

Netherlands fo sho!!

Do YOU believe in miracles??

June 22, 2010

I was surfing a webpage the other day titled the ‘20 greatest commentator quotes of all time’.

As this was an American website, all but maybe 1 or 2 of the quotes were unfamiliar to me. The quotes were mostly from the big 3 US sports – namely (American) Football, Basketball and Baseball – in which the championship winning team of the year are affectionately yet arrogantly titled the ‘world champions’. So, obviously, there was no soccer, rugby or bullfighting quotes. What a shame as the list is missing at least one classic inebriated  Hughie Blayden’s “Jacque DeVilliers UNBELIEVABLE!!” (rugger fans will smile knowingly…)

That said, the #1 quote on the list was one I certainly did recognise, not because I saw the game (the match in question was played in 1980 I think) but because it was glamorised in the film ‘Miracle’ about the apparently underdog USA Olympic Ice Hockey team’s improbable victory over the undefeated Soviet Union. The usual classic Hollywood fodder David vs. Goliath come-from-behind movie that triggers mass American patriotism glorified by Disney. Whatever brings in the bucks!

The commentator of the day, with a few seconds remaining in the game, and with the US leading the Soviet Union by one goal, shouted out “Do you believe in Miracles???!!” which rated by the website is apparently regarded as the #1 sports commentator quote of all time.

The question is, and I refer this to our beloved Bafana Bafana fans, as our flavour of the month national soccer team embark on a seemingly impossible task later this afternoon, do you believe in miracles??

Looking back at the games so far I felt Bafana rose to the occasion, played beyond their capabilities, to eke out a draw against a highly rated Mexican team in Game 1.

Sadly, in Game 2, Bafana got abruptly bumped back to earth against a Uruguayan team who had obviously not read the Cinderella-story script penned by Sepp Blatter & his cronies. Then again, neither had the ref! Nevertheless, the gulf in class and pedigree between the 2 teams ranked on complete opposite ends of the football scale was there for all to see. The exuberance of the Bafana fans was unreal before the game, the perimeters of the stadium were awash in green and yellow and of course the fantastic rainbow colours of surely the best looking national flag in the world. OUR WORLD WAS ROCKING!!

Sadly, we were not ‘rewarded’ with the desired result, and the fickleness of the superficial South African fans was plain to see as they left in droves before the final whistle blew – this was not the product that FIFA and our media sold to them. I was sitting in the stands at Loftus at the end of the game and I felt really sorry for the players who tried their best on the day but were obviously just not good enough – which many pundits actually predicted before the WC commenced. I felt ashamed as a fan that when the game ended the Bafana players needed the love that  gushed over them in bucket-loads leading up to the game, none best illustrated than during the Sandton parade. But when they looked up into the stands for support, many, many empty seats glared back at them.

With kick off pending against France later today, the French team is riddled with controversy and turmoil, so never has there been a better opportunity for a football ‘minnow’ to beat a superpower of world football. The scene is perfectly set: If Bafana play the right team, come out attacking and manage to nick an early goal, and maybe another before half time, there is a chance, albeit a really small one, that the football world could be turned on its head. Coupled with either a win by Mexico or Uruguay (a draw will mean these 2 teams advance to the next round) then maybe, just maybe….

Time for us Bafana fans to get UNITED behind the boys for just ONE more game. Let’s DO it!! Kenako!!

Hopefully then we will have an answer to the question posed by the American commentator from that famous day in US sport: “Yes! Miracles DO happen!”

… And then, my friends, the PARTYwill start!

Viva Bafana Viva!

Mzanso fo sho!!

2 days to go… but can you name our players??

June 10, 2010

How many of you were at the United for Bafana parade in Sandton today and couldn’t actually identify the Bafana players who you were screaming or blowing your lungs out for?? For all you knew, the guy you were going gaga over was the team physio or the media liason!

And without Benni McCarthy in the team, how many of the players could you actually name? Perhaps the only Mlungu in the team Matthew Booth or the current maestro of the team Everton FC’s Steven Pienaar. (PS Click here for great article about todays parade in the British Press: “World Cup 2010: rich and poor unite for Bafana Bafana’s open-bus parade”)

To be honest, and I am a massive football fan, but up until very recently I couldn’t name more than a handful of the current crop of players myself. Never mind being able to pronounce some of intricate Zulu of Xhosa names – but hey, try ask my brothers from another mothers to try pronounce my seemingly simple name “Sacks”… apparently its a tongue twister. The caddies at my golf course settled on Satch! Most of the players in the Bafana squad represent the pride of our local teams, and since many of us ‘whiteys’ don’t follow the local PSL league, the names are sadly just as foreign to us as the North Koreans or Hondurans!

But Sacksinthecity has saved the day, as I have came across an article entitled ‘Idiots Guide to Bafana’ by Khaya Ndubane, detailing all you need to know about the men in green and yellow who are hopefully going to do our country and continent very very proud!

Read the whole article here but for the ‘quick and dirty guide’ I have listed the players, their positions, shirt number (for easier identification) & clubs below. I have also highlighted the probable starting 11 – as these names you REALLY need to know!

You have less than 2 days to learn these names (on top of the Zulu and Tswana parts of the national anthem – dont forget!)

Ke Nako, its time! Cram baby cram!


Mzansi Fo Sho!!



16. Itumeleng “Ma’jivane” Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Bafana’s #1!

1. Moeneeb ‘Slim Kat’ Josephs (Orlando Pirates), Bafana’s back up keeper

22. Shuaib “Vat alles” Walters (Maritzburg United)


4. Aaron “Mbazo” or “The Axe” Mokoena (Portsmouth, England). Bafana’s KAPTEIN!

20. Bongani “Bongs” Khumalo (SuperSport United), Likely partner to Mokoena in central defence

3. Tsepo  Masilela (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Bafana’s starting left back

2. Siboniso “Nesta”  Gaxa (Sundowns), Bafana’s starting right back

14. Matthew “BOOOOOOTH” Booth (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tallest player in and the teams only Mlungu (White man), hey we need at least 1 token whitey, just remember, they are not booing him! J

5. Anele Ngcongca (KRC Genk, Belgium),

21. Siyabonga Sangweni (Golden Arrows),

15. Lucas ‘Nsimbi’ Thwala (Orlando Pirates)


11. Teko “General Rau Rau or Deco” Modise (Orlando Pirates), likely starter and the local fan’s favourite as he is full of tricks

13. Kagiso  “KG” Dikgacoi (Fulham, England), likely starter, midfield hard man!

10. Steven “Schillo” Pienaar (Everton, England), likely starter, currently SA’s best export in the English league and was voted player of the season this year by the Everton fans.

8. Siphiwe “Clipz” Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs), likely left winger, & should take the set pieces

7. Lance  Davids (Ajax Cape Town),

12. Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs), surprise package and has been a revelation in the warm up games

6. MacBeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan, Russia),

23. Thanduyise Khuboni (Golden Arrows),


9. Katlego ‘Killer’ Mphela (Sundowns), the name you REALLY need to know… the man tasked with leading the line and scoring the goals! PSL leading scorer last season with 17 goals.

19. Surprise “Masterpieces” Moriri (Sundowns),

17. Bernard  Parker (FC Twente, Holland),

18. Siyabonga  “Bhele” Nomvethe (Moroka Swallows)

A man had great tickets for the World Cup Final…

June 8, 2010

A man had great tickets for the World Cup Final. As he sits down, another man comes down and asks if anyone is sitting in the empty seat next to him.

“No,” he says. “The seat is empty.”
“This is incredible!” says the other man. “Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the World Cup Final, the biggest sporting event, and not use it?”
“Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. My wife was supposed to come with me, but she passed away. This is the first World Cup Final we haven’t been to together since we got married.
“Oh … I’m sorry to hear that. That’s terrible. But couldn’t you find someone else, a friend or relative, or even a neighbour to take the seat?”
The man shakes his head. “No. They’re all at the funeral…

Feeeeeeeelit, it is here!!!!

Admit it, you don’t know the SA anthem! Now is the time …

May 28, 2010

Well…at least admit you don’t know the words to the first half of our beloved anthem! Specifically the isiZulu and isiXhosa parts.

With the World Cup opening game exactly 2 weeks away, don’t be one of those newly proud and fanatical Bafana supporters who are going to mime their way through the first half of Nkosi Sikele yet bellow out like a pro the Afrikaans and English parts (like you do when you are at Ellis Park or Loftus when watching the Springboks).

If the foreigners actually do come to SA, and one happens to be sitting next to you at Soccer City, Loftus or Bloem, show him or her that you are a true patriotic Bafana supporter and belt out the Zulu part like a pro!

Watch and learn from this brilliant clip , even enter the competition if you like!

Hey man, its the right thing to do! (well, better than paying your tv licence anyway…)

Now is the time! 2 weeks to go!

Mzanzi fo sho!!

Bafana 101: Why the name Bafana Bafana?

March 12, 2010

Sticking to the nickname theme of my last post, I thought it would only be logical to write about the origination of the nickname of the South African soccer team, Bafana Bafana (Zulu for Boys Boys). Surely this bit of information is pre-requisite sporting knowledge for the thousands of South Africans who are going to witness not only their first South African soccer experience during the World Cup but probably their first live soccer game ever (my mom definitely falls into that category!)

However, what I thought would be simple research, discovering why the South African national soccer team is called Bafana Bafana, has evolved into an exercise of investigative journalism…

You would think that with the World Cup looming large, in 90 days 9 hours 35 min and 24 seconds to be exact, there would be a flood of information on the web about the team and the history of what will surely be the most popular phrase during the world cup “BAFANA BAFANA”

Apparently not!

Unbelievable really.

Every website tells you that the SA team is referred to as Bafana Bafana but none of them tells you why?

I first tried my source for all things info, Wikipedia*.  My trusty wiki tells me that: “The South Africa national football team or Bafana Bafana is the national team of South Africa and is controlled by the South African Football Association.


If wiki offered nothing, I knew I had a little challenge on my hands… So I rolled up my sleeves, warmed up my clicking fingers, and hit Google.

After opening up what seemed like countless websites linking to the name “Bafana Bafana” all I discovered was that the South African soccer team is referred to as “Bafana Bafana”. Some even went out of their way to translate that into “Boys Boys”.

Well done.

Now I regard myself as a pretty handy ‘Googler’ so I was not about to give up so easily…

I applied some logic and searched for the “bafana bafana homepage”, and got redirected to, the South African Football Association. And guess what? No information on the source of the nickname. Zilch. Nada. Big ups to Safa!

Entering bears the “This domain has been registered by Adams & Adams on behalf of its client.” If I call Adams & Adams they will probably charge me R4500 for 5 minutes of ‘legal’ advice. No luck here…

And proudly states that this site is “under construction”

There are some really progressive website owners out there.

Finally, as the heat of my overworked laptop was about to burn a hole through the pillow resting on my lap, I stumbled upon a link


“The nickname ‘Bafana Bafana’ was originated by a group of journalists – no-one has ever been able to verify their personal claim to this – and it was in 1992 after SA was readmitted into FIFA. Our National team had already played 6 games, winning 1, drawing 1 and losing 4. The excuse made for this poor start was that we were still ‘young’ in International football and still learning the game at this level, and so it also played a part in the nickname, because the ‘young boys’ were still learning”

Another explanation from the same link proffers “the origin is that the Sowetan newspaper journalists coined the name for the team after re-admittance, and it comes out of the fact that prior to re-admittance in the townships the teams were owned/managed by older men and the younger men played in the team. It was common for the older men to say “abafana bam ba dlala kahle” which means “my boys are playing well”.

Makes sense to me.

So there you have it – the origination of the name “Bafana Bafana”, a little bit of information every ‘Proudly South African’ supporter needs to know.


** Out of curiosity I searched Wiki to see if it revealed the source of the nickname for the SA rugby team, the Springboks. Wiki tells me that the name was first used in 1906 when the South African management,  days before the first tour match to the British Isles, coined the reference “Springboks” to avoid the witty London press from inventing some “funny name”.

my faith in wiki is restored!

Bafana 101: What’s in a (nick)name?

March 8, 2010

Going to the 1996 African Nations Cup Final was definitely one of my defining sporting experiences. Just being in the stadium in the newly post-apartheid South Africa was a. novelty within itself. Soccer through the apartheid years in South Africa had mostly become the domain of black South Africans (as rugby was to the whites), and the daunting FNB stadium was home to the big two of South African soccer, Soweto heavyweights Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

One of my favourite memories of that day was being one of over 110,000 soccer fans crammed into the 90,000 seater FNB Stadium in Soweto, all bellowing out in a passionate yet synchronised style “FEEEEEEEEESSSSHHHHHH” in reference to Mark Fish, the legendry South African central defender who at that moment had just expertly robbed the Tunisian player off the ball. What boggled my mind was that Fish was a white player, yet was just as adored by the fans as when John ‘Shoes’ Mosheou, the creative genius in the heart of the Bafana midfield got the ball and everyone chanted “SSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOEEEESSS”, as more than a handful of supporters immediately pulled one shoe off and waved it in the air, almost in sacrifice to their hero. When Lucas Radebe slid in to make an important tackle it was the same story, “RRHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOO”.

Fans of the local game in South Africa are well known for imparting nick names on their favourite players, almost as a term of endearment. Although most of the names are original and relate to the players’ physical appearance or style of play, some have been taken from popular culture such as movies or even the names of other famous footballers whom the local player reminds the fans of. In fact, nicknaming is probably an old township culture still around today. I remember my uncle telling me that the caddies at his golf club referred to him as ‘Mr. Experience’ because every time he came to the golf course he asked for a caddie with “experience”. To this day when I go back to my old golf course Kyalami, there are always caddies, some of whom I have never met before, who greet me as ‘Satch’ as one of the first caddies I ever used at the course mispronounced my name “Sacks”!

“Most of the nicknames come from the supporters. The names reflect the way you relate to them and the way you display your skills. It creates great relationship between players and supporters,” says  ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu. Shoes himself cannot remember how he got his nickname – but he has had it since he was a child.  It appears that usually one or two people mention a nickname in a shebeen (a local pub) and fans familiarise themselves with that name. They go the stadium and start chanting that name and the next thing you know is that the newspapers use the name and it stays. Lucas Radebe was given the nickname “Rhoo” because of the echo it creates around the stadium – so every time he touches the ball the crowd would chant “Rhoo”.

Some of the more colourful nick names I remember include Helman “Midnight Express” Mkhalele, a skilful winger from the winning 1996 team who got his nickname from his dark complexion and pace; Jerry “Legs of Thunder” Sikhosana an Orlando Pirates legend who was part of the Bafana 1998 World Cup Squad; and the former Orlando Pirates defender Gavin Lane was given the nickname ‘Stability Unit’ because of his ability to organise the defence and sort things out; and the simple “Go Man Go” adorned to the prolific yet pacy Bafana striker Marks Maponyane. But my personal favourite is Thomas ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ Hlongwane!

Nicknames of the Bafana players expected to do duty during the 2010 World Cup include the current captain Aaron ‘Mbazo (the Axe)’ Mokoena for his tough tackling; Steven ‘the Mighty Peanut or Schillo’ Pienaar named after the Italian footballer Salvatore Schillaci; Thembinkosi ‘Terror’ Fanteni; Teko ‘Deco’ Modise; Siboniso ‘Nesta’ Gaxa; Benson ‘Mayanga’ Mhlongo; Surprise ‘Masterpieces’ Moriri; Siphiwe ‘Clipz’ Tshabalala; and Katlego ‘Killer’ Mphela

When you are sitting in the Soccer City stadium for the opening game of the World Cup for the Bafana vs. Mexico game and you can name Killer, Deco and Terror as they run onto the pitch you are fast becoming a true Bafana fan!

And just remember to chant for Matthew Booth ….. you can’t miss him – just look for the very tall, very skinny lily white defender. Whenever he gets the ball, you gotta shout out “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOTH!!!!”

Bafana Bafana! Boys Boys!

March 3, 2010

Itumeleng Khune, Siboniso Gaxa, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Matthew Pattison, Siphiwe Tshabalala.

Recognise any of these names?

Probably not!

But what if I had to mention names such as Lucas Radebe, Neil Tovey, or Doctor Khumalo?

Somewhat more familiar, right!

The arbitrary names I first mentioned are some of the ‘star’ players whose young shoulders the hopes and dreams of many  Bafana Bafana supporters rest upon during the approaching World Cup 2010. Yet only those who are familiar with the local soccer league (PSL) will actually know who these players are or what they are capable of. But to the rest of us uninformed South Africans or even ardent soccer fans, who are most likely followers of the English Premiership, Spanish La Liga or Italian Serie A, and could name many players in these respective leagues, the names of our local star players are as ‘foreign’ to us as the street address of our favourite ‘foreign’ team!

I for one, am a massive soccer fan, or more specifically, for my troubles, I support Liverpool Football Club. I can name the majority of the current squad and most of the reserves, and I can remember who played right back in the 1994/95 campaign. I can amazingly even remember when they last won the league!

But don’t ask me who is the current leading scorer in the local South African league or which team last won the championship. I don’t even know where Kaizer Chiefs, most likely the biggest team in the land and one of the best supported clubs in the world, play their home games (actually I don’t think they know either!)

The World Cup Football is the biggest sporting even in the world, and it’s happening right on OUR DOORSTEP!! Many South Africans are already showing interest in the team, but sadly most of us only know the nickname of the South African team (…….. Bafana Bafana. Come on!) , and the circus that surrounded the appointment of Carlos Alberta Perriera (….most people probably don’t even know he is from Brazil but they do know he is earning R1.8 million a month!!)

The success of the 1996 African nations winning team cemented the names of those players in soccer folklore. Unfortunately many of us peripheral supporters only started getting behind our team as they successfully progressed through the tournament. This times its different, the interest is already there.

I definitely need to know at least the basics of our players and team if I am going to say that I am a true Bafana Bafana supporter at this World Cup!  I want to explore the faces behind the names, the clubs they play for, their nicknames (and there could be a few gems at that!)  and come the World Cup, hopefully names such as Teko “Deco” Modise and Katlego “Killer” Mphela will be as recognisable as Mark “FEEEESHH” Fish and John “Shoes” Moshoeu.

If you are a footy fan, local or foreign, perhaps you too will learn a bit more about the Boys! So when a Brazilian or German tourist sitting next to you at the Ellis Park game, which you naively won tickets for in the ticket lottery, asks you who Bafana’s best players are, not only will you know their names you might even know which positions they play too!

How can we fully get behind our team this World Cup if we don’t even know about the players who are going to do the duty and wear the Bafana jersey with pride, guts and hopefully glory!!

Mzansi fo sho!

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