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Love of The Beautiful Game
As an England fan arriving in Johannesburg to witness what will be the finest display of Soccer 2010, I’m going to spend a couple of months discovering why South Africa is so passionate about football. It’s not going to be difficult to find examples of the love for the beautiful game!
In my hotel room I can watch European matches from the English, Portuguese, German, French, and Italian leagues, the Brazilian league and African league games from Nigeria, Zambia and Ghana and of course the South African Super Diski. The quality of football and the associated prestige of the European leagues have drawn many African players away from their home leagues. Four members of the Bafana Bafana squad for Soccer 2010 (Mokoena, Pienar, Van Heerden and Fernandez) currently play in the European Premier Leagues.
At the end of the school day, in Rosebank, children wearing all sorts of colours swarm around the school gates. I see many yellow shirts – some of them Bafana Bafana, some Brazil. I’m not aware of many Brazilians in South Africa, but there will always be people who support the favourites. Then of course there is Spain and England making up what is widely regarded as the top three teams of Soccer 2010. I also see many Portuguese shirts, reflecting links with the former colonisers of neighbouring Mozambique. Colonialism certainly has much to explain for Africa’s fascination for European football.
There’s no disputing that the wealth of talent in African football adds to the quality and arguably the beauty of the game in Europe. African players that immediately spring to mind are: Nayim of Ceuta who played for Tottenham; for Chelsea - formerly Celestine Babayaro of Nigeria and currently Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast; the current captain of Cameroon Samuel Eto'o who plays for Italian Serie A club, Internazionale.
One of the most famous African’s to grace the turf at Anfield was the Zimbabwean Bruce Grobbelaar. Born in South Africa, of Zimbabwean citizenship, he warmed to the fans on The Kop with his eccentric style. However, his football career started with the Bulawayo-based Highlanders FC, in what was then Rhodesia's second biggest city. As a life-long Liverpool supporter, I’ve decided to take the opportunity of being on the doorstep of Zimbabwe to make my Soccer 2010 pilgrimage to Bulawayo. It’s a beautiful drive, particularly on the Zimbabwean side, so I plan to use the luxury of time and take a break from football for a couple of days, at one of Africa’s most famous landmarks, Victoria Falls.