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January 13, 2014

Bafana Bafana make Cape Town proud at the opening match of CHAN

bafana bafana take on mozambique at cape town stadium at last saturday's chan match

Few things compare to the anticipation and excitement on match day at Cape Town Stadium. The enthusiasm and optimism of the fans rubs off from shoulder to shoulder as you amble along the fan walk. We experienced this first hand on Saturday 11 January, 2014 as we cheered for local boys Bafana Bafana at the opening match of CHAN.

A Bafana Bafana fixture is rare at this majestic stadium but when we are lucky enough to host our national team, we show the team why they should be playing here more often. 

The prime location of the stadium sets the perfect scene for the slow amble down the Fan Walk. With bars and food available all the way to the stadium, you would probably need to give yourself a few hours to make the 1,8km walk down from the City centre to Greenpoint. We made our stop at Hudson's for a quick burger and a cold Zamalek.

Soccer stadium, image via Johann Schwella

While waiting for our food order and like true armchair managers, we quickly participated in lively debates on team quality, selection choices and formation with other pundits at the bar. Everyone was friendly enough and open to others' opinions and hopes  for the upcoming game. With half an hour to spare we hastily downed our beers and made our way across the road.

Getting into the stadium was a breeze. I've had more problems trying to get into Fiction on a Friday night then into the stadium. Events well organized are those which are felt but not seen.

The beautiful Cape Town Stadium, image via Johann Schwella

The concession stands inside the stadium were also smoothly run. Within 5 minutes we had 2 fresh beers and were in our seats just in time to make the anthems.

We took our seats along 26,000+ proud South Africans bellowing out our anthem. Once the atmosphere grips, you immediately feel vindicated for choosing to support your city, your team and your country. Those not there have missed out.

The crowd itself was a mishmash of South Africans – from the Southern Suburbs fans behind us, a family from the Cape Flats on our left to the animated regulars in front of us (who were already gesturing to Igesund for substitutions in the 4th minute). Diversity is always present at events held at this beautiful stadium. And that's the whole point of having a stadium - for fans to integrate, participate and celebrate!

The Boys dominated the first few exchanges with every pass, shot and run being cheered and anguished over.

But then the unimaginable happened against the run of play. Mozambique scored with a wickedly deflected effort that had Khune going the wrong way. For a moment the partisan crowd went silent. But then like true South Africans we were back behind our team, willing them on even harder. We knew that we would bounce back as we had dominated so far and there would be a backlash.

Then it happened, Vilikazi was brought down in the box. And Bernard Parker, our newest golden boy, stepped up and converted the penalty.

Halftime: 1-1. Bafana dominated but the points were not yet in the bag and the fans expected more. We already felt like winners and had to remind ourselves that the score was still tied.

Two more beers, a visit to the men's and a snack then back inside for the second half.

The first few minutes of the second half saw more of the same, South Africa pressing hard but no clear chances.

Then it happened. Kekena hit a screamer from 60 yards out that took us by surprise, the hapless Mozambican keeper too. If it was Ronaldo, Bale or Messi it would have been on every website and front page on Monday. But something else happened at that moment. A certain quote rang true: "sport has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does". I found myself hugging everyone within 3 seats of me, screaming inteligible words in Afrikaans while the guy I was hugging was doing the same in Xhosa. The power of sport.

The rest of the game was a mere formality and there to be enjoyed. We wanted more and Bafana dually delivered. Another sublime finish by Parker after a move that seemed to touch just about every one of players made it 3-1.

And then it was over. No one left their seats and Bafana Bafana players repaid the passion when they  walked around the entire pitch, seemingly applauding every fan just like we did for them.

The walk out of the stadium was slightly different than before. There was a swagger in the stride of those wearing yellow.

We ended up at Cabrito to debate the finer points of the game over a few more beers, joined by a few stragglers we picked up on the way.

A game at Cape Town Stadium is not to be missed. A good old Mexican wave does so much more for the spirit than watching from the couch. The next game is on Wednesday, 15 January where we go head-to-head with Mali, who just beat Nigeria. Then on Sunday the 19th of January we meet the Super Eagles. All at Cape Town Stadium.

I have already bought my tickets for the next 2 games, at R60 a ticket and so should you, I promise that you won't regret it. And feel free to join us at Hudson's before the game.

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