| JOHANNESBURG, June 17
JOHANNESBURG, June 17 Hopes of an African winner
at the continent's first ever World Cup have taken a knock after
a set of disappointing early results but any failure cannot be
blamed on a lack of vociferous support.
Six African teams are competing in Africa's first World Cup
finals and many fans from the mostly West African teams could
not afford to travel or buy tickets to support their players.
However South Africans, who comprise the bulk of the
supporters at the 64 matches, are compensating for their
absence, cheering every African team in support of their
In sleepy Polokwane, the most northern venue where World Cup
fever has yet to fire up, police sirens blared for 15 minutes in
the streets of the tiny town after Ghana triumphed in their
The dozens of police cars were not chasing rioting fans but
celebrating the victory, the first, and so far, only win secured
by an African side at the competition.
"It felt like we were playing in Ghana," said Ghanaian
midfielder Dede Adew. "We had that feeling that the people were
behind us, they wanted us to succeed and we are going to try to
make them proud," he said.
Even the traditional Arab north-African and sub-Saharan
divide which so often dominates policy at African Union summits
was forgotten when Algeria took on Slovenia in Polokwane.
Vuvuzelas boomed throughout the stadium as South Africans
cheered on the only Arab team and shared their anguish at their
With South Africa's chances fading after their 3-0 defeat to
Uruguay on Wednesday, local fans are switching their allegiances
to other African teams.
"We don't care which one -- we want any African team to win
the World Cup," said South African fan Ali Chauke who is backing
"They say football unites a nation -- here it is uniting a
continent," said Nigerian fan Ugonoma Ezulike. "We are
supporting South Africa and they say they are praying for us."
Most fans said either Ghana or Ivory Coast would be the most
likely teams to realise the African dream.
But, of course, some grudges just run too deep.
African champions Egypt lost out on both hosting the
prestigious tournament to South Africa and a place in the finals
to Algeria in a play-off match marred by violence which
triggered a diplomatic crisis between the two Arab nations.
At Algeria's opening match, their fans managed to find a
couple of Egyptians waving their flags and a fist fight broke
out in the stands.
(Editing by Jon Bramley and Michael Holden)