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Archive for June 11th, 2010

• Friday, June 11th, 2010

Photograph by Clarece Polke

Orlando West residents listened to the end of the opening match on personal radios and smartphones after the viewing screen blacked out

SOWETO, South Africa –  Thousands of fans converged in Johannesburg Friday to view the opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The air buzzed as vuvuzelas blew and chants rang out. Many people filed into Soccer City to watch Mexico face-off against South Africa Friday, but others decided to bring the stadium atmosphere home instead.

In Orlando West─ one of the townships that make up the Soweto complex that borders Johannesburg─ a crowd flocked to Orlando West Park to view a live broadcast of the historic match. Department of Health and Social Development volunteers assisted with the residents’ safety in addition to Johannesburg EMS and Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department.
As the big screen showed images of the opening ceremony, the people of Orlando West gathered together. Families lounged on the grass, teenagers wandered about in groups, and little children started a game of their own on a nearby field. As the two teams finally lined up shoulder to shoulder on the field, the noise in the park had grown to a roar. Mexico was quick to attack in the beginning minutes of the first half.

El Tri made many attacks on Bafana Bafana’s goal. The charges usually being led by Giovanni dos Santos and Carlos Vela. Luckily for South Africa, goalie Itumeleng Khune pulled off a few saves to keep Mexico’s offensive pressure at bay. Forwards Steven Pienaar and Katlego Mphela did their best to retaliate against the Mexican goal as the first half wound down going into halftime 0-0.

The crowd grew deafening every time Bafana Bafana entered the opposing penalty area.
Unfortunately for the hometown crowd, the perfect viewing ended abruptly early in the second half. A massive cry split the air as the large screen suddenly went blank. In an ill-timed spell of technical difficulties, the people of Orlando suddenly found themselves without a match to watch. And then, the spirit of the evening began to show through.
Undeterred, residents scrambled to gather around radios and smartphones, huddling close against the wind and singing.

As the news of winger Siphiwe Tshabalala’s 54th-minute goal came through, the cheers were undiminished by the misfortunate events. Although they could not see the players with their own eyes, the people of West Orlando were still behind their team.The final score was tied 1-1, thanks to a 79th-minute goal by Mexico’s Rafael Marquez, but a small part of South Africa still managed to eke out a victory tonight.

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• Friday, June 11th, 2010

Photograph by Rachel Gadson

Millions around the world tuned in to watch the World Cup kickoff concert Thursday, which featured a bevy of stars including Alicia Keys, John Legend, Black Eyed Peas, Angélique Kidjo and Shakira. TV viewers watched a three-hour show where the marquee acts delivered what fans have come to expect from them. But those who arrived early at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, braving bitter cold, were treated to more performances from local acts. Loyiso Bala brought so much energy into his performance that it felt like he was one of the main acts. It was no surprise he came in as the final act of the pre-show as he was undoubtedly the headliner in the first four hours of entertainment.

Before Loyiso took the stage, fellow South Africans 340ml and Tumi Molekane warmed the crowd with catchy tunes. 340ml, which sounds like British band Cold Play, but with a fusion of mellow reggae, rock and pop, opened the show singing four numbers while Tumi got the audience bumping to rhymes delivered on a mixture of American hip-hop beats and rock. Loyiso, however, was in a different league delivering his own unique twist on popular R&B tunes like George Benson’s “Give Me the Night,” but also thrilling the audience singing in the Xhosa language. Indian act Salim and Sulaiman joined Loyiso on stage, along with Alisha Popat and Eric Wainaina to close out the pre-show singing a powerful “Africa Promise.”

The audience, almost filling the stadium by the 8 p.m. live show start time, screamed when music legend Hugh Masekela opened with his captivating trumpet routine. Local singer Lira joined Masekela on stage to perform the late Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata.” Black Eyed Peas didn’t disappoint, following with a string of hits including “Where Is The Love?” “Pump It,” “Meet Me Halfway,” “Boom Boom Pow” and crowd pleaser “I Have a Feeling.” Fergie managed to sound better live than she does in studio, which was hard to accomplish given the not so good acoustic sound in the stadium.

Benin’s Angélique Kidjo took to the stage after Malian duo Amadou & Mariam and commanded the audience’s attention with her powerful voice and stage presence. The Soweto Gospel Choir joined her on a “Malaika/Africa” medley and John Legend made an early appearance on her set to cover Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up.” Legend remained on stage to sing “Wake Up Everybody,” and his upbeat “Green Light.” Legend’s set was the shortest among the international acts, and fans would have preferred to hear at least one more song from him.

Alicia Keys seemingly had the entire audience singing along to every song she performed. Whether it was “You Don’t Know My Name,” “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart,” “Fallin’,” “No One” or her most recent “Empire State of Mind,” Keys confirmed why she tops the list of entertainers you want to see perform live. “Too Late for Mama,” her duo with local band BLK JKS, which was an ode to the late singer Brenda Fassie, stirred the crowd.

Colombian act Juanes and South Africa’s Big Nuz and DJ Tira also had great sets, and rising Somali-born star K’naan served up what could easily have been a closing performance with his official World Cup tune “Wavin’ Flag.” Flags were flying at their highest and voices screaming at their loudest as K’naan, later joined by Will.I.Am, led the audience through the patriotic tune. Colombian singer Shakira may not be a natural vocalist, but there’s no mistaking what she’s known best for: her belly dancing and hip-gyrating skills. Her vocal performance was average at best, but her dance moves were quite the attraction. Singing the official World Cup tune “Waka Waka” (This Time for Africa,) Shakira and a host of dancers and singers, with the help of confetti, signaled the close of what turned out to be a seven-hour show for some.

In between performances, President Jacob Zuma, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, FIFA President Sepp Blatter and many football greats, made appearances on stage, delivering encouraging messages to the delight of fans.

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• Friday, June 11th, 2010

Photograph by Rachel Gadson

For many, a chance to show off a different image of Africa

SOWETO, South Africa ─ Orlando Stadium gave birth to a vibrant sea of flags, vuvuzelas and the painted faces of energetic fans at the FIFA Kickoff Celebration Concert Thursday night.
Prominent artists included Alicia Keys, the Black Eyed Peas and African megastar Angélique Kidjo from Benin, but the real stars were the thousands of soccer enthusiasts who packed the arena.
Traces of 19-year-old Rumbi Gondo’s national pride could be found in everything from her rich Zimbabwean accent to her feathered jester’s hat, but she said her support extends far beyond her mother country’s borders.

As her wooden hoop earrings swayed in the high wind she said the concert’s energy stemmed from the sense of unity among the crowd. The celebration appeared to be centered on an African nation’s first time hosting the World Cup, not the lineup of performers. “I think the atmosphere is the best thing because you can see the artists on TV, but the whole feel is that you’re in Africa and everybody’s very excited. Everyone’s feeling very patriotic. I think that’s what the concert’s all about,” said Gondo. “When the Cup starts, I’m going to be rooting for all of the African teams.”

Fans like Gondo from across the world warmed the freezing Soweto night with their overwhelming excitement and sense of oneness. The country seemed to live up to its nickname, the Rainbow Nation, as Bafana Bafana supporters shared blankets with their Mexican rivals and local children imitated Shakira’s gravity-defying dance moves. This theme of unity extended from the crow’s nest to the front row as countless fans waved their flags nonstop throughout the night. The temperature dropped into the low 40s, but anticipation continued to rise among the crowd.

New York City native Angela Barnes smiled through a set of cartoonish glasses as she danced to her favorite South African band, BLK JKS (it’s pronounced like black jacks). Her fiery red hair poked out under a multicolored top hat as she described her impressions of the night. “It’s absolutely amazing. Seeing everyone here for the Cup has been a once in a lifetime experience,” Barnes said. “I’m seeing a side of Africa like I’ve never seen before.”

As Tony Mwabe sat with the South African flag draped across his shoulders, he said he hopes others will adopt a new view of his native country and the entire African continent. “I hope it helps change the image of South Africa. I’ve spoken to a number of people from overseas who have visited for the first time and basically think that we are a third and fifth world country,” Mwabe said. “The perception is that we’re running around here in our underwear and that type of thing. Now that the world’s eyes are on South Africa, I believe that will change.”

Fans from across the globe converged on the eve of the highly anticipated World Cup.
For thousands of loyal fans, it was a night to be remembered forever. As South African President Jacob Zuma said during his address to the crowd, “Football is not only a game. Football is connecting people.”

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• Friday, June 11th, 2010

Photograph by Rachel Gadson

Archbishop Desmond Tutu greets fans backstage at the official World Cup Kickoff Concert Thursday night.

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