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.