Africa Cup of Nations Opening Match: The Man with the Loudest Horn sits Alone

There is no great insight about the sport of soccer to be gained here. My seat for the opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations in Johannesburg was in the 5th row. Close enough to hear and feel the players, but also too close to analyze the tactics and formations. It was, however, perfectly situated for those interested in the spectacle, the fun, the cheering, chants and music around the beautiful game.

My seat was to the right of the keeper 5 rows back. To my left, directly behind the opposing goal, was a large contingent of those covered in yellow and green: the South African supporters. I have adopted the teams of my new home and was supporting Bafana Bafana, as the nation soccer team in South Africa is lovingly called. If you need a translation try ‘The Boys, The Boys!’ or ‘Go Boys, Go Boys!’

Speeches were given, the President spoke, the national anthems were sang. When kick off ensued, another song was sung with the same passion as the anthem itself:

Shosholoza (to push forward)

Shosholoza, shosholoza (Moving fast, moving strong)
Ku lezontaba (Through those mountains)
Stimela sphuma eSouth Africa (Train from South Africa)
Wenu yabaleka (You are leaving)
Wenu yabaleka (You are leaving)
Ku lezontaba (Through those mountains)
Stimela siphum’ eSouth Africa (Train from South Africa)

I have never, ever, in my 32 years heard 90 000 people sing a song together in unison without prompting. For this experience I would like to thank every South African that was there that day and who has ever participated, that was really beautiful.

Now in North America that would basically be the end of it. Not here, the noise and fervour and jumping from your seat excitement continued all match. This was the loudest, most passionate and most in touch crowd I have known. And this is coming from a guy who spent a year working for his beloved Vancouver Whitecaps FC who should be biased but can not be. The match was not great, there were few chances as both teams played deep for the opening match tie. This did not stop anyone from getting into the match and enjoying the action.

What’s more is that during lulls people made their own fun. Some of this fun was no fun for others. Sitting directly in front of me was a man with a vuvuzela that wasn’t quite a vuvuzela. To the mouthpiece he had an attachment that double or even tripled the noise that these loud instruments could make. The horn itself was faded from countless days under the African sun and you could see, if you looked, that it was often used. One person asked him to point the horn to the pitch, he was swiftly whacked by the loud horned one for daring to suggest someone else stop having his own sort of fun. The man with the loudest horn soon sat alone with a ring of empty seats all around him.

Later in the match a very muscular man in a vest (tank top for my NA pals) was standing at the railing loudly supporting his team. When I say muscular I mean built like Lou Ferrigno. He befriended a group of other supporters sitting behind him and they got to talking. It soon lead to a flex off between the big guy and a man who was basically skin, bone and humour. They posed side by side as everyone had a laugh at the disparity in size. Sometimes you just have to find your own laughs at a soccer match and South Africans know where to find them.

The first match ended in a draw. About 75% of the crowd went home as Bafana were done for the day. The second match was between Angola and Morocco and I happened to be hanging out with an Angolan friend. We HAD TO stay.

The match began as any other, speeches, anthems and the whole thing. This time there was no special song sang at kick off. Instead, among the Angolan section set aside by their consulate a drum and horn band came marching down the stairs. It was quickly determined that this is where myself and the Angolans I was now watching the match with needed to be. Had to be. Must be.

We made our way there and as we approached the security guard for the area pointed to the group and said ‘you are Angolan and I will let you in,’ then pointed to me and said ‘but what about this guy.’ One of them chimed in that we were married and I was half Angolan. The right lie can get you in anywhere some days.

The crowd all spoke Portuguese, a language I know not one word of. I did understand the music and the fun as we danced between the cheers and gasps of too close goals and bad calls. Flags were waved, banners soared and the feeling and impact of the passion was the same from this small crowd as the larger one.

How to conclude this article? How indeed. All I can think of, and all that seems appropriate is this:

Thank you to all Africans who shared this with me, and to all South Africans for hosting this tournament. Sincerely.

Now on to Rustenberg to see the legends Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Adebayor in person during an Ivory Coast v Togo match.

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About matthewryeoman

Matthew Yeoman is a freelance writer currently living in Vancouver, Canada. He has written for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Simply Computing, and WSI Milton. He has long been interested in soccer and Africa and has combined these two passions into the work you are reading on this site. Read up on his other work at www.MatthewYeoman.com
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One Response to Africa Cup of Nations Opening Match: The Man with the Loudest Horn sits Alone

  1. John Gibbons says:

    Excellent article! I think it’s important for them to receive quality soccer coaching at a quality soccer academy, if they want to play soccer at a professional level!

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