Daily Archives: May 3, 2010

38 Days to Go : Bafana Bafana

Although there are now only 38 days to go, I just got an email from Birmingham City about a pre-season friendly against Derby County on July 31st.

I kind of forget that in less than 75 days the whole tournament will be over and as most people will be sunning themselves on European beaches, I will be making the short trip to hotspots in the East Midlands to cover The Blues at The Rams.


Highlighted in the diary this month are the Football League Play Offs, UEFA Cup Final, FA Cup Final, UEFA Champions League Final and International Friendlies before we fly to Johannesburg for the opening match, Bafana Bafana v Mexico.

Who will win? Who knows, but the only dead cert is that South African culture will be known to the world. The language of new words, new towns and cities and new names of footballers will enter into the lives of football followers via their televisions.


I was once in Argentina covering the mighty River Plate and the taxi driver taking me to the stadium said he was from Cordoba. I knew exactly where that was. Apart from being an introduction to Mario Kempas when I was 7, my Panini Sticker Album also served as a mini geography lesson in teaching me the location of the Argentinian host city venues.

Places like Nelspruit may make Aberystwyth look like Los Angeles but the whole world will know where it is very soon.

Most people with an education will know of Pretoria as the capital of Apartheid, rugby and cricket followers will know of the likes of Bloemfontein and Cape Town, but currently Polokwane is still unknown.


Through my travels to Africa in recent times, I still don’t think that the South Africans will know what will hit them – but equally as the rest of the world learn about the host venues, it will be interesting to see if the South African football culture will spread through global football stadiums thereafter.


So firstly, what is Bafana Bafana?

Bafana Bafana is the nickname of the national team of South Africa.

The Italians are obviously known as The Azzuri (The Blues) but unless you are a keen follower of African football, the term Bafana Bafana may have passed you by.

Driving around listening to South African radio stations, every commentator refers to the National Team as Bafana Bafana, which in Zulu means The Boys.


The main cultural difference between football in South Africa and the rest of the world however is not the colourful shirts the teams wear in the SA Premier League, its not the amount of dreadlocks seen on the terraces but it is simply The Vuvuzela – a horn.

Television producers hate them.

Anyone with a migrane hates them.

The Japanese FA who like to concentrate hate them and tried to get them banned by FIFA – and I don’t blame them and I can assure you they are loud and very annoying, that’s coming from someone who in true Spinal Tap style has his tunes in the car set on level 11.

However, if FIFA President Sepp Blatter had of banished them from the stadiums then all hell would have let loose and it would have been the equivalent of telling a Newcastle United fan not to wear a replica shirt at St James’s Park.

And in fairness, the World Cup would not have reflected the true culture of football in this amazing country if the Vuvuzela was banned.

The Vuvuzela is a colourful plastic trumpet which makes a very loud noise!

The Vuvuzela is much as a part of the culture of South African football as is having two goals and a ball to kick. It’s almost a trademark and an icon for football.

Billboard posters showing fans with a Vuvuzela is just as calling card for the beautiful game as a picture of a football boot kicking a ball. Every South African knows what they are, the rest of the world probably doesn’t but believe you me, they soon will!


The World Cup in Argentina 78 is renowned for the ticker tape and toilet rolls being hurled from the stands in the El Monumental de Nunez – one of the many names for the River Plate Stadium.

The World Cup in Mexico 86 is renowned for the Mexican Wave.

It’s been amazing to see how in the past 15 years different European football cultures have influenced each other as teams and fans crossed borders in the UEFA Champions League.

The culture of twirling scarves around in the air is now seen in English football and the jumping up and down on the terraces which was a common feature in Italy somehow found it’s way into Scottish football.

The normal soundtrack chorus of noise heard on the TV made by fans chanting, singing and reacting to the play on the field will not be a feature of this World Cup – well certainly not when Bafana Bafana play.

A simple solution would be to turn the TV down! Putting on the radio to hear an alternative commentary won’t help either.

Hundreds and thousands of fans blowing these horns create a cacophony of very angry and very loud bees.

The soundtrack of a football match may never be the same.



The other main cultural difference that will be seen at this soccer spectacular is the Makarapa.

It is basically a modified miners helmet – or a helmet now seen on building sites as part of health and safety.

If the Vuvuzela annoyed the unsuspecting fan with noise, the Makarapa will certainly annoy the type of character seen at English football matches these days who moans at photographers, TV cameraman, stewards and even members of their own team warming up on the sideline blocking their view of the pitch!

“Oy…Get out me way son – I paid good money to sit here, I can’t see!!”

So whilst football commentators and columnists write column inches speculating on who is going to win the FIFA 2010 World Cup, what I want to know is – will 20,000 Baggies fans fill The Hawthorns with sounds of buzzing horns come their opening game in the 2010-2011 Barclays Premier League?

After all the Mexican Wave caught on very quickly and toilets of grounds up and down the country were raided for toilet paper by fans in readiness for when the teams came out on to the pitch after Argentina 78.

Will there be claret and blue Vuvuzela’s on sale outside Villa Park next season and will Wolverhampton Wanderers have to install a new PA system in their Molinuex Stadium because of gold and black horns?