Editorial: 2013 Afcon has changed the perception of Gauteng public

Goal.com writer Ernest Makhaya shares his experience about the Afcon vibe in Gauteng and rubbing shoulders with Ivory Coast
South African football has breathed a new lease of life, and our fans can now speak proudly about Bafana Bafana after a splendid performance in the Africa so far. It was over a decade since Bafana qualified for the second round of the Afcon.

The 2013 Afcon tournament has lived up to expectations. Our fans have come to the party despite having initial doubts. I wouldn’t want to compare this tournament with the 1996 Afcon, because I was too young to remember every detail, but I can say this is the best African tournament hosted in the 21st century. I am also happy to have seen that this tournament has drawn the attention of spectators worldwide.

I have been lucky to have travelled to places within the Gauteng province, from Soweto to Pretoria, Johannesburg to Boksburg and felt that the football passion is back. I heard people in the streets of Gauteng talking about the Afcon matches and how ready they are, for the next matches. The perception of our fans in Gauteng has changed.

I am also humbled with the way our African brothers and sisters behaved at the stadiums. They have learnt to accept defeat. We have never seen or heard of any violent behaviour from our South African fans toward visitors.

With an electrifying atmosphere at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in a game between Nigeria and Ethiopia, it felt like one of those European match days when the expectations are high. I turned to believe that our African football fans are no different to European fans, cheering and singing for their national teams. Nobody thought Ethiopians could dominate the likes of Nigeria in filling up the stadium. Well, that is the true story from what I observed in Rustenburg.

The time I spent with various international players from the Ivory Coast national team has made me realize how small the football world can be. Not so long ago, I was watching Didier Drogba inspiring Chelsea to win the 2012 Uefa Champions League in Munich. Here in South Africa, I was talking to the same Drogba, which was one of the highlights for me personally. Didier will only reveal his club future after the tournament. The likes of Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou are all heroes in South Africa. In the 2013 Afcon we can all be heroes. Even for one day.