Hordes of orange-clad Dutch fans and red-bedecked Spaniards were battling it out in Johannesburg to see who could sing the loudest, drink the most and dress the silliest ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final.
South Africans gleefully joined in the raucous but good-natured build-up to the game at Soccer City where one of the teams was to lift soccer’s greatest prize for the first time.
Some neutrals flying in for the game even wore scarves with both “Netherlands” and “Espana” on them to hedge their bets.
“This way, I can party whoever wins!” joked Jigae Parmai, just in from India, with a half-orange, half-red scarf.
At Nelson Mandela square, Dutch fans in orange double-breasted suits formed an impromptu band to strike up traditional songs with their brass instruments.
Spanish supporters soon gathered next to them on a staircase, belting out “Viva Espana!” at the top of their lungs.
“I accept the Dutch are a bit more colourful and loud and numerous than us,” said Spaniard Uani Ruiz.
“But we have most of the South Africans behind us, so it will be a very different picture when we are in the stadium.”
‘This is living’
That view held good in interviews with locals, who, despite their historical ties with former colonisers The Netherlands, have taken more to the Spanish team due to the intricate passing and flair football so beloved by purist African soccer fans.
“They are just too cool, those Spain guys. They knock the ball around so well their opponents can’t get anywhere near,” said student Mzwakhe Tyali (18).
“I always play Spain on my PlayStation.”
Proud Dutch fan Arjen Verlaan (20) said his partial namesake and wing wizard Arjen Robben would soon put paid to Spanish dreams and give The Netherlands a third-time-lucky win after defeats in the 1974 and 1978 finals.
“We’ll win two-nil. Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. You have to agree Sneijder is the best player in the tournament,” he said, sipping a beer at a cafe and wearing a curly orange wig.
Hawkers were having a last fiesta of sales, with vuvuzela trumpets flying off their stalls, along with scarves, hats and anything else with a dab of red or orange.
Some fans had signs begging for tickets — at any price.
Locals had their faces painted with Spanish or Dutch flags, and draped themselves in the colours of their favourite team.
“I love this atmosphere,” said Verlaan, who had flown in without a ticket and planned to watch the game from a fan park. “This is why I came. This is living, this is football.” – Reuters