JOHANNESBURG – The 2013 African Nations Cup finals gets under way next Saturday when Bafana Bafana take on first time participants Cape Verde at Soccer City.
Close to 100 000 spectators will witness the opening ceremony and the eventual double-header which also features Morocco against Angola.
The tournament promises thrills galore and organisers have assured soccer lovers that this particular occasion will be the benchmark on which all future Afcon tournaments will be judged.
The groundwork has been laid and red carpet laid for Africa’s crème de la crème to grace the show.
This particular extravaganza promises to have everything for the global audience which will make Mzansi their temporary home in the next three weeks or so. Most will obviously take advantage of the spectacular to tour this magnificent country.
Since the end of the festive season atmosphere, the mood here has gradually moved towards the Cup of Nations and the crescendo seems to grow by the day.
Most sporting events in the country have been shelved or asked to take a deserved break so that they are no excuses of having two events competing against each other.
And in the past few days, regardless of budget constraints, queues at global ticket vendors (Computicket) have been getting longer and longer, a sentiment that Africa’s biggest tournament is at hand. You can literally feel it in air that Afcon is here.
What is hearting is also the fact that some countries have booked thousands of tickets for their nationals with Morocco and Nigeria having purchased 30 000 and 20 000 respectively for their fans.
Not to be outdone, Angola and Zambia have also gone big considering their fans are not known to travel in big numbers. Each of the two Cosafa countries has acquired 4 000 tickets for their adoring followers.
Organisers had predicted they wanted to sell 500 000 tickets by the time the show commences and they seem on target. As we speak, close to 400 000 tickets in the market have been snapped up and the organisers have urged the public to go and have their tickets before they are finished.
And what seems to be turning this event on its head and making sure that this tournament will explode into a carnival atmosphere is the fact that among Mzansi soccer followers, the white supporters have been buying more tickets than their black counterparts in the past few days.
In the penultimate warm-up game against Norway in the Mother City, the white audience by far outnumbered their black counterparts setting up a stage that this will be an experience of a kind.
Not so long ago, there was an issue that whites don’t support soccer but turnout in droves for cricket and rugby.
That myth however, was disapproved on Tuesday in Cape Town. Whites are just as passionate about soccer as they are with rugby, cricket or should we say things are changing.
This might not be another 2010 World Cup tournament but the vibe here is close to that.
The public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has taken advantage of the electric atmosphere to kick-start their dream of having a 24-hour sports channel to rival the pay-per-view channel Supersport.
This channel they say will cover most of the sub-Saharan Africa where they want to have a massive footprint and will change the face of African soccer which suffers from poor television coverage.
And if there is television coverage, it is of poor quality. Talk of maximising opportunities!
Personally, I can’t wait for the kick off. – Tinotenda Panashe
*Tinotenda Panashe is our South Africa-based columnist. He can be contacted by e-mail at Tinotenda.Panashe@gmail.com.