By Andrea Bertele.
If one week ago, while still in Madrid, you had told me how comfortable I would feel in South Africa, I would have laughed in disbelief. Fast forward to our arrival to OR International airport in Johannesburg. The security concerns vanished at the airport, where hundreds of smiles were there to welcome all new comers.
Even more, there was no way I could foresee that after just two days of my stay here in South Africa, I would be mistaken for a South African football team supporter by the most popular Italian newspaper, the “Corriere della Sera”. On the website of this newspaper, in fact, there is a picture of us (five of the current Emzingo fellows) at the FNB stadium enjoying the opening match of the African Cup, South Africa vs Cape Verde. Our picture (here below) is the first in the section “The African supporters”.
Amazing photo! But, who is that woman with us you may wonder. She is Gladys, a passionate supporter of Bafana, the South African football team. We went to eat at her restaurant (“The Place”) in Johannesburg; and after a delicious meal we were told that she had spare tickets for the opening match of the African cup. Can you believe that! We neither, and before she finished the sentence we were already donning black trash plastic bags to face the heavy rain, ready to go to the stadium. Time to go, we had two hours before the start of the match. We jumped in the car with her, direction FNB stadium. People in the street continuously approached the car. Why? What’s going on? Should we be worried? No, no panic. They just wanted to say “hi” to Mama, this incredible woman who was leading us to the stadium. We immediately realized she was a South African star: her passion for football and her innate and unconditioned support for the national team had been shown in the TV just few days before.
“Sorry, you cannot pass. To go to the stadium you need to park here and walk” a policeman told us at a roadblock. Obviously, he hadn’t seen Mama yet. She just had to lean out of the window and in few seconds the policeman was beckoning us to pass, with a huge smile. Oh, this woman is impressive! We finally parked and walked to the stadium for the last part.
Here’s a photo. And as you can tell, there’s something missing. Something is not working! How can we pass as real South African supporters dressed this way? Along the way we stopped almost every street vendor to get the proper clothes! Once at the stadium we were different: we were now real South African supporters. Go Bafana Bafana!