Nearly 20 000 people defied the cold, rainy weather to enjoy a final fling at the FIFA Fan Fest™ at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Sunday evening.
“The huge success of the Nelson Mandela Bay Fan Fest exceeded our wildest expectations. I want to thank everybody who came and supported this wonderful initiative,” said Fan Fest director Glenn van Eck.
Elated Spanish supporters ran around St George’s Park, screaming with joy, when their team won the World Cup final in Johannesburg. Disappointed Dutch supporters cried and comforted each other.
Fears that unfavourable weather conditions on the final night of the World Cup tournament would dampen the spirits were unfounded.
Thousands of spectators started streaming through the gates from early afternoon. Armed with vuvuzelas, blankets, thick jackets, scarves and boots the fired-up fans joined in singing along with artists such as JR and Jesse Clegg.
The atmosphere was almost indescribable. “Who would ever have thought that our continent could pull this off in such a way,” said Samuel Phiri, a Zambian taxi driver.
No African team made it to the semifinals but Phiri was extremely proud to be African. “Wow! I felt so honoured watching the live broadcast of the final and the closing ceremony on the big screen.”
Phiri and twelve friends stayed in Johannesburg for the first part of the tournament and then moved down to Port Elizabeth to follow the remaining matches from the Fan Fest arena at St George’s Park.
“The friendliness and the hospitality we experienced in this city were amazing. The restaurants are great and this Fan Fest is in a class of its own.”
When the SA Tourism Diski Dancers took to the stage, the crowd roared their approval. José Emmanuel, a Spanish supporter, said they were magnificent. “I enjoyed the rhythm and spirit of Africa that they created.”
The icy showers did not spoil his enthusiasm. “Our passion for this beautiful game is stronger than any weather conditions. We stayed up all night to prepare ourselves for today. And what a thriller it turned out to be!”
Van Eck said it had been clear since the quarterfinals that the fans were going to come to St George’s Park on the final night of the tournament, no matter what the weather.
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