South Africa's over-the-top football fans
14 May 2010
South African soccer fans are among the most colourful, passionate – and eccentric – in the world, as visitors to the country during the 2010 Fifa World Cup™ will soon discover.
Come the afternoon of 11 June, should you find yourself in the grandstand of the Johannesburg's calabash-shaped Soccer City stadium, chances are you'll be sitting next to someone sporting a bright yellow jersey, oversized goggles and a decorated miner's helmet or "makarapa", and blowing a bright plastic trumpet known as a vuvuzela.
Symbols of pride
And these are just some of the must-have "symbols of pride" for any self-respecting South African football fan, local soccer fanatic Freddy "Saddam" Maake told BuaNews recently.
You might also see supporters eating bread to indicate that the opposition is their "daily bread", opening a Bible in search of divine intervention, or carrying a homemade coffin to indicate that their team is about to "bury" the opposition.
"Come the World Cup, Bafana Bafana supporters will be easily recognised ... we are proudly South African and what better way to show it than to have all our symbols," said Maake, urging South Africans to go all out and buy the full range to show their support for the national team.
With the kick-off to Africa's first Fifa World Cup fast approaching, entrepreneurs' creative juices are flowing freely, resulting in some hilarious supporter accessories.
Vuvuzelas, kuduzelas, momozelas ...
One company recently launched vuvuzela-shaped earplugs for quieter fans. Company spokesperson Andrew Chin said the move was a patriotic one, intended to embrace the instrument while providing ear protection for those who wanted it.
"The World Cup is a fantastic event, and rather than entertaining complaints about the noise from vuvuzelas, we thought we'd do something positive," Chin told BuaNews. "We believe all South Africans should get with the World Cup party, embrace it and have fun at the same time!"
Among other accessories is the Kuduzela trumpet, a kudu horn-shaped alternative to the vuvuzela, which sounds like a trumpeting elephant. Then there's the "momozela", or baby vuvuzela, which sounds like a baby crying. While many may find it irritating, local soccer fanatics love the sound it makes.
Maake said there is also the "vuthela", which is more user-friendly as it does not take as much effort to blow.
And those with a burst of energy to carry extra kilos to the stadium might want to take the "baleka", or "gijima" as it is popularly known, which, after being wound for some time, emits a sound like an air-raid siren.
Six colours of passion
Some local supporters simply cannot do without their long, colourful church robes when they go out to support their team, Maake said, adding that it has become fashionable for fans to wear these along with giant glasses displaying team slogans and logos, and afro wigs sprayed the colours of the national flag.
The country's creative entrepreneurs have also made scarves, head bunnies and hand gloves for those who will attend matches in the chillier parts of the country.
And of course, the South African flag is a must for every supporter, its latest incarnation being the car side-mirror "socks" that have become increasingly visible on the country's roads.
And then there's the makarapa, the modified, decorated miners' helmet unique to South African soccer fans.
The makarapa dates back to 1979, according to the man credited with making the first one.
"The way I invented the makarapa is almost as weird as I am," said Alfred Baloyi, 54, a die-hard Kaizer Chiefs supporter who said the idea came to him while he was sitting in a stadium.
"Someone threw a bottle and hit someone on the head." At his next game Baloyi, who worked as a cleaner in Limpopo province at the time, wore his work safety helmet decorated with football imagery.
The makarapa's embellishments commonly include images of favourite players, former president Nelson Mandela, current politicians, and team flags and colours, said Baloyi, whose selling price has escalated from a mere R7 in 1979 to a cool R300 for a helmet today.
For the World Cup, Baloyi and his employees are making makarapas to suit fans of most of the 32 teams.
Maake, who has over 300 makarapas, boasts that he has one for every occasion. He said his makarapas have mini-portraits of Nelson Madela, Danny Jordaan, Sepp Blatter, Kaizer Motaung, Irvin Khoza and Molefi Oliphant.
"I wear these guys with pride," Maake said. "They contributed significantly in bringing us the Fifa World Cup."
Whether Bafana Bafana win or lose during the tournament, Mzansi's fans will be sure to win a million hearts with their outrageous regalia and over-the-top antics.