Excited fans have begun arriving for the opening game of the third Africa Nations Championship here tonight - between hosts South Africa and Mozambique, following a colourful and lively opening ceremony which paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela.
"The gees (spirit) is wonderful and we are already winning," said Capetonian Thabo Madiehe, who said he and his two friends would watch both the South Africa versus Mozambique game at 6pm and the Mali-Nigeria match at 9pm, both set to take place at Cape Town Stadium.
Bafana Bafana supporter Norbert Muzusangabo, who is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but who has been in the city for 10 years, said he was here today to celebrate South Africa. "We salute South Africa for everything they've done, and we give this one for Nelson Mandela - Madiba," he said.
Mozambican fan Rodrigues Magalhaes, who is on holiday in the city, said he would be rooting for his team. "Well, I wish Mozambique can win, but you know South Africa, I think it is well prepared compared to Mozambique, but at the end of 90 minutes we will have an answer for that question, so it's all in the air," said Magalhaes. This evening's opening match was preceded by the opening ceremony kicked off at 4pm with a brief performance by praise singer Jessica Mbangeni, followed by the local group The Soil with a song in commemoration of Nelson Mandela. Mandela's former praise singer Zolani Mkiva was next, performing around an orange and white silhouette of the late statesman.
Cape Town also featured boldly in the ceremony, with an image of the famed city's Table Mountain being raised on a canvas backdrop. Dancers celebrated some of the location's top attractions such as carnival, fashion, jazz (featuring guitarist Jimmy Dludlu) and its new recognition as the 2014 World Design Capital. The SA navy band led a parade of flags from the 16 nations competing in the tournament - Burkina Faso, Burundi, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and hosts South Africa. Following a burst of fireworks, last act up was house music group Mi Casa.
Mandla Tyobidyasi, from Cape Town, said he enjoyed the opening ceremony, particularly the dancing which features various dancers in the dress of various cultures. "Ja I liked it, it was cool," said Swede August Narin, who particularly liked a scene from the ceremony where dancers pushed big puzzle blocks together to form the map of Africa. In all 32 matches will be played on 16 match days at four stadiums - at Polokwane, Bloemfontein and in Cape Town at Athlone Stadium and in the Cape Town Stadium - with the final set for February 1, at Cape Town Stadium.