Algeria: Supporters Make Magic at England v Algeria Game

18 June 2010

Cape Town — Cape Town was alive with the spirit of the World Cup on Friday 18 June when I attended the England v Algeria game, my first match of the tournament.

Thousands of people made their way to the stadium by foot, Fifa having cordoned off many of the streets in the city centre, but the supporters were jubilant, singing and, of course, blowing their vuvuzelas in anticipation of the coming game.

I entered the stadium at 19h45 and made my way to my seat, roughly at the halfway line. Both the Algerian and English players were already on the pitch warming up for the game, practicing passing and shots at goal.

With 15 minutes to go before kickoff, the players left the field. An announcement from the big screen within the stadium started reeling off the players' names for both side, each met with cheers and vuvuzela blasts.

Anticipation was palpable when the players returned to the pitch. The noise was unbelievable and the atmosphere, electric. The playing of the national anthems silenced the crowd; many however chose to sing along. The English supporters vastly outnumbered their Algerian counterparts.

Team photographs and the coin toss followed the anthems. I took a moment to survey the stadium and fully appreciated just how big it was: a crowd of 64,000 people adamantly cheering and blowing their vuvuzelas. It was a vastly different experience witnessing it in person as opposed to watching it on TV.

The match kicked off. Within seconds I came to realise how odd it seemed to watch a match without commentary. The ebb and flow of the match was met with the appropriate responses from each side's supporters; cheering and groaning at attempts at goal or loss of possession.

I chose to support Algeria, and the Desert Foxes did much to counter the attacks of the English squad early in the game.

As the match continued, displays of support from the crowd became increasingly adamant as both sides were desperate for a goal. At one point, an Algerian fan managed to set off several fireworks, though he was quickly apprehended by stadium security. English supporters chose to chant and sing, unifying their voices within the stadium which seemed to reverberate off the very walls.

Halftime came and went and it started to seem more and more that the teams were evenly matched; to the point that a draw was now inevitable, however the last ten minutes saw the most amount of vuvuzela noise blaring across the stadium, fans shouting encouragement and several attempts at Mexican waves from the supporters on the balcony below me.

Many of the England supporters had come to respect the Algerian squad's style of play; a misleading and adaptive style that quickly capitalised on holes in the English defence.

However, some of the fans around me had taken to describing the match as "a game of ping-pong" as the ball never remained in the possession of either team for long. When the final whistle blew, it was met with a decisive amount of disappointment from both sides.

Still, the jubilant spirit of the supporters did not dissipate. Singing, chanting and noise continued to issue from the 64 000 as they exited the stadium and it was easy to get caught up in it all.

Watching a World Cup game live was an amazing experience but what made it truly great was not the game itself but the fans whose patriotism and powerful show of support made it an event I will never forget.

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