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Anyone but Australia

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We met Seish a few days ago, when we stopped at his pub on our way from big-game spotting in the Pilanesberg National Park – where we saw elephants, giraffes and the USA squad’s tour bus – to Australia v. Germany. After making sure none of us were Australian, he gave us a lecture on the long-running sporting rivalry between South Africa and Australia (in everything from rugby and cricket to swimming and running). He then brought out a T-shirt with the slogan: ‘I support any team that plays against Australia.’

Local opposition to Australia was even stronger for Saturday’s game against Ghana, which was beginning to look like Africa’s last hope for a place in the second round. ‘Africa is united!’ a group of four girls waving a huge Black Stars flag shouted at us, followed by a blast on their vuvuzelas. ‘I am African-English,’ said a young white South African, whose face was painted red, yellow and green with the black Ghanaian star on his nose. ‘Africa United’ is the slogan of MTN, a Ghanaian telecoms company and World Cup sponsor.

The enthusiasm unfortunately didn’t translate to the 11 Ghanaians on the pitch, who for almost 60 minutes were playing against only 10 Australians (following Harry Kewell’s red card). For much of the second half it seemed that Ghana were happy with a 1-1 draw, as if they’d forgotten their next game would be against Germany. The supporters didn’t seem to mind, though: every time one of the Ghana defenders cleared a ball by kicking it well out of the pitch a great cheer went up as if they’d just scored. When the game ended we found ourselves sharing Seish’s sentiments as the Australian supporters rained beer bottles onto the pitch.

We set out on the three-hour drive to Johannesburg hoping that Ivory Coast could pull off a miracle against Brazil. The puncture we got in our front tyre along the way was clearly an omen.

Comments on “Anyone but Australia”

  1. Imperialist says:

    The anti-Oz sentiment in South Africa is a (partially) good-natured response to Australia’s sporting dominance. This is less keenly felt now that the Australian cricket team is no longer quite so invulnerable and the Springboks are the world’s dominant rugby power. Still, it’s hard to think of Australians as underdogs, no matter how inept their football team has proven to be. (For similar reasons, I can’t share the widespread enthusiasm for the USA’s successes.) And after Ghana’s disastrous draw, I feel less bad about indulging in a bit of harmless Schadenfreude.

    Incidentally, MTN is a South African company that operates in Ghana (among other places, including Iran and Afghanistan).

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