7 Jun 2010

Very loud: England’s first game on African soil

The atmosphere at England’s first game in South Africa ahead of Saturday’s World Cup clash against the US was very different to that of the Premier League, says Keme Nzerem.

England had faced local South African league side Platinum Stars in front of a noisy crowd of 12,000 spectators in Moruleng.

Fabio Capello’s side won 3-0, thanks to goals from Jermain Defoe, Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney.

However, despite taking an early lead, their performance was less than convincing against ahead of Saturday’s Group C opener.

Rooney was also booked.

Their opposition had only finished in the bottom half of the South African league.

Many of the side had interrupted their holidays to play.

Sports writer Simon Stone noted: “Capello can only hope the standard of opposition – limited, yet hugely spirited – failed to bring the best out of his team because if that is not the case, England’s stay in South Africa is destined to be a brief one.”

For England it was a first taste of African football, writes Keme Nzerem. It's loud – very loud.

Vuvuzelas, the horn-like instrument found at every African football field, peel out like angry mosquitoes.

Schoolchildren dance on the pitches in unison and an awful lot of smiling faces welcomed the Premier League stars they usually only get to see on television.

For the Platinum Stars players, many of them journeyman footballers, it was the game of a lifetime. They told Channel 4 News on the bus on the way to the stadium it would be competitive game – and at the end of the day they were happy to have England in their World Cup preparation.

One of their players said he'd cut short his holiday in Namibia just so he could be there for the big gamer. He said his wife wasn't very happy until he explained just how important the game was.

The crowds were quickly treated to some surprisingly action-packed football – in the first 10 minutes England had gone 1-0 up and Platinum Stars had missed a penalty.