Kicking Off the World Cup in Boynton With Screaming Bafana Bafana Fans
By 10 a.m., the plates of ham, eggs, and bacon are steaming on the bar at Slainte Irish Pub in Boynton Beach, next to fresh bloody marys. Julie Murphy, a redhead wearing a yellow T-shirt with the words Ke Nako ("It's Time") emblazoned on the back, commandeers a stool in front of the flat-screen TV. She has her laptop in front of her but is too nervous to Twitter.
"Go Bafana!" she shouts at the green-and-gold figures on the screen.
Murphy has lived in Gulf Stream for nine years, but her heart belongs to her native South
Africa. She grew up in the era before Invictus, when the racial divisions caused by apartheid prevented whites and blacks from cheering for the same sports teams. Rugby appealed to whites; soccer was for blacks.
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Now South Africa is the first country on the continent to host the World Cup. Murphy tears up as white Afrikaners sing the national anthem in Zulu, cheering for players whose pigmentation matches the cups of Irish coffee steaming on the bar.
There's only one small problem: The South African team, known as Bafana Bafana, isn't very good. It didn't qualify for the World Cup and played only in the opening match against Mexico because it's from the host country. It would require a Morgan Freeman-style miracle for the team to advance in the competition.
"Nah, men!" bellows a group of fans in the corner of Slainte, as Mexico nearly scores.
Julien Tockar is visiting from Johannesburg, watching the game with his brother, who lives in Delray Beach. "We've worked very hard to bring this to reality," he says of the World Cup.
Tockar grew up playing rugby at home, although some of his friends followed the British soccer teams. Now he's happy to be rooting for the home team -- and for the chance to show the world that South Africa is not the crime-ridden, divided place some outsiders fear it to be. "It lets people see the beautiful country that we have," he says.
Politics aside, the focus at the moment is on soccer. When Bafana scores the first goal, the small crowd at Slainte erupts into screams. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the elfin symbol of South African peace and reconciliation, appears on ESPN, dressed entirely in yellow and black, dancing a kind of jig in front of Joe Biden.
For a few minutes, it looks like South Africa might actually pull off a win. Then Mexico scores, and the game remains infuriatingly static. Tocker and his brother step outside to smoke and stare at the screen. "Yes... yes... fuck!" they shout.
Welcome to the World Cup.
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