What are the expectations for the team?
Bafana Bafana are currently ranked 90th in the FIFA rankings (behind such traditional powerhouses as Guinea, Albania and Moldova), and 21st in Africa, the second lowest of all 32 competing nations, ahead only of North Korea. Results during training camps in Brazil and Germany against mediocre opposition were less than encouraging and most of our Europe-based star players have had disappointing seasons. It will be a quite remarkable achievement should Bafana get out of their pretty tough group, so expectations are low.
Are any players involved in politics?
Not in any high-profile ways, but the chairman of the Local Organising Committee, Irvin Khoza, might become Jacob Zuma’s father-in-law after the South African president fathered a baby with Khoza’s daughter in an apparent bid to truly become the Father of the Nation.
Is the coach popular?
Our hopes hinge on Carlos Alberto Parreira working a miracle, so we’d better like him while he’s here. Parreira has done nothing to offend South Africans, though some fans still resent his apparent recommendation of the unloved Joel Santana as his replacement when he quit his first term as Bafana coach to be with his ill wife.
Are there any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
Midfielder Teko Modise is an “official brand ambassador” for Samsung, while defender Matthew Booth appears in TV commercials for LG associated with Desperate Housewives. GQ also voted him one of South Africa’s 40 best dressed men.
Who are the best and worst interviewees?
For the most part, they are “at the end of the day” merchants, though goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune is always quite articulate. Benni McCarthy sometimes dispenses with the usual banalities, which can make for embarrassing or extraordinary interviews.
Are there any personal rivalries in the squad?
If there are, they are hiding it well. Though there are mutterings that McCarthy, should he be selected, is not universally popular after having “retired” from the national team more often than he has played for West Ham.
Have the team recorded a song for the World Cup?
The South African FA ordered an album dedicated to and titled after Bafana Bafana by the band Amasap be pulled from the shelves and pulped because the team’s nickname – invented by fans, not the federation – is copyrighted. Still, there are many other unofficial World Cup songs, almost uniformly atrocious. But in case we feel the need for musical inspiration, the state broadcaster SABC has belatedly launched a competition for a World Cup song of some official standing.
What will the media coverage be like?
All matches will be shown on terrestrial TV and on Supersport (the latter offering audio options in several European languages), which will dedicate a 24-hour channel to World Cup news. Just considering formerly England-based players who will appear on the subscription Supersport channels (our equivalent of Sky Sports), there are regular pundits Terry Paine and Gary Bailey – both consistently excellent – as well as Shaun Bartlett, John Barnes, Edgar Davids, Andre Arendse, Sean Dundee and Daniel Amokachi.
Do the local fans have any favourite songs/chants?
The soul-destroying din of the vuvuzela (like the mortal cry of an elephant felled by a swarm of particularly angry bees) is occasionally punctured by a collective exclamation of a popular player’s name when he touches the ball. This can be confusing when the crowd seems to boo the team’s only white player. What they actually shout is the surname of Matthew Booth. Günther Simmermacher