Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

England fans gather for first match

England supporters gather outside the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg
Ross Martin, 10, joins fello England supporters gather outside the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa
Two England fans dressed as Tellytubbies are seen outside the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg

England has gone football crazy as the national team finally embarked on their bid for World Cup glory in South Africa.

Fans crammed into pubs and bars as soccer fever hit the small mining town of Rustenburg ahead of England's opening game against the USA.

Back in the UK, millions huddled around television screens as the countdown for kick-off approached.

Around 10,000 England supporters noisily made their presence felt as the excitement built throughout the day in Rustenburg.

Many came wearing fancy dress, with St George's flags as capes, and many more had acquired a vuvuzela - the plastic trumpet used by South Africans as a "12th man".

"They are crazy and they are drunks" joked face painter Tshepo Dew, 21, at a pub across the road from the 38,646-seater Royal Bafokeng stadium.

The electrical engineering student, from Rustenburg, was wearing a white shirt with a red cross which he painted himself. "I'm supporting England too. They have got all the stars. We want to see Rooney score." He queued all day for a ticket but when he finally got to the front of the line he found the only ones left were too expensive.

Almost all the England fans in town did have tickets for the game. And as the match approached the frenzy of vuvuzela blowing and more traditional England chanting grew.

Thousands chose to generate their own South African atmosphere by watching the match together. More than 15,000 filled Manchester city centre to watch the game on a giant screen. And thousands were expected to do the same at Alexandra Palace in north London.

Out in the dust-bowl of Afghanistan, British soldiers gathered round screens in Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, to cheer on their footballing heroes.

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