Durban – “Mlunguuu” the crowd at the packed Moses Mabhida Stadium roared every time Dean Furman had the ball.
The special support, however, was not well received by some fans, who thought the 24-year-old midfielder and only white player in the South African national team was being booed.
“Every time Dean Furman had the ball, spectators booed him. Seems like racism is still rife in our country,” read a text message to the Daily News SMS forum BackChat.
The message was followed by a flood of others, pointing out that the anchorman was actually being singled out and praised for his sterling performance.
The Cape Town-born player, who plies his trade for Oldham Athletic in England, became an overnight sensation with football fanatics during Bafana Bafana’s Afcon games.
“The comment about racism when Furman had the ball during the Bafana games is false,” said Baphumelele Sonjica.
“The crowd was chanting ‘mlungu’, which was in support of him. Just like they would say ‘Booooth’ when he (defender Matthew) had the ball. No racism is involved whatsoever.”
“Furman was not being booed, the crowd was shouting ‘mlungu’, meaning ‘white man’,” read an SMS from Viv.
“Furman was our hero in all the games that he played. That is why people at the stadium screamed out ‘mlungu’. If that means racism, then I don’t know where you come from,” read another message.
But some readers asked if the word was insulting. One said: “Mlungu: is that not a bit of an un-PC and derogatory term?”
The name and his performances seemed to have brought Furman, who was voted Man of the Match in Bafana’s second group match against Angola, a fair amount of attention.
In the Daily News’ sister newspaper, Isolezwe, the former Chelsea youth development player said he was aware of the name and had taken a liking to it.
He was humbled and honoured to have the whole stadium roaring out the name.
“I know some people might be shocked to hear that I have embraced the name, but I understand that it’s a praise name used by supporters to show that they appreciate what I’m doing on the field. I accept and like the name,” he said.
Furman is not the only player who has had some football spectators hot under the collar because of their nicknames. Another fan favourite, Ajax Cape Town’s Booth, received similar reverence every time he kicked the ball during the 2010 World Cup.
Some fans and international media also thought Booth was also being booed.
He subsequently explained to foreign journalists who had written articles about the only South African white player being booed, that the echoes were of approval and not ridicule.
Another player who elicited the same response was former Orlando Pirates player Mark Fish, who won the 1996 Afcon with Bafana. A chorus of “Feeeeesh” would be heard every time he touched the ball. – Daily News