Make it a million, say fan club organisers

By Time of article published Jun 15, 2010

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By Clayton Barnes and Bronwynne Jooste

Staff Reporters

Thousands upon thousands of South Africans are joining Bafana Bafana's official fan club and retailers are cashing in on Bafana fever.

As South Africans rally around the national team ahead of Wednesday's match against Uruguay, about 747 000 supporters have pledged their allegiance to the team since the launch of the official fan club website two weeks ago.

And organisers say they hope to have a million supporters signed up by kick-off on Wednesday night.

Fans are also showing their national pride by snapping up Bafana Bafana merchandise.

Retailers are having to order extra stock to meet the soaring demand.

And the price of Bafana merchandise on the street has quadrupled since the team played its opening World Cup match on Friday.

The online fan club's founder, Nikolaus Eberl, said that in the hours leading up to Bafana's clash with Mexico on Friday, hundreds of thousands of South Africans had become "proud supporters" of the national team.

"We didn't expect this. The fan club is growing in leaps and bounds, and will certainly grow even more if Bafana beats Uruguay."

Eberl's initial plan was to get a million supporters signed up before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

He said he was surprised when, a week before kick-off, South Africans suddenly started signing up.

"South Africans of all colours and creeds have really surprised me. I'm sure by 2014, we'll have two or three million supporters behind the team."

The club was officially launched by the SA Football Supporters Association with the blessing of the SA Football Association's (Safa) leadership.

Safa president Kirsten Nemathandani said seeing the nation rally behind the national team was heartwarming.

He told the Cape Argus that the World Cup, and the events leading up to the soccer showpiece, had "truly united South Africans across all cultures, classes and race".

"I want to assure all those supporters that Bafana will not let them down," said Nemathandani.

"With the nation behind Bafana, they can only excel and exceed."

Nemathandani, who will be watching Wednesday's game from the VIP suite at the Loftus Stadium, said he would make it Safa's duty to ensure that the the growing support for the team was maintained after the World Cup.

"We will do everything possible not to disappoint the hundreds of thousands who have become fans."

Fifa announced on Monday that the opening game on Friday had drawn a record TV audience - the average combined in-home audience for the match was 10 146 793 viewers on the two local channels, SABC1 and SuperSport 3, according to data from the SABC.

Team merchandise for many World Cup countries is selling well in Cape Town, but it's Bafana Bafana and South African T-shirts that are the most popular.

The official Bafana kit sponsor, adidas, said the company had sold record numbers of Bafana jerseys and other team merchandise.

"Stock is flying from the shelves, and suppliers only replenish once a month," said Zobuzwe Ntongodese, adidas's national spokesman.

Retailers across the city were sold out of replica Bafana jerseys on Monday and most clothing stores visited by the Cape Argus were out of yellow and green T-shirts.

Totalsports and Sportscene are recording large sales volumes for all Bafana Bafana-related items.

Fernando Ventura, one of the marketing directors for both stores, said South African products were far outselling any other country.

Their best seller was the Bafana Bafana replica shirt, which costs R599. But the Jabulani soccer balls were also selling out fast, he said.

Albert Schuitmaker of the Cape Chamber of Commerce said the organisation would be conducting a survey with businesses this week to assess the early indications of the economic benefits from the World Cup.

- To become an official Bafana Bafana fan, log on to

.

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