25 June 2010
The football World Cup is entering its second round in South Africa and fans are gearing up for another two weeks of world-class football. The tournament, like any major event, has produced its share of stories.
Ghanaian football fans were a gloomy lot Wednesday night as their national team fell to Germany, 1-0, after a tense, tightly fought match.
But the mood a few minutes later turned to one of jubilation after news spread that Ghana had qualified for the second round because Australia had won the other Group D game against Serbia, 1-0.
The Ghanaians celebrated their defeat late into the night.
The change in mood was reversed for Slovenia, the smallest country in the Cup with only two million people.
Slovenia was at the top of Group C. But the plucky team fell to third place and an early flight home after the United States scored the winning goal against Algeria during injury time and Slovenia lost to England 1-0.
On the streets of Johannesburg football paraphernalia vendors were in mourning, not just because South Africa failed to qualify for the second round of the World Cup. Most South Africans were proud of their team's 2-1 win over France.
Their complaint was that the bottom had fallen out of sales of South African shirts, hats and horns which had provided the bulk of their business.
And the French? The bickering squad returned home under police protection and to a chilly reception from fans after being knocked out of the Cup and failing to win a single game.
Italy, World Cup champions in 2006, received a similar reception as they returned home early following a win-less first round and loss Thursday to low-ranked Slovakia, 3-2.
The controversial vuvuzela continued to dominate headlines just as noise from the monotonal horns has dominated the sound track of this football festival.
A Johannesburg clinic warned that fans sharing the plastic horns risked spreading germs. Experts have also warned that the instruments are loud enough to damage ear nerves and some have called for them to be banned.
This call is opposed by vendors at the 10 stadiums who have done a brisk business selling ear plugs at a dollar or two each.
South African fans singing the song, Shosoloza, at times drowned out the vuvuzelas during South Africa's win over France.
Shosoloza, as heard in this recording by Peter Gabriel, first emerged as a work song in South African mines but is now sung at sporting events to encourage the home team.
The singing of German fans also drowned out the buzzing trumpets at times during their victory over Ghana.
Despite its unpopularity in some places, the appeal of the vuvuzela appears to be spreading. Foreign fans leaving South Africa have been seen at airports buying dozens of the horns at a time to take home as presents and, no doubt, blow at local matches.