SA in West Indies
Proteas catch the SWC bug
Just not cricket (Gallo Images)
Port of Spain - The Proteas' Castle Test squad find themselves in a unique situation as they focus on the start of the Test series against the West Indies on Thursday and at the same time get caught up in the hype of the 2010 Soccer World Cup which starts in South Africa the following day.
When Bafana Bafana kick-off the tournament against Mexico at Soccer City on Friday, the first ball of the second day of the first Cricket Test will be about to be delivered.
Apart from the focus on the cricket, there are many other emotions in the Proteas' camp: the excitement that can be felt thousands of kilometres away in the Caribbean and is so evident even via the medium of television screens; the frustration and jealousy that they cannot be part of the live event and most importantly of all the pride of being a South African when the country is the point of focus of the entire world.
"Nobody is really expecting Bafana Bafana to win the World Cup," commented Proteas' captain Graeme Smith. "Everybody just wants them to make us proud, play well as a team and really represent the country well. Reading and watching (on TV) what is going on, it is exciting to be part of the event. For our country to host such an awesome event is terrific for South Africa.
"I was reading today about the people out on the streets supporting our team and to read that makes you really proud to be South African. It is making us more and more jealous each day that we can't see it.
"At the same time we have the honour of representing our country here in the Caribbean. It is our opportunity hopefully to do that well.
"The World Cup has emphasized once again that sport is the greatest unifying factor in our country. There is so much good news coming out of our sport at the moment," said Smith.
"You only have to think of the Blue Bulls taking the Super 14 final to Soweto and now Bafana taking a great unbeaten run with plenty of confidence and momentum into the World Cup."
Watching Bafana's opening game live is obviously not an option for the Proteas but they will definitely watch a recording of the game in the evening (West Indies time) although keeping the result secret that long may be impossible.
"Somebody around the dressing room is bound to leak the score out," added Smith, "but we have made arrangements to have the game taped and re-played for us later in the evening."
There is no doubt which team the Proteas will be supporting but there is also a huge sense of anticipation at seeing some of the game's great individuals of the current era.
Lionel Messi of Argentina, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Fernando Torres of Spain, Kaka of Brazil and Wayne Rooney of England are some of the obvious favourites. Others have gone for Xavi of Spain, Gennaro Gatuso of Italy and Thierry Henry of France.
"I am picking Bafana Bafana to be the surprise team of the tournament," said Smith, "and Steven Pienaar to be the surprise individual to stand out. We get home at quarter-final stage so we are still hoping to see Bafana Bafana live."